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What Examples of Security Theater Have You Encountered?

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the kip-hawley-please-to-the-white-courtesy-phone dept.

Security 1114

swillden writes "Everyone who pays any attention at all to security, both computer security and 'meatspace' security, has heard the phrase Security Theater. For years I've paid close attention to security setups that I come in contact with, and tried to evaluate their real effectiveness vs their theatrical aspects. In the process I've found many examples of pure theater, but even more cases where the security was really a cover for another motive." swillden would like to know what you've encountered along these lines; read on for the rest of his question below.swillden continues: "Recently, a neighbor uncovered a good example. He and his wife attended a local semi-pro baseball game where security guards were checking all bags for weapons. Since his wife carries a small pistol in her purse, they were concerned that there would be a problem. They decided to try anyway, and see if her concealed weapon permit satisfied the policy. The guard looked at her gun, said nothing and passed them in, then stopped the man behind them because he had beer and snacks in his bag. Park rules prohibit outside food. It's clear what the 'security' check was really about: improving park food vending revenues.

So, what examples of pure security theater have you noticed? Even more interesting, what examples of security-as-excuse have you seen?"

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1114 comments

Frist Posty? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23576201)

Airports... Need I say more?

Nom nom nom (5, Funny)

Applekid (993327) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576213)

The guard looked at her gun, said nothing and passed them in, then stopped the man behind them because he had beer and snacks in his bag. Park rules prohibit outside food. It's clear what the 'security' check was really about: improving park food vending revenues.
Heh heh, the fools. The gun's cartridge was loaded with small pretzels and Tootsie Rolls.

Re:Nom nom nom (-1, Redundant)

Anarke_Incarnate (733529) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576315)

Small snack? Cartridges are what most people who do not know any better call "bullets." The part most call a "clip", which is in fact, a magazine, could hold "some" snacks, but would probably gum up the workings to the point it would have to be taken apart, cleaned and oiled.

Re:Nom nom nom (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23576431)

whooosh

Re:Nom nom nom (-1, Redundant)

Anarke_Incarnate (733529) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576545)

Whoosh implies a joke. Jokes are funny. Would you consider it a joke if somebody tried to tell one about how his hard drive's CD tray kept on coming out? Or the one about how his "terminal" was blank? Sure, you may get the idea of what they are talking about, however to those who actually know better, it is not funny because they are using technical terms in an incorrect way that detracts from their intention.

Re:Nom nom nom (4, Funny)

pipatron (966506) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576673)

I think I speak for everyone here at the slashdot community when I say:

Shut the fuck up.

Re:Nom nom nom (-1, Flamebait)

Anarke_Incarnate (733529) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576763)

You speak for yourself and have an inflated sense of worth. You are not as brave, nor as sophisticated as you think you are. You are a douche. Now... Go back to your mother's basement and eat a hot pocket.

Re:Nom nom nom (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23576765)

I think I speak for everyone here at the slashdot

Please don't attempt to speak for me.

Whoosh... (1)

msauve (701917) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576697)

because it was a revolver.

It must suck, being you, and never being able to understand the humor in a pun.

Re:Nom nom nom (3, Insightful)

StrategicIrony (1183007) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576723)

But if I were making a joke about the "cup holder" that comes out of the "hard drive", then it would be funny.

And would lose all its funny if someone decided to point out that it's not a "hard drive" but in fact has some other arcane name, which really doesn't matter in the context of the joke. :-)

Re:Nom nom nom (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23576743)

Sure, you may get the idea of what they are talking about, however to those who actually know better, it is not funny because they are using technical terms in an incorrect way that detracts from their intention.
I have never in my life, sir, encountered a person who more needed a good toke than you. Chill, yo.

Re:Nom nom nom (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23576747)

The were not guarding the customers from criminals, they were guarding the food vendors from people who didn't want to pay the exorbitant prices and carried in their own food.

The Iraq theater (5, Insightful)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576219)

No trolling intended, but the war in Iraq now is the biggest piece of security theater on the planet. It does not make the US safer ( indeed it probably does the reverse ) but it does give certain people benefits. Chaney and friends make millions on no-bid contracts, and neocons get to implement policies that in more normal conditions would not be tolerated by the public.

Re:The Iraq theater (1, Insightful)

dolphino (166844) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576323)

Hmmm... I feel safer killing insurgents in their backyard rather than killing them here, but I am probably strange that way.

Re:The Iraq theater (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23576379)

See, the thing is that there weren't insurgents in Iraq before the US got there.

Re:The Iraq theater (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23576443)

I just feel safer knowing we're killing innocent people in the Middle East every day. This will remind them not to underestimate the power of the dark side and dare to

Re:The Iraq theater (3, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576683)

Nah. Not enough people are dying for that to be the case.

It's like a sick joke but it's true. Until people are dying by
the hundreds of thousands, the people trying to treat the US
as a paper tiger won't really understand what they're fooling
around with.

