Category Archives: Security

IDs found in five-star dumpster

Apparently a hotel in Brighton didn’t get the memo: identity information is an asset to your customers and needs to be treated as such.

Stories like the one in today’s Guardian are a security practitioner’s worst nightmare. We spend countless weeks and months trying to increase awareness about how to identify and protect assets, and then find out that someone has dumped the crown jewels into a dumpster like a bunch of old laundry. One man’s garbage…

Brighton residents walking past the city centre hotel last Thursday night were amazed to see a skip full of registration cards of guests who stayed at the hotel between 1998 and 2000. Each one lists the name, company, home address and credit card number in full. Most include a home phone number, and in the case of some foreign guests, passport numbers. After sitting in the street for 24 hours, open to any passerby, the skip was removed by a local company, Skip-it.

This coincides with the hotel’s new policy to place all of their cash in the street for convenient next-day pickup by a local company, Bag-it.

Seriously though, this hotel is begging for a thorough risk assessment. I can’t tell you how many times I have sat and watched loading docks and garbage services expose assets and then go on lunch break, leave for the night, etc.. You just have to talk to a few staff or observe the “failure to follow process” to know that a proper control/risk ratio is in need of serious attention.

GMC condo of the future


How many “vehicles of the future” really make it to our driveway? I seem to remember something about the rocket-powered highway concept cars from the 1950s. Don’t see many of those around, although I think a home-built version was the basis of the original Darwin Award.

GMC has stepped-up to the plate with their GMC PAD design. The name suggests an acronym of some sort, but actually it so far appears to be a General Motors Corporation (GMC) PAD, as in “hey baby, let’s chill out in my hip pad that looks like a worm on wheels”.

The usual story is that technology brings the elite lifestyle to the masses. You might say temperature controls, food, clothing, transportation, personal hygene, etc. are better now for the average person than for kings and queens of hundreds of years ago. I mention this because the GMC PAD seems like a fancy version of a Winnebago at best, and a fancy version of what a homeless person who lives in his/her car might imagine as something to make their plight less painful. Some might call this the ultimate in homeless living.

In fact, I’ll go out on a limb here and say that the idea of roving homes with little/no attachment to the land is based in rural and expansive cultures that want to explore beyond their own acreage, or who have no hopes of owning a plot (like ocean cruisers). It does not fit the urban cramped-space model at all, where people live 50 stories above ground due to the cost of space. So unless sky-scraping parking garages will become the condo infrastructure of the future this is definitely NOT the direction that most people say we’re headed in terms of efficient use of land and resources. More to the point, the PAD brochures claim that this vehicle has a “skydeck for enjoying the sights and sounds of LA culture”. Wow. They talk as if people today are trying to build observation points on their homes to get a better view of LA. They certainly could do so, but I suspect the thing that’s stopping the vast majority has something to do with the fact that LA is more about subsistance and stripping the land of its value for personal gain, rather than any kind of beautification or public and scenic downtown, let alone a park system for the common folk to enjoy from their back window (without some ultra-intense police flashlight in their rear-view mirror).

The suggestion that this vehicle could be used for disaster response and emergency housing makes a bit more sense, but usually people look for rapid-deployment materials that don’t cost several hundred thousands of dollars and include a power-hungry “media rich environment”. You wouldn’t want to drop one of these off the back of a C-130.

There is brief mention of an “endless variety of entertainment, information and security options” but no details. Bulletproof? Encrypted signals? Radiation proof? Air filtering? Speaking of security, here’s a loophole in regulation I’ve seen people use in the LA area — run a business out of a vehicle on private property. The Department of Transportation doesn’t have jurisdiction over the private property and the rest of the agencies don’t have jurisdiction over vehicles, so if you’re clever enough you can drive your GMC PAD right through some kind of crack in regulations, while it lasts. And with those Hummer-friendly tax loopholes this ultra-luxury vehicle becomes a complete “business” write-off. Now that might be appealing to the LA-elite.

VW GX3Well, at the end of the day as the sun sets behind the PAD, the best part is that it runs on diesel-electric hybrid, which is excellent news because it suggests someone at GMC may be contemplating this awesome power-plant for mass production. In fact, if it were up to me, I’d rather put that kind of engine technology in the new VW GX3 “motorcyle”, pictured to the left, and pull a little trailer that transforms into livable space. At least then you could go out for a drive in the mountains without hauling your laundry.


Rumsfeld Presents

On Knowing

As we know
there are known knowns.

There are things we know we know.
We also know there are known unknowns.
That is to say, we know there are some things
we do not know.

But there are also unknown unknowns
the ones we don’t know we don’t know.

On Thinking

Well, um, you know
something’s neither good nor bad
but thinking makes it so,
I suppose,
as Shakespeare said.

On Certainty

We do know
of certain knowledge
that he is either
in Afghanistan,
or in some other country,
or dead.

On Accuracy

If I said yes, that would then suggest that
that might
be the only place where it might be done
which would not be accurate,
necessarily accurate.
It might also not be inaccurate,
but I’m disinclined
to mislead anyone.

On Agreement

Secretary Powell and I agree
on every single issue that has ever been before this administration
except for those instances where
Colin’s still learning.

Thanks Donald, I feel much safer now.

This was inspired by All Things Considered, June 29, 2003; interview with Hart Seely about his book, Pieces of Intelligence: The Existential Poetry of Donald Rumsfeld.

Skater culture clash

According to the Concrete Disciples, “On Saturday, November 5th, Richard Sanchez unleashed the Suicide Bomber show on Los Angeles at the Han Cholo gallery.”

Skater Art

Skaters have always enjoyed a kind of fringe style to their music and art, almost as a way of demonstrating against the culture and society that their elders expect them to blithely take for granted. This is no different than any youth movement that finds itself boxed in and deprived of real opportunity, so it is hardly surprising that skater bands and logos would shock those who fit the traditional sense of “conservative”. If you believe the punk movement managed to allow expression that didn’t exist prior, that was the whole idea.

Well, apparently someone on a plane had some skater art/logo on his notebook and was dressed in the typical “thrash” and “rage” gear of teenage angst about the future. Nevermind that this stuff has become mainstream and highly commercialized even with names like “Independent” and “Suicidal Tendencies” , or the fact that the guy was 36 years old and possibly under the influence of controlled substances. The details are interesting, but the point is that his mere appearance coupled with the words “suicide bomber” on a notebook was interpreted by another passenger as a possible terrorist threat.

I don’t have an opinion one way or the other about the art show (although I think the gallery name, Han Cholo, is clever). I just think this is a perfect example of how important culture is to security. If you are unable to recognize friend from foe, artist from attacker, then you have no way of properly estimating threats and are likely to attempt all kinds of irrational and unsubstantiated things just to reduce the feeling of vulnerability.

The Mercury News report quoted Special Agent LaRae K. Quy, spokeswoman for the FBI’s San Francisco office, who “noted, there was ‘no reason to believe there was any sort of terrorist activity going on there.””