Posts Tagged 'security theater'

Even more security theatre

I happened to visit a consulate to do some routine paperwork. Here’s the security process I encountered:

  1. Get identity checked from passport, details entered (laboriously) into online system.
  2. Cell phone locked away.
  3. Wanded by metal detection wand.
  4. Sent by secure elevator to another floor, to a waiting room with staff behind bullet-proof glass.

Here’s the thing: I got to carry my (unexamined) backpack with me through the whole process!

And what’s the threat from a cell phone in this context? Embarrassing pictures of the five year old posters on the wall of the waiting room?

I understand that government departments have difficulty separating serious from trivial risks, because if anything happened they would be blamed, regardless of how low-probability the risk was. But there’s no political reason not to make whatever precautions you decide to take actually helpful to reduce the perceived risks.

Security theatre lives

Sydney tests its emergency notification system in the downtown core at the same time of day every time. So if a person wanted to cause an incident, guess what time they would choose?

It also seems to be done on Fridays, which is exactly the worst day to choose, since it’s the most common day for islamist incidents.

Security theatre = doing things that sound like they improve security without actually improving them (and sometimes making them worse).

Security Theatre comes to Via Rail

Security theatre is the use of measures that don’t actually increase security, but look like they do, and so provide a way for organisations to pretend that they are hardening their operations. A good example is the requirement that passwords contain numbers and other funny characters, which make humans feel like their passwords are stronger but which are almost completely irrelevant against password crackers (length is all that matters).

It’s being reported that Via Rail, which is the passenger rail network in Canada, is considering airport-style identity and security checks for passengers. It’s not giving away any secrets to point out that the vulnerabilities of a railway system are all about the track, and not at all about the trains. And there’s not a lot that can be done about track security as the frequent suicide-by-train incidents show. All that airport-style security checks accomplish is to waste money, raise prices, and make train travel less attractive.

Terror works on flights because of very specific properties: flying planes are isolated, and they have to keep going. Trains, despite some recent films, don’t have either of these properties.