Re:The Iraq theater (4, Insightful)

Duradin (1261418) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576447)

Better hope the insurgents don't start thinking like that...

An even better plan: stop killing people and *MAKING* insurgents, take some personal responsibility in securing yourself and your surroundings and then see to getting back our rights.

Re:The Iraq theater (3, Insightful)

AshtangiMan (684031) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576467)

That's the strawman most often put forth to quell the discussion. Another one is the "fighting to protect your freedoms". Pretty lame, but the bar is pretty low on how to get people behind this kind of activity. I don't recall any Iraqi insurgents ever creating any kind of trouble in any of the 50 states, so I'm curious about your rationale for the statement. Are you just parroting something you heard, or can you further explain your sentiment?

Re:The Iraq theater (5, Insightful)

MrMr (219533) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576487)

I feel safer killing insurgents in their backyard
Insurging against you in their own backyard?

You're not strange, your colonialism is of all ages.

Re:The Iraq theater (1, Troll)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576719)

It's not "colonialism".

Islam has been waging war with the rest of the world since it was invented.

Most of the world that is muslim now is that way because of those wars.

Don't try to kid anyone.

Re:The Iraq theater (4, Insightful)

scipiodog (1265802) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576647)

Hmmm... I feel safer killing insurgents in their backyard rather than killing them here, but I am probably strange that way.

Yes, you are strange that way.

You prefer, it seems, to create a huge number of insurgents, just for the purpose of fighting them?

Here's a little knowledge bomb I'm going to drop your way... They weren't there until you invaded. At least they weren't insurgents then.

"Fight them over there so we don't have to at home" is such an odious and incredibly false catch phrase. Really it disappoints me that so many Americans swallow it. How about, don't fight them over there or at home?

Re:The Iraq theater (1)

overtly_demure (1024363) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576721)

Hmmm... I feel safer killing insurgents in their backyard rather than killing them here, but I am probably strange that way.

Why did we start killing them?

Were they a threat to us?

Were they even there before?

I don't understand how you can express something that clearly has no thought behind it whatsoever, and yet has such colossal, horrible consequences when millions of people like you support what is little more than a band of murderous criminals that has hijacked our government, our armed forces, and our society.

Thanks, Dude. Thanks to you and your kind for helping fuck up the world even more than it already was. Way more.

Re:The Iraq theater (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23576829)

Do you think the average US citizen would be safer if we: Provided universal health care or killed Iraqis? Provided port security or killed Iraqis? Secured our borders or killed Iraqis? Had levies that didn't collapse or killed Iraqis? Had bridges that didn't collapse or killed Iraqis? Had a president with an IQ over 100 or killed Iraqis? Obviously the answer to all of these questions is that the war in Iraq does not make us safer than the alternatives we could pursue if we were not spending a trillion dollars in Iraq, mostly creating more people who hate Americans so that we can kill them and create more people who hate Americans, ...

Re:The Iraq theater (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23576835)

Yeah they were running rampant here before we took the fight to Iraq...

Re:The Iraq theater (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23576347)

BU$H LIED TO AMERIKKKA!!!!

Re:The Iraq theater (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23576527)

I can't imagine a more off topic and trollish post. What are the mods smoking?

Re:The Iraq theater (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23576597)

No trolling intended, but the war in Iraq now is the biggest piece of security theater on the planet.

It could be. Then again, maybe it's not. How can you be sure? Has the US been "attacked" since the Iraq war? Since 9/11? No. Has there been attempts? Yes. Has there been plots uncovered by people captured in Iraq and "tortured" at Gitmo? Yes. Would those plots ever develop or stopped if not for the Iraq war? Who knows?

I would have liked to believe that the same funds spent on the Iraq war could have been spent on local defense with the same results (no terrorist attacks) but my crystal ball is broken and I cannot have predicted the future at the time that GWB had to make the decision. Unfortunately, he choose something I disagreed with but I'd also like to think he had a lot more information to base that judgment on (which obviously some turned out to be bad intel. which really sucks to find out after) than the local 9'o clock news and CNN.

I don't believe in the conspiracy crap you toss out like "it's for profits!" and "evil corporate America is just trying to make money for the VP's companies!" What a lot of rubbish. It doesn't take much thought to realize the Iraq/Afghan war would have never happened without 9/11. If the *real* reason was profits, it would have happened either way... then again, maybe it would have?

Re:The Iraq theater (4, Insightful)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576791)

I'll make an exception to my long standing policy of not responding to ACs:

The reason that America hasn't been subsequently attacked had nothing to do with punishing the silly, stupid Taleban in Afghanistan, or fomenting a war in Iraq. The perps were a group calling themselves Al Qaeda, and they haven't been touched. They were weak, tiny, and extremely clever; they got past security in NE airports, then were successful in three crashes, while the fourth dive bombed in Pennsylvania. This was not a million man army with nukes, just some very clever people. They subsequently disrupted transportation in Spain, where people were murdered, and also in the UK, where others were murdered.

