It's Crypto-Gram day again. Yee haw! Actually today's issue is less thrilling than usual. But, here are some of my favorite highlights:
- The Man in the Snow White Cell: a sobering article on the limits of interrogation, from the CIA's Studies in Intelligence 48(1), unclassified ed.
- Apparently, a typical Windows PC gets hacked 20 minutes after it gets plugged into the Internet. This is down from 40 minutes they measured last year; and it's less time than it takes to download the patches that would keep your computer secure. This is terrible.
- From reader comments, an official from Houston Airport System defends the Airport Rangers program which Schneier criticized last month (a criticism with which I agreed, perhaps prematurely):
Mr. Schneier appears to base his opinion on simply reviewing the Houston Airport System website's page(s) about the Airport Ranger program, which by the way has over 450 volunteers that have passed background checks. . . . [deletia] . . . It would appear that Mr. Schneier may believe that we depend on the Airport Rangers program as a primary means of perimeter security; if so, this would be a tremendous misassumption. We have numerous technological and professional security force resources involved in protecting our perimeter and are constantly reviewing the latest trends and techniques. I am forbidden by federal law to disclose in any further detail our present techniques and as to which new techniques we are leaning.
George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) has approximately 11,000+ acres of land and was built on what, not too long ago, was a rural area close to the City of Houston. . . . [deletia] . . . For many years, as the area where equestrians could ride has been greatly reduced due to the development that occurs around airports, the equestrian community in North Harris County has ridden around this area without having proper permission or documentation. Houston Airport System (HAS) thought it better to work with the equestrian community than to fight it. After all, the land is owned by the taxpayers, and as a result a "win-win" situation developed. The equestrians now have a nice place to ride as the Houston Airport System has done a number of improvements on the land to encourage daily use by the Airport Rangers. In exchange, the Airport now knows who is riding, knows their background and has them wearing picture identification cards. Rangers challenge and report to our Security Dispatch Center, by cellular telephone, anyone they come upon who doesn't have the HAS issued ID card or anything they deem to be suspicious. . . . [deletia] . . . Several incidences of trespass have been reported by Rangers and at least two thefts of property have been thwarted.
Mr. Schneier worries about civil rights and constitutional protections, along with racial profiling. These are necessary and admirable concerns. However, the Airport Rangers have no powers to arrest or detain -- they are simply eyes and ears for law enforcement and security professionals -- their sole obligation is to observe, actively look for certain things, and report them by cell phone to the HAS Security Dispatch Center.
Mr. Schneier opines that the perimeter around an airport used to be a no-man's land and anyone on the property was immediately suspicious. Ah, to live in that perfect world. At most large airports today public streets, roads and even highways run just a few feet outside of the main security fence. If the airport is lucky and has large acreage on several sides, such as George Bush Intercontinental does, then the problem becomes one of manpower to patrol all of the areas. Today, more than ever, law enforcement and security agencies need the assistance of every citizen and the Airport Ranger Program, at least at George Bush Intercontinental Airport, goes a very long way in making that a reality.
IMO still not entirely convincing --- it seems the right security solution to civilian horseback riders trespassing on airport land would be to kick them out, not to give them badges. It's an airport. Build the horse-lovers a riding park.