The Anonymous Widower

How Can We Improve Security?

Over the years the security services and the police all over the world have made many basic mistakes which have meant that people have lost their lives.  I should also add that there have been lots of cases of domestic violence and child abuse which were not picked up, which also resulted in death. I could also add in things like misdiagnosis in hospitals.

It’s all part of the same problem.

The evidence in many cases is there, but no-one can put it together to find the correct or even deadly link.

So the first thing that must be done to improve security or in the NHS’s case patient diagnosis is to make sure that all computers can talk properly to each other.

As an example of this, the DVLA can check quickly that vehicles are taxed, insured and MOT’ed instantly.  The benefit to the general public is that it is now a simple process to retax a vehicle over the Internet.  But to the police it is a valuable tool to check whether vehicles are legal.  I suspect that the number of untaxed vehicles has also reduced and the tax take has increased.  The only downside of this linking of databases is that because of the on-line purchase of road tax, Post Offices are getting less revenue and this doesn’t help their financial situation.

We still are nowhere near getting a decent patients’ record computer system and I’ve also heard stories about how police computer systems are all different and sometimes need the same data to be entered more than once.  I hope most of the stories I’ve heard are wrong.  But I doubt it!

All my life I’ve been a maverick kicking against complacency and the status quo.

Any organisation handling data should employ people like me.  Well not me, as I’m too old and well past my sell-by date.

But I know that some of my software and other similar systems have been used in very sensitive applications to link data together so that police and others can target criminals, problems or epidemics.  This type of software is used outside of the computer mainstream and to many so-called computer managers it is a pain. I can understand their point, but they should see that these analysts are on their side.  It could be argued that the collapse of several of the banks in recent months was because senior managers knew better and ignored the well-researched facts and opinions of analysts with minds much sharper than their own.

So every organisation should have a group of people, whose job is to analyse and question the data in every way possible. Unfortunately, these type of groups are the first to be got rid of in times of financial restraint.  They are always a pain in the arse to so-called managers.

I should put a bit of history in here.  Years ago in ICI, I worked in a Computer Techniques section, that had free rein to poke its nose into problems in the Division.  It was very successful, but had it not been for the diplomacy of those that ran it, it would have been very unpopular.  I was at one time, when I told a chemist that he was barking up the wrong tree.  But then he wasn’t using any mathematics for his reactions and I was!

I also believe that we rely too much on conservative techniques.  I sometimes think that some of the problems with the banks were caused because too many people looked at them all in the same way, with the same software.

So if the maverick groups are to be effective, they need to be able to purchase software and services, that may not fit the policy of the organisation.  They also need to have access to specialist programming resources. I would say that wouldn’t I!

I would also make the watch lists much more publicly available.

Let’s say that you are a check-in clerk for an airline.  Someone turns up and there is something you don’t like about them.  You should be able to flag the guy quickly with just a single key stroke.  Perhaps, you can now, but if you can’t then you should be able to.  If the watch list was able to be checked at that moment, then it would help airport security ascertain if the person was just nervous of flying or a bomber.

But the key to better security is that everyone should be on watch for anything suspicious.  After all one of the biggest failures in the Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab case, is the fact that his father reported him and no-one did anything about it.  We need a system that allows the public to contribute to the data, when they have suspicions.

But our biggest problem is that all of these security services are closed and secretive organisations, so they tend to believe all their own methods, publicity and hype.  I am reminded of a friend, who in the 1950s needed to be cleared to work on top-secret radar systems.  The fact that he was a member of CND should have precluded this, but the security services never knew, as they never asked him.

Have they got any better?

But what will we get?

Probably a lot more restrictions on our lives.

December 30, 2009 - Posted by | Computing, Health | ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] How Can We Improve Security? […]

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