No subsequent acts have occurred for any number of reasons, almost none of which have to do with the wars, as the wars were about pride and oil. This has nothing to do with US Dept of Homeland Security, which is an oxymoron.

Fight the bastards when they try to impinge on your privacy and your liberty. Question authority. Do so politely. Then let the judges kick them in the tender parts. That's their job. Do it again, repeat until you're free, because today, you're not.

Re:The Iraq theater (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576601)

Chaney and friends make millions on no-bid contracts
I tend to trust sources that spell the name of the vice president correctly. It makes me feel like you're regurgitating someone else's points rather than deciding yourself.

Re:The Iraq theater (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23576761)

I tend to trust sources that use correct grammar, such as "...deciding for yourself."

Re:The Iraq theater (1)

drodal (1285636) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576663)

Amazing (and way off topic) I just saw on the history channel, about how the British, when the revolutionary war moved toward the south, made a proclamation to all Americans, you are either loyal to the crown, or your traitors. This pushed a lot of fence sitters off the fence, and helped the Americans win the war. So the strategy of "your with us or your against us" has never worked and never will. Were we talking about theater????

On the web side of things (5, Interesting)

Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576241)

While creating an intranet for the company I was doing some outside work for I ran into a problem authenticating through their antiquated AD system. Rather than updating everything or heaven forbid give management an actual password to remember my instructions were to "make it as scary as possible but don't actually put a password on it." I had a four tiered authentication system which would allow you to move forward regardless of what was put in the text boxes. They loved it, and a little piece of me died when I cashed the check.

Re:On the web side of things (3, Informative)

Emperor Skull (680972) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576649)

I ran into a problem authenticating through their antiquated AD system
AD as in Active Directory? The oldest it could be is about 8 years since AD was first implemented in Windows 2000 and there have only been two newer versions. It can't have been that antiquated. It's also trivial to do authentication against AD in a variety of ways, especially from a web application. That hasn't changed much in Windows 2003 or 2008. Of course a customer that paid for what you describe probably didn't have their AD working right either...

Exteneded Validation Certificates (4, Insightful)

hal9000(jr) (316943) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576251)

If public CA's are supposed to be trusted authorities of identity on the Internet, why do we have to have "extended validation" of an entity before they get a certificate? If we can't trust the CA to validate entities before issuing certificates in the first place, how can we trust them to issue Extended Validation Certificates in the second?

Oh, I forgot, they are in collusion with Microsoft and other CA's to inflate the cost of digital certificates they already issue.

Welcome (1)

bobwrit (1232148) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576275)

Welcome to the world of 'security'. A place where there are hidden meanings behind everyone of their smiles. When you think about it, what makes security software so adventageous? Viruses and other malware. In order to have those wou can not have security. And hense in order to make their buisness prosper they have to have a hidden agenda.

Apartment Accepting Packages (5, Insightful)

sgtron (35704) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576279)

In 2001 I was living in an apartment complex in a North Dallas suburb. If you got a package that wouldn't fit in those teeny-tiny mailboxes then the mail man would drop off the package at the apartment complex office and you could pick it up in normal office hours.

After September 11th, the apartment management sent out a memo to all residents that because of the heightened state of terrorism awareness the office would no longer allow packages to be held there for the residents.

Of course my first thought was they were just tired of dealing with the packages and saw this as a convenient excuse to stop holding packages for people.

Windows Vista? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23576281)

Oh, and "inspections" of laptops at the border.

Yeah, that will help (actually, it does. It helps because it drastically reduces the number of willing visitors to the US)..

Disneyland (5, Funny)

Eco-Mono (978899) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576297)

My adviser back at University, Rich Maddox, used to tell a story from his youth, when he was dating a girl who (apparently for religious reasons? I don't remember exactly) always carried a large knife in her purse. So anyway, they were going to Disneyland with a couple of friends, and as they went through the entry turnstile they stopped Rich and asked to check his backpack for weapons and so forth. And they found a pocket knife there, and told him he couldn't bring it into the park because it was dangerous. That's when Rich called over to his girlfriend who was already inside, and said "Honey, do you still have that knife with you?" And she pulled it out of her purse and said "Yeah, why do you ask?"

Re:Disneyland (1)

Eco-Mono (978899) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576357)

P.S. When Rich tells the story he always implies that it was because the guys running the turnstile were too busy looking at his girlfriend's boobs to look in her purse. Take that however you want.

Re:Disneyland (5, Funny)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576399)

P.S. When Rich tells the story he always implies that it was because the guys running the turnstile were too busy looking at his girlfriend's boobs to look in her purse. Take that however you want.
Her boobs were shaped like knives?

Re:Disneyland (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23576753)

a girl who (apparently for religious reasons? I don't remember exactly) always carried a large knife in her purse
Maybe she was a Sikh? [wikipedia.org]

I've been a part of the theatre. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23576325)

Recently when flying from Lima, Peru, to Toronto, Canada, I went through check in with 2 pocket knives and a tube of toothpaste in my carryon. They took my toothpaste, but let me on with everything else.

