As reflected by the repeated bomb blasts in Mumbai, Delhi, Jaipur and elsewhere, India has proved itself to be vulnerable and unable to prevent bomb blasts. Bomb disposal teams came into play only on reports. Is there a better way to ensure our safety? Much of the responsibility rests on the shoulders of Citizens, Technology/Industry and Regulators are merely facilitators. This triad needs to synergize in order to provide us a safe & secure environment. I intend touching upon unique system evolved in Israel by “AR Challenges” specifically for Airports combining people, technology and regulations.
The airport currently faces 70 real bomb threats per day and handles about 11 million passengers per year…
The airport currently faces 70 real bomb threats per day and handles about 11 million passengers per year, to introduce the old human system it at Heathrow, which has six times as much traffic, would bring the place to a halt!
Basic Philosophy: “We operate on the principle that it’s much more effective to detect the would-be terrorist than try to find his bomb”.
The last attack at Ben Gurion – the juiciest airport terrorist target in the world – took place in 1972, and that was in the arrivals area, when three members of the Japanese Red Army armed with grenades and machine guns killed 24 after getting off a flight from Rome. No plane leaving Ben Gurion has ever been hijacked or blown up
‘The 9/11 hijackers killed 3,000 people without real weapons or explosives. To be safe, you have to be able to stop the person who has hostile intentions. That’s how our system works.’
The Israelis call this method ‘behavior pattern analysis’, and it starts beyond the airport: the passenger who pays cash for a one-way ticket at an airline office will be more likely to attract attention than someone who uses a credit card to purchase a return over the internet. Someone travelling in a cab is more likely to attract attention than one who travels in a private car.
Its first physical layer lies more than a mile from the terminal: a checkpoint for every vehicle on the only airport access road.
The system in Europe and America and of course India is outdated. Unless we adopt an approach that actually works, whatever technology we care to use will make little difference. The terrorists will always be one step ahead.
But the system’s most crucial element is those polite young agents – the ‘selectors’. In most cases, their questions won’t take long, and those who pass their examination will soon be en route to their gate.
Sometimes, however, the ‘selectors’ suspicions will be aroused: perhaps by a traveler who seems unaccountably nervous, or by someone who says he came to Israel for the sightseeing, but can’t recall what he saw. That passenger will then face more probing questions from selectors while his baggage is thoroughly searched. If he still can’t provide satisfactory answers, he will be detained in a private room and interrogated by seasoned investigators. This was the manual system.
Ben Gurion’s old system was costly and labour-intensive.
The changed Approach : Technology Replaced Humans! The scenario changed! They now have the potential to revolutionize airport security worldwide, not just for passengers, but for freight. And after the discovery at East Midlands airport of explosives packed in a toner cartridge flown from Yemen, it is also a pressing need.
‘The system in Europe and America and of course India is outdated. Unless we adopt an approach that actually works, whatever technology we care to use will make little difference. The terrorists will always be one step ahead.’
‘How many times in the history of aviation have the scanners and security procedures that currently cause such huge anger and inconvenience actually found explosives in baggage or on a passenger?’
The answer, shockingly, is zero. It’s true that a bomb packed by the Jordanian Nizar Hindawi in the hand luggage of his pregnant girlfriend Anne Murphy was discovered at Heathrow in 1986. But she was trying to board a flight on the Israeli airline El Al – which uses the same selector method abroad as at Ben Gurion: it was a selector’s questioning that revealed Hindawi’s plot.
Criminals are getting good at creating fake latex fingerprints, and iris scanners can be fooled with contact lenses.
The bombers who killed 270 when Pan Am Flight 103 blew up over Lockerbie in 1988; the 2001 shoe bomber Richard Reid; Umar Abdulmutallab, the former London University student who tried to detonate a bomb in his underpants above Detroit last Christmas; all smuggled their explosives on to aircraft undetected. While, although Abdulmutallab’s extremist links were discovered by security officials while he was in the air, their plan to question him when he landed would not have been much use if he had already blown himself up.
After the discovery of the 2006 Al Qaeda scheme to mix liquids in aircraft toilets in order to make bombs. all but tiny quantities of liquid taken on to planes were banned – even, as a YouTube clip of a mother being detained in Phoenix, Arizona showed bottles of babies’ breast milk.
‘The liquids ban also sucks,’ ‘We always seem to be fighting the last war.’
‘The answer is a system that will separate the people like Abdulmutallab from the vast mass of travelers who are benign. And can be done- in ways that make us all safer, and are also much cheaper, and take less time.’
It’s no coincidence that this technology comes from Israel. For obvious reasons, no country in the world is more security conscious.
