Physical Security

Fences, alarms, but also TEMPEST and side channels

Transit of venus safety tip

Many people around the world are hoping for clear skies to view the transit of Venus across the face of the sun, an event which will not occur again for more than a century. [1]

However, public safety officials are concerned that people may endanger their eyes by looking directly at the sun without eye protection.  Not only will they not be able to see any indications of the transit, but this can, of course, burn the retina of the eye, causing permanent damage, and possibly complete blindness.

However, I have confirmed that ordinary sunglasses are sufficient protection, as long as used correctly. [2]

And the great thing is, this works no matter what “Venus transit” webcam you view, and no matter how brightly you have your monitor cranked up.

(In the spring, generally we would have at least some clear skies for viewing.  However, typically Vancouver, it’s pretty much completely overcast here for the entire run of the transit.)

So, thank goodness for NASA

[1] It’s rather interesting that the transits occur in pairs, eight years apart, and then more than a century between the eight year pairs.

[2] I hope I don’t have to point out that this is just a joke, and that staring into the sun with only sunglasses as protection is no protection at all.  If anyone doesn’t get it, at least I have a hundred and five years before I get sued.

Phecal photo phorensics

I suppose I really can’t let this one … pass …

Last weekend a young woman fell to her death while on a tandem hang glider ride with an experienced pilot.  The pilot, owner of a company that takes people on hang gliding rides for kicks, promises video of the event: the hang glider is equipped with some kind of boom-mounted camera pointed at the riders.

Somehow the police investigating the incident suspected that the pilot had swallowed the memory card from the video camera.  (Presumably the video was running, and presumably the pilot knew it would show something unfortunate.)  This was later confirmed by x-rays.

So, this week we have all been on “memory card movement” watch.

And it has cr… I mean, come out all right.

Flash! TSA bans bread!

Following the explosions in two BC sawmills, which experts are speculating may have been caused by fine sawdust caused by excessively dry wood, the TSA has banned any particulate materials, such as sawdust, flour, and icing sugar, to be banned from all flights.

Also included in the ban are any objects made from particulate materials, such as particleboard, bread, and icing sugar dusted donuts.  (The union representing TSA workers had argued, unsuccessfully, against this last item.)  The TSA’s Director Of Really Dangerous Stuff also noted that materials with larger particle sizes, such as table salt and sand, were also being included in the ban.

At press time, we were still awaiting word on whether computer equipment was to be included in the ban, since silicon chips are commonly said to be made of sand.

(Yeah, yeah, I know, don’t give the TSA ideas …)

Paper safe

I first saw this, appropriately enough, on Improbable Research.  It’s appropriate, because, when you see it, first it makes you laugh.  Then it makes you think.

This guy has created a paper safe.  Yeah, you got that right.  A safe, made out of paper.  No, not special paper: plain, ordinary paper, the kind you have in your recycling bin.  He’s even posted a video on YouTube showing how it works.

Right, so everyone’s going to have a good laugh, yes?  Paper isn’t going to provide any protection, right?  It’s a useless oddity, of interest only to those with an interest in origami, and more free time on their hands than any security professional is likely to get.

Except, then you start thinking about it (if you are any kind of security pro.)  First off, it’s a nice illustration of at least one form of combination lock.  And then you realize that the lock is going to be useless unless it’s obscured.  So that brings up the topic of maybe security-by-obscurity does have a function sometimes.

Then you start thinking that maybe it isn’t great as a preventive control, but it sure works as a detective control.  Yeah, it’s easy to smash and get out whatever was in there.  But it’ll sure be obvious if you do.

So that brings up different types of controls, and the reasons you might want different controls in different situations, and whether some perfectly adequate controls may be a) overkill, or b) useless under certain conditions.

It’s not just a cute toy.  It’s pretty educational, too.  No, I’m not going to keep my money in it.  But it makes you think …