The whole concept of taking sharps from people is stupid. Once you get on the plane, ask for a coke in the can. They will happily give it to you. Tear the can in half (bend/fold several times 1st to make it easier), and you will now have 2 very sharp jagged pieces of metal.

Re:I've been a part of the theatre. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23576405)

Tear the can in half ... and you will now have 2 very sharp jagged pieces of metal
and wet trousers.

Re:I've been a part of the theatre. (5, Funny)

Anarke_Incarnate (733529) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576605)

OK, solution. Ask for TWO cans of soda. Drink the first one and then tear the second one in half. Try to pour as much of the flowing liquid into the now empty first can.......no wait.. Ask for THREE cans......crap....

Re:I've been a part of the theatre. (0)

Wandering Wombat (531833) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576419)

Excellent! Thank you for these helpful instructions on how to create lethal weapons at 30,000 feet.

Re:I've been a part of the theatre. (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576767)

What? You mean you don't have any ex-cons in your family that already could have told you about this?

My favorite always was the vodka made from mashed potatoes...

Oh Sure (4, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576337)

Every time I'm held up by the "No Fly List" because I have an insanely common name, I feel like a victim of security theater. How many would be terrorists have been caught by the no fly list?

In my opinion almost all forms of random searches are security theater.

People putting loaded handguns in their homes in the case of a wood-be assailant or robber breaking in. This is not only security theater, it increases the risk you are putting yourself and your family in. Not to mention that in most instances of murder the victim knew the assailant. You're more likely to die of suicide than a robber killing you.

I don't know if these are examples where the security theater is a cover for another reason--unlikely. But there's clearly examples where it just makes your life worse more often than better.

The whole shebang (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23576571)

See tsa.gov. I have personally taken gasoline soaked garments on an airplane and not had them given a second look. Of course the radios I also carry always get a second look although they are EXACTLY like most of the guards carry (Motorola CP200). However, I do feel infinitely more secure knowing that an airplane will never be highjacked again, not because of anything the government does but because the passengers won't stand for it and will kill the highjackers. I suppose some passengers might die but as far as they were concerned they were dead anyway. In short, pretty much the whole airline security system is security theatre.

Re:Oh Sure (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576615)

A given person is more likely to die of suicide than a robber killing them.

I'm vastly more likely to be killed by a robber, as I am way to astoundingly self important and arrogant to ever commit suicide. Or something like that anyway. The point is that you are using statistics awfully sloppily when you make that statement.

Re:Oh Sure (2, Insightful)

Anarke_Incarnate (733529) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576657)

Got proof of having guns accessible (to you) is an increased threat? No, you can't start with "everybody knows that..." you have to have a substantiated set of analysis to back up your claims.

Also, what is your point on dying of suicide vs a robbery or home invasion? What are your chances of running a flat tire? Why carry a spare?

Vista UAC (1, Insightful)

rsborg (111459) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576349)

Security theatre in it's finest. It's so unusable that it's clear that any serious user will disable it. So why include it? The article points a valid reason: liability. Micrsoft can't keep your system highly safe without a great cost to them (re-architect the OS and severely damage backwards compatiblility). So they chose to let you either deal with the annoyance, or turn it off, and (symbolically) accept responsibility for anything that goes wrong.

Re:Vista UAC (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23576675)

Oh boy. Can't believe this was modded insightful.

I'm a serious user, and I didn't disabled UAC. In fact, I don't know anyone who has Vista and has disabled it. Will some users be bothered with it? Of course, but that's a given for almost all security controls.

Also, the very same logic could be applied to unix. Hey, it's much easier to always log on as root, no need for this sudo shit. I guess that's also security theater, right?

Re:Vista UAC (1)

rsborg (111459) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576787)

I'm a serious user, and I didn't disabled UAC. In fact, I don't know anyone who has Vista and has disabled it.
Probably because a lot of users haven't really disabled Vista UAC, but migrated back to XP or moved to Linux/OSX. I can count on my hand the number of people I know who run Vista, and most of those work at Microsoft. Of those I know that do run Vista have told me they either feel secure enough to disable UAC, or they just don't care and want to stop the annoyance.

TSA (1, Redundant)

rhadamanthus (200665) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576351)

Nuff' said.

Re:TSA (1)

Uberdog (73274) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576591)

Specifically the No Fly List. It is utterly trivial [boingboing.net] to change the name on a boarding pass that is expected to be printed out on a user's home computer (most are just HTML). This has received a fair [boingboing.net] amount [schneier.com] of attention in the past, but apparently the theatrics of it suffice.

MIT ITS passwords, and Microsoft File Servers (4, Insightful)

FranTaylor (164577) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576389)

I cannot verify this story, anyone else?