Take the ID-U a system based on research that shows that every person’s eyes will reveal a unique zigzag pattern when they follow a dot tracing the outline of a simple shape on a screen, it is said to be far more secure than- fingerprints or iris recognition.
‘Criminals are getting good at creating fake latex fingerprints, and iris scanners can be fooled with contact lenses.’
‘You can’t fool this. Your individual zig-zag pattern will stay the same, whether your eyes are following a square, a circle or anything else – you can change the shape every day.
Magna BSP has developed 3D, stereoscopic, heat-seeking infrared cameras to safeguard an airport’s perimeter against intruders or attack by rockets.
Research and innovation Israel enabled to follow their dream. A brilliant way to encourage innovation – especially when economic times are hard.’ In the future, passports and other forms of ID, such as bank ATM cards, will encode this basic biometric data.’
Some of the elements of the package are incremental: improvements to technology which is already in widespread use. For example, Magna BSP, a firm based in a business park on the Red Sea coast near Eilat, has developed 3D, stereoscopic, heat-seeking infrared cameras to safeguard an airport’s perimeter against intruders or attack by rockets. Able to distinguish human beings from birds, animals or branches moving in the wind at distances of up to two kilometers, they function equally well at night and through dense fog. But the point where it starts to get truly futuristic is inside the terminal building.
WeCU (pronounced ‘we see you’)the automated equivalent of Ben Gurion’s selectors has been developed in the business park at the ancient Roman town of Caesarea.
‘The beauty of this is that you can do it without interrupting the normal flow at the airport. without interrogation and without infringing human rights.
‘And tests have shown it’s extremely accurate – close to 100 per cent.’
Working with a world-renowned psychology professor from Haifa, they derived their machine from the science that shows that anyone who comes across a familiar stimulus – for example, a branch of the bank he or she uses, or a favored chain restaurant – will show a small but completely involuntary physical response.
‘If you expose the subject to something that he knows, he will react, and this produces a dateable physiological change,’ ‘And it’s even better if he knows this test is going to happen. This isn’t a trick. Nobody is going to be deceived.’
WeCU’s technology can easily be incorporated into existing airport processes, such as the stand-up computers found at fast bag drop and check-in stations. Built into the screen is a cheap but highly sensitive thermal imaging sensor, which can measure data including the temperature of the subject’s skin, heart rate, perspiration, blood pressure and changes in breathing, as well as other variables – 14 in all – most of which, are classified. When the passenger begins to use the station, all these readings are taken almost instantly in order to establish a ‘biological baseline’.
Suicide terrorists aren’t scared of dying, ‘but they are scared of being caught. That is the key…
Then, over the course of the next 30 seconds, the machine will expose the subject to a stimulus that would cause a response in someone involved with terrorism, but not anyone else.
‘The point is, the person who knows about terrorism will react, and the sensor will measure that reaction. It won’t pick out the person who’s stressed about flying, or the guy who’s worried about a tax bill. But it will pick out the traveler who seems to know about terror – in about 35 seconds flat. You don’t have to arrest that person, merely move on to further checks. And by the way, the more you try to train yourself not to react to the stimulus, the more clearly you will stand out.’
Tests show We CU’s system has a low ‘false positive’ rate, and will typically identify just one or two per cent of travelers as possible suspects. But even they need only move to the next automated layer -another hi-tech method devised by SDS, Suspect Detection Systems.
Already installed at one of Israel’s land border crossings, SDS’s airport machine is essentially an automatic polygraph. It consists of a booth in which the passenger sits, wearing headphones and responds to questions that are both spoken and appear on a screen. Sensors record data ranging from the skin’s electrical conductivity to movement, both from the eyes and from the subject’s left hand, which rests in a special cradle.
‘Take the case of the Detroit bomber, Abdulmutallab, ‘the security officers where he boarded, Schipol in Amsterdam, could see he stood out: he had a one-way ticket and no luggage. But his underpants bomb didn’t show up on their scanners, and they had no way of knowing whether he had hostile intent – hence no legal means to stop him getting on the plane. This system gives you that capability.’
The subject facing automatic interrogation doesn’t even have to answer the machine’s yes/no questions in order to record a response, and some of those questions will be very basic: ‘Are you involved in terrorist activity?’ or, ‘Are you carrying explosives?’ ‘Suicide terrorists aren’t scared of dying, ‘but they are scared of being caught. That is the key.
