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Security measures seen doing more harm than good

Security measures seen doing more harm than good
Security measures seen doing more harm than good 

By Sumner Lemon
IDG News Service
September 18, 2006

Many of the security measures put in place after the Sept. 11, 2001, 
attacks on the World Trade Center in New York are doing more harm than 
good, said two speakers scheduled to present at the Hack In The Box 
Security Conference (HITB) this week.

The effect of many security measures put in place by governments after 
Sept. 11 has been to strengthen control over their citizens and erode 
democratic freedoms, said Roberto Preatoni, a security consultant who 
works in Italy. "The Internet allows you to do more effective things 
regarding controlling the population," he said.

"Before, we were just being spied on," said Fabio Ghioni, vice president 
and security CTO of Telecom Italia. Now, governments are using 
psychological operations and technology to prey upon their citizens' 
fears and extend their own power, he said.

"Technology makes it easier for us to be brainwashed, make us accept 
less and less freedom," Ghioni said.

In some cases, the technology measures put in place by governments may 
put citizens at greater risk of attack from terrorists, Preatoni said. 
As an example, he cited a recent demonstration of how an RFID 
(radio-frequency identification) passport system being proposed by the 
U.S. State Department could be used by terrorists to construct a bomb 
designed to target U.S. citizens.

In that demonstration, Flexilis, of Los Angeles, showed how an RFID 
passport that was left slightly open could be used to trigger a bomb 
equipped with an RFID reader. Flexilis proposed modifications to the 
design of the RFID passport that prevent this from happening. A video of 
the demonstration can be viewed online here.

Faced with the fear of terrorist attacks, the U.S. and Europe have been 
quick to give up freedoms in exchange for promises of protection from 
their governments, Ghioni said. In some cases, such as the U.S. Patriot 
Act, the provisions and implications of these protective measures are 
not adequately explained by governments or understood by their citizens, 
he said.

Ghioni also questioned the scale of measures taken in recent years to 
respond to terrorism, noting that Europe has long faced the threat of 
attacks from groups such as the Red Brigade and the Irish Republican 
Army. "Look at the statistics. How many people in the West died of 
terrorism? How many people die from car accidents," he asked.

HITB, in Kuala Lumpur, runs through Thursday, Sept. 21.

HITBSecConf2006 - Malaysia 
The largest network security event in Asia 
32 internationally renowned speakers 
7 tracks of hands-on technical training sessions. 
Register now: 

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