Back in ArpaNet days, MIT had machines running an OS called ITS. It was a friendly and happy world and there were user accounts but no passwords. But networking means that strangers can connect and so Arpa insisted that passwords be added. So the ITS developers added a password prompt that ignored the password, and this made the Arpa people happy for a while until they figured it out and made them actually check the password.

In a similar vein, Microsoft file server passwords were originally checked only on the client, a fact which went undiscovered until Samba came along.

Wireless Security (5, Funny)

Toreo asesino (951231) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576391)

I had a boss that named the wireless network "Virus". On asking him about this, he explained "it's to scare off hackers - they won't connect if they think they'll get a virus". Ah, ok.

It's probably worth pointing out he wasn't aware you could "secure" a wireless point with a basic WPA key at least - it was completely open, anyone could walk right in, assuming they beat the fear of the "virus" that was.

Re:Wireless Security (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23576525)

I had a boss that named the wireless network "Virus". On asking him about this, he explained "it's to scare off hackers - they won't connect if they think they'll get a virus". Ah, ok.
I named two network printers I didn't want people using "Broken" and "Dot_Matrix" (before there were access lists)

Re:Wireless Security (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23576837)

was this at an online dating startup by any chance?

Library Self-Checkouts (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23576449)

The libraries let you sign your own books out. You place your book and card under a scanner, and then it demagnetizes the book so the alarms won't go off when you leave. The scanner only reads a barcode though, so you can stick five books on it, sign out one, and demagnetize them all. Presto, four free books.

Of course, when the security alarms do go off at the library anyway, they just let the people walk out.

Re:Library Self-Checkouts (1)

Falstius (963333) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576769)

At my library at least, all the books have RFID tags. If you put 5 books on at once, it will read and check out all of them. I haven't seen a system that just has a barcode scanner (not that I can't easily picture a library doing that).

Of course, security is always a tradeoff between cost and effectiveness. If they don't have enough books stolen to justify a more robust, and expensive, system then it would be stupid for them to spend money on one.

Locks.......with keys attached?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23576455)

come along folks ..its been a long day

DIEBOLD (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23576491)

DIEBOLD and other voting machine manufacturers take the cake for Security Theater. Throwing around words like encryption make most politicians nod ignorantly in agreement (something politicians often do). By now we should know the whole voting system is rigged, and that these fools are continuing to tout themselves as secure.

Here's the movie that partially but convincingly explores how jacked up this situation is:
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4762159260759486531&ei=Fms8SKmYKJCEqgPTx4XjAw&hl=en

Shortly after 9/11 (5, Funny)

hudsonhawk (148194) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576495)

...while I was temping for a company in Chicago, I was asked to deliver a box of candy to a client in the Sears Tower. While entering, I went though the giant, heightened security setup - x-rays and all - and got held up because I had a box cutter in my backback.

They held it up triumphantly and shouted at me, "Just what do you expect to do with this?!"

I wanted to ask them them the same question back. Just what did they expect I'd do with that? In a building that had security guards with guns? Was I going to hijack the building and crash it into a plane?

Re:Shortly after 9/11 (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23576681)

And what exactly would you do with a box cutter? Open boxes? Hah! Likely story...

Back button on bank's web site (5, Interesting)

rduke15 (721841) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576501)

On my bank's web site, when I used the browser's back button, things started to get out of sync. You had to click their own custom back button somewhere in the pages so that everything would continues to work.

When I called to report it, I was explained that I had to click their own back button, not mine. When I said "Yes, I know, I just wanted to let you know so that you can fix the bug sometime", the final answer was something like "It's by design. It's for security reasons". At that point I was expected to say "ok. thank you" or whatever, and to understand that a "bug" was totally unthinkable on their super-reliable ultra-secure blah blah bank site.

Nevertheless, a few months later, the bug was gone. I didn't call back to say I'm now worried about the security...

A crypto guy talking about theater ... (0, Flamebait)

mark_jabroni (547666) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576503)

Can he tell you how many millions of emails and documents are encrypted before one is protected? Because it would be nice if he met the same standards he holds others to -- it would be nice if anybody in computer security were held to the same cost/benefit standards as regular security. I used to have 16 different passwords at work, all requiring changes every 64 days, and I somehow doubt it was worth the trouble.

His examples are bunk anyway because he doesn't understand them. Deterrents work without working, that's the point. And the baby thing -- there's a big moral and societal difference between losing a sick kid to disease and having a healthy kid kidnapped. Otherwise, why imprison kidnappers but not doctors who treated patients who died?

Nice Article (5, Insightful)

dunezone (899268) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576515)

The article fails to talk about security as a deterrent.

The RFID bracelets on an infant can give comfort to the parents but its more of a deterrent then anything. Sure the hospital can tell the parents that their child is protected. But the hospital is not protecting the child as much as its protecting itself. For example:

A guard that is in the bank is not there to stop a bank from being robbed. He deters people from committing the crime itself. In a robbery situation the guard himself is useless because the individual or individuals robbing a bank would take him out first. But in most bank robberies, the criminals are going to go after a bank without a guard anyway.