There are versions that can be fitted to security gateways to detect explosives hidden in clothing and shoes without any need to remove them…
As with the WeCU system, SDS’s detector depends on the fact that physical responses to such questions, aggregated and analyzed by a computerized algorithm, are involuntary. Most subjects will be cleared within one minute.
A small minority will face more questions lasting a further five to seven minutes, following which the machine will decide whether they should be cleared or be interrogated by humans. The booths also record passport and other ID information, which can be stored.
This new system called “Trust Based Security” (TBS). The most secret element is a new software platform that allows airports or other institutions to communicate directly with intelligence or police agency computers around the world in real time.
Intelligence/Information Sharing: ‘Nine years after 9/11 there’s still no way to do real-time information sharing, despite the fact that much was known about the 9/11 hijackers before the attacks, but not shared with the people who could have stopped them at the airports where they boarded. TBS system is very fast and cannot be attacked!
Privacy & Passengers: The world over, anger over body scanners and intimate, genital searches for those who decline to pass through them has led to calls for ethnic profiling. But the automated Israeli method isn’t profiling: it homes in on individuals, not ethnic or religious groups.
SDS also makes a portable version that fits in a briefcase, which is already in use by the Israeli army. That could be used by British soldiers trying to separate friend from foe in villages in Helmand. It would also be applicable for prison visits, to stop the smuggling of drugs or mobile phones.
Even a big cargo pallet – such as that used by Al Qaeda to smuggle the ‘toner bomb’ from Yemen to East Midlands – can be analyzed in just 30 seconds.
Other elements in TBS are equally innovative. At Sahar International in the palm-fringed beach town of Herzliya, is what is called ‘trace detection’, machines that can detect particles of explosive in sealed bags of all types, ranging in size from hand luggage to cargo containers. They can be fitted to existing security lines, and are so effective, that they abolish the need to take out laptops or other items once and for all. There are versions that can be fitted to security gateways to detect explosives hidden in clothing and shoes without any need to remove them: this technology will speed up airport security at the same time as making it safer.
They can detect amounts as small as half a microgram (one millionth of a gram) of any known explosive, ‘To give you a comparison: a single fingerprint smear weighs 50-100 micrograms. The first machines took eight seconds to produce an analysis, now the analysis gets done at the same time as the bag passes through the machine.’ The best part is that this system does not work against existing samples only BUT detonates particles, thereby establishing explosive content, regardless of the composition, therefore enabling the detection of Improvised Explosives too!!
Even a big cargo pallet – such as that used by Al Qaeda to smuggle the ‘toner bomb’ from Yemen to East Midlands – can be analyzed in just 30 seconds. Needless to say, it could also be deployed at other vulnerable targets, such as cinemas, stations or shopping malls.
TBS also embraces the inner circle of security, enabling airports to find and locate a passenger or worker who suddenly gives cause for concern very quickly. Sahar has developed RFID, radio-frequency identification – wafer-thin, throwaway-cheap and almost unnoticeable computer chips that can be built into every boarding pass, staff badge and baggage tag. They will respond immediately to sensors;, which can be built invisibly into every doorway, into floors or at intervals along hallways and corridors, so giving operators an instant read on a person’s location. This further develops into a n effective tracking devise when tags are allocated to each person, tractor, trolley and so forth thus enabling security staff to follow the entire process within the airport. When combined with analytics it makes the job even easier and fool proof.
Video cells: meanwhile, yet another technology, Video cells, has been piloting a way to network dozens, even hundreds of small CCTV cameras via the internet. Each camera costs just £200 and includes a 3G modem. Through this airport security agents could see what had happened in a particular place within seconds.
With the body scanners and other such gadgets, the U.S. is now spending $10 per passenger on security.
Video cells’ network can also be linked to RFID, so that once a person or a bag under suspicion had been located, it would be possible to bring up its image almost instantaneously.
Most of these systems can be introduced quickly, with minimal disruption, merely by adapting existing machines and processes.
Having gone through tremors caused by the recent breaches of security the TSA in the USA are now actively looking for a change to ensure proper security and Trust Based Security as being followed at Ben Gurion it would appear is the right answer. UK is looking at this with keen interest , they perhaps would like this in place before the Olympics!
Economics & Efficacy: ‘With the body scanners and other such gadgets, the U.S. is now spending $10 per passenger on security. They’re only charging $4-5 through tax, they can save in the order of $25 billion a year and in so doing have a better , more efficient and safer system too. Such a system is being positioned on a BOT method , thus saving the government huge costs.
‘The savings in India would be even greater. And not only would everyone be safer, flying would be much less miserable. The industry has lost a lot of passengers because the security has become so onerous, the lines so long. With new technologies, those passengers can start to come back.’