Technology can be used for good and for evil. It is sad to see how quickly an invention as powerful as the Internet has become corrupted by pornography and illegal scams which can easily fool the unwary into divulging personal data. I find it ironic that we are all willing to make a Faustian sacrifice of certain personal information and freedoms in order to gain the benefits of the huge source of knowledge which is the World Wide Web. But as soon as the intelligence agencies are mentioned, those who are trying to keep us all safe and secure, then the balance changes to threats to civil liberties and barriers immediately come up.
I think we need to reassess our values and our rights as the electronic world becomes a far more dangerous and risky place to do business. At the moment, the evil doers are well ahead of the defenders and that advantage seems set to widen further unless we begin to trust those who have taken vows to protect our society and defend it from those who would do us harm.
In terms of technological hardware, I talked recently at IFSEC about the dangers of weapons being produced by 3-D printers and the challenges which these devices will set for law enforcement agencies in the future. One further, somewhat distasteful new threat has recently come to light. In August 2009, the Saudi deputy interior minister, Prince Muhammed bin Nayef, was injured by the detonation of a device carried inside the body cavity of a suicide bomber. The device went undetected by the normal security checks. The Prince received relatively minor injuries.
Then, on 6th December last year, Asadullah Khalid, the Head of the Afghan National Security Directorate, was much more seriously injured by a suicide bomber who detonated a device hidden within his abdominal cavity. The details have only recently been released by the Afghan authorities. The power of such bombs is limited by the volume available within the body and the blast shielding effect of the human body and its organs. Nevertheless, within the confines of the pressurised cabin of an aircraft, the effect of such a detonation could be serious.
Detecting such devices with current technology such as X-rays, for instance at airports, is difficult and could potentially lead to a change in procedures by the security authorities and the use of more sophisticated body scanners. What is clear is that information on such threats must be shared widely between agencies and governments if we are to counter such new threat technology. Sharing of data and information in a timely manner and at all levels – between police forces, between agencies and between nation states – is critical if we are to beat international crime and terrorism.
Technology can also give solutions. One of the latest crimefighting tools which appears to be on the up as a viable addition to the armoury is the unmanned aerial vehicle – UAV. These machines should not be confused with larger beasts like Predator which can carry Hellfire missiles and deliver knockout punches to terrorist groups at the operational level. The UAVs to which I refer are neat, small surveillance platforms which will provide imagery at the tactical level. They are already being used in some parts of the UK by wildlife protection charities to identify those involved in badger baiting and also by the Deutsche Bahn, Germany’s railway operators, to identify graffiti crime in key rolling stock centres such as cities and sidings. I really think that technology is now giving the authorities the potential for powerful tools which can help defeat the criminals and these should be exploited at every opportunity. The civil liberties arguments will again no doubt be heard in opposition.
I am always interested to hear the views of those in our industry. For those not aware, we do have an ‘NSI Discussion Group’ on LinkedIn. Do join us: NSI LinkedIn Group