Security Mindsets

Security guru (and Minnesota resident) Bruce Schneier has a post today that’s well worth reading. In a nutshell, he points out, security professionals are devious, suspicious bastards. But, hey, I mean that in a good way…

It really is true, though. We who deal with security-related issues tend to, upon learning of some new thing, immediately try and figure out how it could be exploited. This doesn’t (necessarily) involve focus groups and meetings, or even long periods of deep thought; a lot of the time, it happens instantaneously, without conscious effort.

True story: shortly after 9/11/01, the government announced they were introducing explosives-detectors at airports. A couple somewhat more technical websites, I believe, described how this works: in a nutshell, they don’t actually detect explosives, but oxidizers, which are a component of most if not all explosives, and rarely encountered in many other items. I swear, my first reaction to this was that you could cause a whole lot of pandemonium by walking around the pre-screening parts of an airport while wearing, say, socks heavily coated with potassium nitrate or potassium perchlorate. My second reaction was, how do I get some KNO3 into my mother-in-law’s luggage the next time she comes to visit? (Don’t ask.) My third reaction was that this would be a great precursor to smuggling an actual bomb onto a plane – after a couple dozen people have all tested positive for explosives, what are the odds the authorities are going to figure out the machines aren’t working correctly, and start skipping the tests?

All that in about four seconds, by the way.

Like Bruce says, we just can’t help it. We’re the sad people who wonder why firecrackers are illegal, but you can buy all the sparklers you like. (Don’t think sparklers are dangerous? Obviously you’ve never made a sparkler bomb before – or the even more-bomblike variety.) We’re the ones who see hidden dangers in the most unusual places.

We’re useful, admittedly – but probably not a lot of fun to be around. 🙂

Published in: Geekiness, General, Security | on March 25th, 2008| Comments Off on Security Mindsets

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