Archive for the 'Security' Category

Clues they missed

The NY Times has a nice piece summarising the clues that were not put together prior to the attempted Christmas Day attack on the Northwestern flight to Detroit.  All of those clues are presented in this graphic:

The article speaks of poorly designed computer systems, phrases mentioned in speeches (which, frankly, would be incredibly difficult to automatically include in your analysis) and general stories of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing within the US intelligence community.  To my mind, though, it really comes down to just a few simple points:

  • His own father had contacted the US to say that his son was missing and possibly being “radicalised,” leading to his being placed on a watch list.
  • He bought the ticket with cash.
  • He checked no luggage.

I firmly believe that most airport security is theatre, but the combination of just those three points should surely have warranted an individual pat-down.

The cantankerous nature of Hamas

Jeffrey Goldberg writes in the NY Times:

What a phantasmagorically strange conflict the Arab-Israeli war had become! Here was a Saudi-educated, anti-Shiite (but nevertheless Iranian-backed) Hamas theologian accusing a one-time Israeli Army prison official-turned-reporter of spying for Yasir Arafat’s Fatah, an organization that had once been the foremost innovator of anti-Israeli terrorism but was now, in Mr. Rayyan’s view, indefensibly, unforgivably moderate.

I don’t want to take a side here, just marvel at the incredible ability of the human mind to twist itself into such knots of conspiracy and ideology.

*sigh* (Zimbabwe)

This is from The Independent. It’s a fairly short article, so I’ll include it in full (all emphasis is mine):

Chinese troops have been seen on the streets of Zimbabwe’s third largest city, Mutare, according to local witnesses. They were seen patrolling with Zimbabwean soldiers before and during Tuesday’s ill-fated general strike called by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Earlier, 10 Chinese soldiers armed with pistols checked in at the city’s Holiday Inn along with 70 Zimbabwean troops.

One eyewitness, who asked not to be named, said: “We’ve never seen Chinese soldiers in full regalia on our streets before. The entire delegation took 80 rooms from the hotel, 10 for the Chinese and 70 for Zimbabwean soldiers.”

Officially, the Chinese were visiting strategic locations such as border posts, key companies and state institutions, he said. But it is unclear why they were patrolling at such a sensitive time. They were supposed to stay five days, but left after three to travel to Masvingo, in the south.

China’s support for President Mugabe’s regime has been highlighted by the arrival in South Africa of a ship carrying a large cache of weapons destined for Zimbabwe’s armed forces. Dock workers in Durban refused to unload it.

The 300,000-strong South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) said it would be “grossly irresponsible” to touch the cargo of ammunition, grenades and mortar rounds on board the Chinese ship An Yue Jiang anchored outside the port.

A Satawu spokesman Randall Howard said: “Our members employed at Durban container terminal will not unload this cargo, neither will any of our members in the truck-driving sector move this cargo by road. South Africa cannot be seen to be facilitating the flow of weapons into Zimbabwe at a time where there is a political dispute and a volatile situation between Zanu-PF and the MDC.”

Three million rounds of AK-47 ammunition, 1,500 rocket-propelled grenades and more than 3,000 mortar rounds and mortar tubes are among the cargo on the Chinese ship, according to copies of the inventory published by a South African newspaper.

According to Beeld, the documentation for the shipment was completed on 1 April, three days after the presidential vote.

Zimbabwe and China have close military ties. Three years ago, Mr Mugabe signed extensive trade pacts with the Chinese as part of the “Look East” policy forced on him by his ostracising by Western governments over human rights abuses. The deal gave the Chinese mineral and trade concessions in exchange for economic help.

The shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague called on David Miliband to demand a cessation of arms shipments.

A South African government spokesman Themba Maseko said it would be difficult to stop the shipment.


Another note on identity theft

I notice that Jeremy Clarkson has had his arse handed to him after ridiculing the uproar that occurred following the HMRC’s loss of CDs containing the personal information of 25 million Britons.

First came his effort in The Sun:

Clarkson published details of his Barclays account in the Sun newspaper, including his account number and sort code. He even told people how to find out his address.

“All you’ll be able to do with them is put money into my account. Not take it out. Honestly, I’ve never known such a palaver about nothing,” he told readers.

Then came his retraction in The Times (owned, like The Sun, by News Corp.):

“I opened my bank statement this morning to find out that someone has set up a direct debit which automatically takes £500 from my account,” he said.

“The bank cannot find out who did this because of the Data Protection Act and they cannot stop it from happening again.

“I was wrong and I have been punished for my mistake.”

“Contrary to what I said at the time, we must go after the idiots who lost the discs and stick cocktail sticks in their eyes until they beg for mercy.”

It’s certainly tempting to laugh at Clarkson and even feel smug about it, but that helps nobody. I attended a lecture last year by Bruce Schneier (this one, to be exact. LSE has released a video of the event here) on the economics of information security and the topic of identity theft (obviously) came up. His take, which I couldn’t agree more with, is that personal information security will not improve until appropriate incentives are put in place. In particular, those responsible for permitting a fraud to occur should be required to bear the full cost of that fraud.

Barclays (Clarkson’s bank) ought to be required, by law, to repay Clarkson his money but not get it back from the charity that it was paid to. You better believe that their security checks would be improved, and fast.

Side note: Yes, it was also Barclays that I was speaking about the last time I wrote about identity theft.

Update:   It would appear that Mr Clarkson is indeed entitled to get his money back.  That doesn’t make my point less valid.  There are plenty of things that someone with your information can do that you can’t get cleaned up, at least not with a huge amount of trouble.  They might try to take out a loan in your name, which affects your credit rating no matter whether it’s successful.  They might try to get a passport with your name and their photo on it.  They might do something that puts your name on the TSA’s no-fly list, meaning that you get detained at any US airport.

Identity theft

While everyone is focused on the HMRC accidentally misplacing CDs with the personal details of 25 million British citizens, I thought I’d relate the following little story.  I was in a major bank on Hampstead High Street [*] today.  While I was there, I overheard a staff member talking to another (the manager?) about a recent spate of thieves who put card readers on the ATMs (cashpoints).  She had just discovered that one of the ATMs outside the branch had been tampered with again.  I then had this conversation with the personal banker I was seeing:

Me:  Would you take cash out of the teller machine outside?

Personal Banker:  Me?  No way.

Me:  Where would you take cash out?

Personal Banker:  I’d use the cashpoint inside the bank, but never outside.

Hmmm …

[*] For those that don’t know, Hampstead is one of the wealthier parts of London.