Terry Zink: Security Talk

Discussing Internet security in (mostly) plain English

Security only works if you follow procedure

Security only works if you follow procedure

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I've been traveling the past two weeks, which explains the dearth of posts in this blog.  But as I've been traveling, I've noticed that when it comes to security, there are some major gaps in the system.

Take airports, for example.  I was waiting in an airport, about to travel back from Europe to the United States.  When I first checked in, they asked me if I wanted a window seat or an aisle seat if they came up, and I said yes.  They told me to go to my gate and when the chance came up, they'd call me.

So, I headed over to the departure gate.  Now, if you've been to an airport lately, you know all about security.  No liquids, aerosols or gels.  You have to go through piles of security checks.  And then you have to show your photo ID before you board the plane (at least sometimes you do... not always).  Anyhow, I got to the departure gate and waited for them to call me.

Here's where the story gets interesting.  I heard them call my name "Passenger Zink (the Great), please report to an agent."  I knew they were going to change my seat.  At this point, passengers had already started boarding the plane and there was no one to go up to.  So, I just walked up to another agent between some taped off areas and waited to talk to the agent.  She was talking to someone else, and when she finished she turned to me. 

She looked at me for a couple of seconds, I explained my situation, and then she said "How did you get into this area?"  Presumably, it was a restricted area.  I didn't explain how, but all I did was walk through to the place.  There were no barriers to clear, no guards paying attention, no signs saying "Do not enter this area", none of that.  I was instructed to step under some rope and wait over there and not the place where I was before (of course, there were no agents in the place where I was currently waiting).  My whole point is that for all the security that I had to clear getting up to the departure gate, it was surprisingly easy to get into a restricted area later on.

I have often wondered if computer security is like that.  Sure, things like passwords are great, but if you put it on a sticky tab on your monitor it defeats the security protocol.  It's good to have ID swipe cards to enter buildings, but not so great if people tailgate in after you without swiping their card. 

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