A mall guard doesn't stop people from stealing, he creates the presence of being watched, therefor deterring people from stealing.

Same goes with cameras in stores. Most of the time no one is monitoring the cameras and if anything their used to watch employees over customers. But their deterring employees from doing anything unethical or illegal and they deter people from stealing.

In my opinion the idea of security theater and feeling safe is crap. You might as well spend the time and effort to know your safe then make it seem like you feel like your safe.

Completely off-topic... (3, Insightful)

HetMes (1074585) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576531)

...but what the hell is up with these users starting their replies with something like: "I'll probably get modded down for trolling, but..." Are you saying you know your answer will not be appreciated, but you're just the kind of crazy, out-there, don't-give-a-damn, cool guy that says it anyway? Just say what you have to say and stand by it. Stop showing off your insecurity, and/or lack of knowledge on the subject.

The entire war on drugs (5, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576537)

What's left to say? It's pretty clear that drugs are more dangerous when they're only available in the unregulated black market than in a regulated legal market. Criminalizing the use of drugs only hurts drug users more, yet it's done in the name of safety.

What's worst is that we've been fighting this war for decades, no end is in sight, we've spent more money and lost more freedoms fighting it than we have in Iraq. And still, no one in power has the balls to speak out against this.

We live in a sick, sad world. People who would meet the non-violent act of drug use with the violent acts of arrest and imprisonment are themselves violent criminals. Yet in this society they are deemed good citizens.

Re:The entire war on drugs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23576627)

Are you sure it is done with safety in mind? I tend to think the WOD was started with the best, wholesome, Christian thinking. And now everyone knows you can't get elected without being a Christian... so you can't get rid of the War on Drugs!!!! Are you for Satan?! Think of the KIDS! GOD doesn't like drugs!!!

My fave (5, Insightful)

Deadstick (535032) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576547)

...is the one we've all seen in the airport: confiscation of bottled water. Every time a TSA guy finds your bottle of Dasani, he pours the suspected explosive in the trash. His very first good catch will be his last...

rj

Passwords (4, Informative)

qoncept (599709) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576565)

The DOD replaced reasonable passwords with Common Access Cards. The difference? Instead of having to find out someone's 8+ character alphanumeric password that changes every month, you need to have physical access to their card and need to know their 6 digit number that never changes. Meanwhile, everyone is forgetting their card in the reader when they go to lunch, so they can't get back on base -- but feel free to use it yourself in the meantime.

Re:Passwords (1)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576789)

The DOD replaced reasonable passwords with Common Access Cards. The difference? Instead of having to find out someone's 8+ character alphanumeric password that changes every month
... which people will forget, especially if they have several, and will therefore write it down on a yellow sticky conveniently pasted to the edge of the CRT.

[...]need to have physical access to their card and need to know their 6 digit number that never changes. Meanwhile, everyone is forgetting their card in the reader when they go to lunch, so they can't get back on base -- but feel free to use it yourself in the meantime.
After a few weeks people will remember their 6 digit code and never have to write it down again, which is more secure. At a well known defense organisation I worked for, the security people actually forbade sysadmins to enable expiring password... they felt that expiring passwords were just another example of security theater. Better to log time and date of last access and display it to the user when they log on again, in red if the last access was outside their regular hours.

Oh and as for people leaving cards in their machines: just change the doors so that you need your card to leave as well as enter the building. Most companies already do this, including my current client, where I've never come across a card left in a machine yet.

Password Policy (4, Funny)

Aram Fingal (576822) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576577)

I was working with a particular system where the vendor added a strict password security policy. They require a mixture of uppercase and lowercase letters as well as at least one digit or special character. Later on, I discovered, by accident, that the password is not case sensitive when you actually go to login. It turns out that the routine for setting the password enforces stronger passwords than the underlying system can actually support. The vendor, of course, claimed that they would be upgrading their underlying password encryption algorithm very soon.

Re:Password Policy (1)

HetMes (1074585) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576781)

Detail. Isn't it harder to implement a case-insensitive password layer, than a case-sensitive one? Just the use of a ToLowerCase function, but still... Weird!

What About... (1)

susano_otter (123650) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576599)

What about security measures that have the opposite effect, of making the system less secure?

Aggressive password policies, for example, that require long strings of amnemonic gibberish that must be changed every month or so and may not bear any resemblance to previous long strings of gibberish.

The end result of this at my company is that we each use the same password for every security domain we have access to, and we tend to write it down.

2002 Winter Olympics (4, Interesting)

ryanisflyboy (202507) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576611)

I was living in Salt Lake City during these games. Remember that the Olympics were only a few months after 9/11. There were huge security concerns. We saw low flying helicopters over the city we were told were searching for nuclear material. We saw various 'special forces' teams deployed in the mountains around venues looking for 'snipers.' The security downtown was surreal. People were checking every car coming in and out for bombs. Everyone had to go through metal detectors (in some cases, you actually had to pass two layers of metal detectors). The amount of government agents per city block was astounding. Many were armed with sub-machine guns. For such a quiet city like Salt Lake, seeing troops walk around in full combat gear was quite theatrical.

