Questions and Answers From the Top

A conversation with Ralph C. Jensen

Celebrating 10 years of publishing in the security industry, Security Products magazine editor Ralph C. Jensen fields a few questions about the industry, technology and the wave of the future.

Q.What do you think will be the single most important security issue in the next 10 years? Why?

A.We’ve just about talked to death the term “convergence,” but the integration of legacy security systems with the IP network is on the verge of exploding. That doesn’t mean analog cameras are a dying breed, but they’ve had their heyday. The focus on enterprise installation will be aimed at network-enabled cameras. I tend to think there is more than a single most important issue, especially over the next 10 years. One of the hottest topics today, and likely forward from here, is video analytics.

I believe that video analytics has to be accomplished in increments and with the customer in mind. There is some opinion that the analytics industry is totally vendor driven and, for the most part, I believe that is true. Just because it’s available doesn’t mean the customer actually has a use for it. It’s one thing to put a lot of fancy stuff in the camera, but some industry experts say analytics is not well tested. The motion application works well in an indoor environment, but outdoors, it is quite another matter.

Please, don’t get me wrong, I believe in video analytics. It certainly has a future in this industry. There are many companies working in this market, but few are profitable. Another consideration is that there will be many more cameras than there are people able to watch them, so video analytics will be necessary. And, it will have to be done intelligently. Certainly, analytics has a future, but some venders today are promoting applications that don’t reach as far into the future as they say. Let’s watch carefully in the next two years and see who survives the shakeout.

Q.The emergence of IT security has already had far-reaching effects on the industry as a whole. What do you think the role of IT security will be in the years to come?

A.The role of IT security is extremely important and will only continue to become more so in the future. IT security has become a virtual legal requirement as a result of legislation such as Sarbanes- Oxley and HIPAA. Compliance with these mandates, and others, has raised the stakes for all organizations when it comes to protecting their IT assets.

The challenge is globalization. In addition, the general efficiencies that can be gained through IT networking, a high degree of interoperability and openness between organizational networks, also are desirable. The goal of IT security is the same as that with physical security, and that’s to keep the bad guys out while minimizing problems for authorized persons. In the IT security world, the tools are firewalls, antivirus software and new IT security processes and protocols. They act the same way as cameras and card readers in legacy systems.

Up to now, IT security has worked well at creating “fences and walls.” The focus now is “cop-on-the-beat” type security— tacitly accepting that there will be times that threats get in, but making sure the mechanisms are in place to isolate and neutralize those threats before they do much damage.

This is where much of the innovative IT security is occurring—not only in network equipment, but in areas like PC operating systems and other core components. Security must be a major component of any IT plan going forward, no matter how small. Networks cannot be planned, extended, upgraded or overhauled without making security components—hardware, software and written procedures—an inherent part of the plan from the beginning.

Q.They say necessity is the mother of invention. Do you think this is the case with national security—technology innovations will continue to appear as strict security regulations continue to be upheld?

A.I believe we’ve only begun to see the genius that technology has to offer. I’m sure the government won’t disappoint in setting forth new security regulations. After all, it’s what they do best. There already has been a call to arms, if you will, a challenge to produce equipment designed to protect the country and its citizens.

Take, for example, shoe-scanning technology. There are those both big and small that desire to bring about the technology to scan shoes for explosive residue. That will happen, whether it’s today or in the near future. Some of the brightest minds are working on such a technology. I believe that facial recognition technology will be perfected at some point in time, and whether it’s called profiling or something else, the technology will recognize the characteristics of a person of interest. Biometrics continues to make strides in fingerprint, iris scan and vein recognition technology.

Perhaps the phrase “necessity is the mother of invention” should be changed to include the word technology. Our socioeconomic structure demands that technology flourish, and as a society, we embrace these advances. The security industry is no different. It’s a technology-filled dynamic.

Q.By December 2009, the Real ID Act will require each U.S. citizen to have a federally-issued, machinereadable ID card with a digital photograph in order to travel on an airplane, open a bank account or take part in almost any government service. What are your thoughts on this requirement?

A.This certainly is a politically charged question. It matters what side of the aisle you line up on. According to the Department of Homeland Security, the REAL ID Act requires that a REAL ID driver’s license be used for “official purposes.” Those things include accessing a federal facility, boarding federally-regulated commercial aircraft and entering nuclear power plants.

Most people don’t enter federal facilities and probably don’t even want to go inside. Those people who work there are mandated to have a common access card and already are known by the government. And, the fact is, you’re not getting into a nuclear power plant unless you belong there, badge or no badge.

The government says this is not a national ID card, though the proposed regulations establish common standards for states to issue licenses. Proponents of the act say it is not the government that is issuing licenses and that they are not collecting information about license holders. I question why there is a need for such a card. Introduced by Rep. James F. Sensenbrenner (R-WI), H.R. 418 is meant to prevent terrorists from abusing the asylum laws of the United States, to unify terrorism- related grounds for inadmissibility and removal, and to ensure expeditious construction of the San Diego border fence.

Many Americans distrust the government’s motives, and the reason comes from the fear of people storing personal information in a national database accessible to state and local governments. The fact is, 12 states have opted out of the national ID program, and I expect more to do the same.

I would be reluctant to give the government carte blanche, and I believe they could find better use for the money spent on such a program. It’s not so much the cost to taxpayers, but the cost of a free society. This is something that threatens what remaining privacy Americans have. Lawmakers have chipped away at personal freedoms for decades, and a recent poll shows that people are outraged over REAL ID.

There are better ways to combat terrorists than to burden Americans. I believe more can be accomplished at our borders. Government officials already have a fair idea who the terrorists might be, but they shy away from profiling for the sake of political correctness.

If we truly are concerned about terrorists in this country, political correctness demands that security and protection be based on intent to harm, rather than discrimination against a U.S. citizen.

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