Terrorism In All Its Forms
Nov 1, 2003 12:00 PM
Noel Cummings, president of Scanna MSC Ltd., Sarasota, Fla.
Modern terrorism is not confined to traditional extremist, nationalist or separatist terrorist groups with political and religious agendas to further, (although the threat from these are still very real), but increasingly includes the disgruntled ex-employee and a network of unaffiliated individuals with a much broader range of motives.
To keep up-to-date on current activist threats, it is important to assess whether an organization or any of its employees, customers or suppliers are involved in an issue that could be in any way controversial, such as employing third-world labor or damaging the environment.
Secondly, organizations should consider what areas of physical security are vulnerable to outside attack. These will include ease-of-access to the building, the ability for an explosive vehicle, bag or parcel to be left outside a building, and the possibility of a suspicious package infiltrating the mail system, disrupting business or injuring a member of the staff.
Once these areas have been identified, equipment can be purchased and staff duly trained to become aware of and remain alert to unusual activities and what procedures should be followed to deal with them.
Modern access control systems are not limited to simply allowing legitimate persons into a building, but can also be linked into a CCTV or locking system so that a triggered alarm on a "non-legitimate" entry can signal the CCTV system to provide real-time video of the site in question or direct a door or shutter to activate.
The same goes for intrusion detection devices ¡ª such as perimeter fence alarms ¡ª which can trigger the CCTV cameras to respond to a particular area. High-security locations, such as embassies, where the general public requires constant access, should deploy metal detection technologies to deter and prevent the entry of weapons into the building.
Intelligent video threat detection systems can provide organizations with increased levels of security through automated surveillance. It is widely recognized that humans will lose concentration over a period of time and fail to recognize critical events occurring on a CCTV camera monitor. Emerging technologies can continuously monitor and identify suspicious activities, and then ignore non-threatening changes in the field, such as legitimate movement, animals, rain, etc., without the need for constant human attention.
Using pattern recognition and time against data algorithms, today's systems work with existing CCTV cameras and will alarm if, for example, they detect a stationary vehicle outside an embassy, an unattended bag in a busy station, or a suspect package left in a reception area or outside a building. The time of an alarm trigger for non-movement of an article can be set by the operator as can the area that is required to be monitored.
Once an article has been profiled as suspect, portable screening devices can help determine whether it poses a real risk. Hand-held explosives detectors trap and analyse tiny particles on bags or parcels and will identify the presence of explosive material in seconds. Alternatively, a portable X-ray screening device can provide a visual indication of the article's nature.
The mail is the simplest way to infiltrate security defenses. A mailed threat can be delivered anonymously and has a good chance of reaching its intended target ¡ª all at minimal risk to the perpetrator. A letter bomb will maim or kill, while bio-threats will spread throughout an air-conditioning system in minutes.
Even if a suspect package turns out to be a hoax, the cost in lost productivity is approximately $62,000 per hour. Yet, simple practical measures can help to avoid this. Electronic screening devices can automatically detect bomb components and razor blades, while X-ray machines will project images of mail contents on a PC screen. It is important to remember, however, that equipment is an aid and not a magic wand. It does not replace good procedures and common sense.
Although many risks can be addressed with these practical physical measures, it is important to make arrangements to deal with the impact of a security breach, a major incident or disaster. How quickly and painlessly an organization can recover from an attack or interruption to productivity depends on the effectiveness of its continuity plans.
The key is to be smart. Assess risk, plan to avoid the risk, use smart equipment, train staff to make smart decisions, develop an overall strategy, and have effective plans to deal with disaster.