My favorite security theatric was an ATF agent standing on a street corner, machine gun in hand and in full combat gear. He was waving and smiling at people driving buy to be sure they all saw him and his gun. I stopped and watched him for about 20 minutes before he started using his radio while giving me the 'killer' eyes. Despite the smiling and waving, he was not friendly, not at all. I decided to vacate my vantage point. Those guys were so bored they were looking for targets to harass.

Not in 25 years in IT... (1)

ivanmarsh (634711) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576631)

Have I heard the term Security Theatre.

Must have been coined by someone thinking outside the box.

Re:Not in 25 years in IT... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23576809)

Nah, yer just old. lol

My experience with the TSA and Patriot Act (5, Interesting)

SoCalChris (573049) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576643)

Patriot Act

I had some stock options through my job that I tried to cash through the etrade account that had been set up for me. The stock price was rather high, and our trading window was about to close, so I tried selling at literally the last minute. The sell order failed, and no reason was given. A few days later, I received a letter in the mail from etrade telling me that my account was locked. Several years before, while living in a different state, I had an etrade account. Because the SSN was the same on both accounts, but the addresses were totally different, some part of the Patriot Act made them lock my account until I could prove my identity by sending them a notarized copy of my social security card.

Another example, which isn't really security theater, just shitty work by the TSA happened to me a few years before that.

My wife had to fly out of state for a funeral, and she took our 6 month old daughter with her. I took them to the ticket counter. Since she was traveling with a baby, a car seat, and her carry on bag, the ticket agent offered to print me a pass that would allow me to accompany her to the gate and help her carry her things.

As I was getting up to the xray machines, I remembered that I had a small pocket knife in my pocket. I hadn't removed it since I wasn't expecting to go through security. As I got to the xray machine, I told the operator what had happened, and told her that I'd just go back through the line and put the knife out in our car.

She seemed ok with that, and told me that I could just go ahead and go through the xray machine, and out the exit that was just a few feet from the xray machine, so I didn't have to go back and work my way through the line.

As soon as I went through, several TSA agents came up and detained me for attempting to bring a weapon through the security checkpoint. I wound up being searched, my 6 month old daughter that I was holding was searched, and I was questioned for about an hour as to why I had tried to take a knife through security. Not once did they go talk to the lady running the xray machine less than 50 feet away, who had told me to go through.

In the end, my knife was confiscated (It was about a $50 knife), and I was threatened that I could be under arrest for attempting to smuggle a weapon through the airport, and I could be facing a several thousand dollar fine for it. They filled out a report, and made me immediately leave the terminal.

About a month later, I received a letter from the TSA saying that they had chosen not to fine me this time, but if I ever came up in their system again I would face the maximum penalties.

That was the day that I lost all faith in our government.

Re:My experience with the TSA and Patriot Act (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576839)

While i dont know him personally, i know of a documented story where a guy was forced to give up a decretive silver bullet keychain signed by Mr Heston.

The TSA is totally nuts.

Guard Gates (4, Interesting)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576655)

In a past life, I worked for a major aerospace company. Security appeared pretty tight, what with armed guards checking IDs at entry points. They also had manned checkpoints to check vehicle passes at the road entrances. These were usually issued to upper management, enabling them to park inside the fence, close to the buildings. The peons had to park outside and walk in.

Because of my job in various R&D labs, I was always hauling equipment around in my personal vehicle. There were provisions to issue employees in my position a temporary vehicle pass and a 'parcel pass', allowing us to transport company equipment through the gates.

Throughout my career, I was never ever challenged when exiting a facility with a hatchback, obviously loaded with expensive equipment. The vehicle pass system existed only to ensure that some scumbag grunt didn't park in a manager's space. Security guards were nothing more than glorified parking enforcement.

At some of the production facilities, gate guards were instructed to examine lunch boxes of the workers exiting to ensure that they were not swiping tools. Briefcases were exempt from such checks, as they were typically carried by trusted engineers and management. As most of the engineers working within production facilities were indistinguishable from mechanics by dress or any badge markings, I suppose it never occurred to security that a worker intent on swiping tools could obtain a briefcase.

Joint account (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23576693)

I was trying to transfer some funds out of a joint bank account. I used the phone based system (and answered the usual security questions). Then the person told me that for the transfer to be allowed, both people on the joint account needed to sign-off on the transfer.

The other person wasn't available... so I just said "Ok, hold on I'll get him." Then waited a few seconds and said "Hi. Yes, I'm he. Yes I confirm the transfer."

They transferred the money. No authentication, no double-checks. Just some voice on a phone (I didn't even bother faking a different-sounding voice) saying that it was ok.

Security Fraud (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23576701)

A local school here recently went to a closed campus. They paid a lot of money to fence between all perimeter buildings (really old school), and to put up large gates.

