(02) How to Evaluate Any Security Measure

The objective of security measures is to reduce specific security risks to an acceptable level at an acceptable cost.

This is usually easier said than done, because introducing a new security measure can also introduce a new risk.

Emil Marone, Chief Techology Officer for Henry Bros. Electronics, a leading security systems integrator headquartered in Saddle Brook, NJ, relates one situation where a client called him in to discuss the problem of night intruders onto their property. The intruders would dress in black, and could not easily be seen against the black asphalt and dark grounds of the perimeter under the existing lighting. They were considering a new video camera system that could “see in the dark” so that security officers could catch the activity on the video monitors.

(Some cities, like San Jose, CA, have restrictions on the amount of light that businesses are allowed to shed onto neighboring residential property. So simply adding more light isn’t always available as a solution.)

Right away Marone recognized that introducing this security measure would not fully address the risks. Responding police or security officers on patrol would still not be able to see the intruders. The use of the night vision cameras may possibly increase the risks, because a security officer on patrol would be expecting his counterpart in the monitoring room to be watching for intruders on his behalf, and might incorrectly assume no intruders were present if no radio call came from the other officer. Without the night vision, security officers were making no such assumptions.

Marone suggested that they simply paint the grounds white on both sides of the perimeter fencing. Intruders dressed in black would be clearly visible. Even in white clothes they would still create obvious shadows under the existing lighting. It was a very inexpensive solution and was implemented immediately with great success. This approach enabled the security foot patrols, police responding to an incident, and staff watching the cameras to see what they needed to see.

Solutions this simple and inexpensive are not available for every security risk. And I’m not saying that night vision cameras don’t have their place.

What I am saying is that we should all learn and follow leading security expert Bruce Schneier’s Five-Step Process for Evaluating Any Security Measure. His book, Beyond Fear (less than $12 at Amazon), uses the 5-step process to evaluate many security measures discussed throughout its chapters. If we also use that process then, like Marone, we’ll come up with sensible security solutions more often.

Best regards,
Ray Bernard

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