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June 19, 2018

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Transport security: are we on the right track?

A more holistic approach needs to be taken to transport security rather than knee-jerk reactions to address specific events, delegates at IFSEC 2018 have been told.

Expert panellists from the aviation, rail and logistics industries discussed a wide range of issues during the Transport Security Panel Debate, including security standards, regulation, the insider threat and behavioural analysis.

“One of the biggest threats to security going forward is another security event,” said Matthew Finn, managing director of specialist security consultancy AUGMENTIQ (UK).

More transport security insights from IFSEC 2018

“This industry is notorious for being very reactive so when something happens the media spotlight is shone on that event. All of the attention is then focused on fixing that narrow problem.

“What’s required is for the industry to take a step back and assess how the landscape is evolving and whether we are still doing the right things.”

Finn highlighted that airport passengers are still required to walk through metal detectors yet ceramic weapons could easily be carried through security undetected. He added that there are a wide range of security tools – such as behavioural analysis, risk assessment and profiling – that are being under-utilised.

Moderator Frank Gardner, the broadcaster and security journalist, recounted an incident at Tel Aviv Airport when he saw a ‘tramp’ rifling through a litter bin. However, the tramp turned out to be a covert security professional who was discretely seeing what had been thrown into the bin.

Andrew Palmer, border security lead at Gatwick Airport, said there needs to be a mix of overt and covert measures.

“There has to be a middle ground,” he explained, adding airports have to balance be the threat of deterrence without damaging the passenger experience.

Philip Baum, managing director of Green Light and editor-in-chief of Aviation Security International, discussed the impact of centralised screening at airports, saying everything is now reliant on technology at the same check point. He said this focus means other security detection tools are being neglected and more focus should be placed on behavioural patterns.

“Technology should be used intelligently as a supporting tool and our primary focus should be based on how the person presents themselves,” he said. “Security should be a process from the moment you arrive at an airport.”

The panel also debated the merits of the aviation laptop ban, introduced in March 2017 by the US and UK governments on flights from certain destinations. The ban, which applied to cabin baggage but not items placed in the hold, has largely now been lifted.

However, the consensus among panellists was that its introduction was knee-jerk and ill thought through.

“It’s an example of trying to fight the battle of yesterday, rather than trying to fight the battle of tomorrow,” said Finn.

He added that airport regulations on liquids and gels – which state that containers can contain a maximum of 100ml – can divert attention away from other warning signs.

Baum agreed and stressed that security should not become a “tick box” exercise – the system should be unpredictable if it is to be truly effective.

More: Frank Gardner opens IFSEC 2018

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