During school hours, the only way onto the campus is through the front office (or any door that someone opens from the inside). You can exit the campus from any perimeter door. For good measure, they mounted a security camera to watch the door into the front office.

They placed it so that it records the back of people as they enter the office. At least it would, if they hadn't mounted it directly behind the four inch steel post they installed to mount the gate that closed the campus.

Now, the camera takes a nice video of a shiny new fence post all day.

Everyone knows the camera is useless in its present position. Nobody cares. All the expense of the fences, the gates, and the cameras was never about security.

Airport security (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23576731)

Copenhagen Airport, after the security check. In the departure hall there is a wide open area with about 30 tables from a Steakhouse restaurant, with all tables layed out with big steak knives just for the taking.

Beyond security theater (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#23576775)

I have a friend who works for *organization*. They work in a
single-story building, in a suburb of a second-tier city. The building
sits on its own plot of land, on a hill, in an industrial-office-park
kind of area. The building is a lab, but it's mostly monitoring
equipment. It's not weapons, or explosives, or significant quantities
of chemicals.

This is probably not what anyone would consider a high-value target.
There's never been any kind of attack or threat against the building
or its personnel. But after 9-11, management started obsessing about
security.

The first thing they did was get armed guards for the building. Armed
guards did not make my friend feel secure. My friend wondered about
their training and worried about getting shot.

Guard duty is tough. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter,
and the guards aren't in good condition to begin with, since they just
stand there all day and never get any exercise. In practice, the
guards spend most of their time sitting in their cars in front of the
building, with the engine running for heat or AC.

Management decided that this didn't look good, so they built a guard
shack along the right-hand side of the driveway. Now the guard sits in
the shack and watches the cars go by.

But that didn't seem very secure either--a bad guy could just drive
right by without stopping
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1983_Beirut_barracks_bombing).

So they added a gate, and spikes, and a card reader. To pass, an
employee stops at the gate, rolls down their window and swipes their
card. The gate goes up, the spikes retract, and they drive through.

My friend doesn't trust this system a bit, and makes a point of
watching to see that the spikes have retracted before driving over
them. There was speculation among the staff as to who would be the
first to blow out their tires on the spikes. As it happenes, it was
the mailman, followed some time later by two visitors who either
didn't see or didn't understand the signs warning against following
another vehicle through the gate.

I suggested that they stencil silhouettes of all the vehicles they've
caught on the guard shack, the way fighter pilots (used to?) record
kills on the nose of their airplanes.

My friend points out that even with a gate and spikes, the system only
protects against attackers who
- care about their tires, and
- don't have trucks
because any vehicle can blow through the gate and make it the short
distance to the building on four flat tires, and any truck can drive
over the curb and avoid the whole thing.

Management decided that blowing out their visitors' tires was
unfriendly, so they instituted a new procedure for passing the gate.
Now, drivers stop at the gate and roll down their window. The guard
walks from the shack (on the right), in front of the car, to the card
reader (on the left), takes the driver's card, swipes it, and returns
it to the driver. Then the driver can pass.

The staff considered that the guards were now at risk of being run
over--and it happened. An employee reached down in his car to get his
card, his foot came off the brake, and the car rolled forward into the
guard. The guard was taken to hospital--I don't think the injuries
were too serious. The driver has to appear in court and pay fines--I
don't know if it is criminal or civil.

This is beyond security theater. This is real damage.

In the post-9/11 hysteria (1, Interesting)

kent_eh (543303) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576797)

Our company hired security guards to sit in the hall outside the unmarked door to the equipment room (in my location it's an un-marked door on the 16th floor of an office building).
Thus making people wonder "what's so important behind that door?

The security guard on the early shift was the most frail ancient person I have ever seen in a uniform, but dammit, we were doing something. Or at least being seen to do something, which is just as good.

Video Downloads (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576819)

I stopped going to the theater a long time ago as "today's" movie offerings suck.

Oh wait, wrong 'theater'..... :)

Is government funding based on how cool sounding you make it or something?

Tweezers (1)

TerminalOldFart (1196043) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576825)

Shortly after 9/11 when the airport security restrictions were getting really ramped up and casual travelers didn't know what to expect, I happened to be in line behind a woman who had the unmitigated gall to be carrying a small tweezer in her purse. The security guy very politely explained that she couldn't take it on the plane, but she was having a fit. When he finally started to walk away, I leaned up to her and said "What did he think you were, a plucking terrorist?" That got her laughing and luckily the security guard didn't hear what I said, otherwise I'm sure I'd still be getting a cavity search now.

Bean Bags (1)

tocs (866673) | more than 5 years ago | (#23576833)

I was stopped at airport security and made to stand in a little glass box while they looked at my bag under the x-ray. After a half hour of questioning and digging through my stuff they pulled out three beanbags I used for juggling and was told this was the problem. They could not go on the plane with me and I left them behind.
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