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Adam Bannister is a contributor to IFSEC Global, having been in the role of Editor from 2014 through to November 2019. Adam also had stints as a journalist at cybersecurity publication, The Daily Swig, and as Managing Editor at Dynamis Online Media Group.
April 16, 2015


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How the Hatton Garden Gang Resurrected the Bank Heist

Last year we reported how the famous Flying Squad’s numbers had been slashed to reflect a dramatic decline in armed robberies.

Armed robberies peaked in 1992 at 847 a year, with 291 in London alone, and have been in decline ever since with just 102 raids – 29 in the capital – in 2012.

If the trend could dismay movie scriptwriters for whom heists are a staple plot driver, then it’s certainly great news for banking staff and the rest of society. It also represents a ringing endorsement of the security industry for improvements in deterrence measures and technologies.

Events in Hatton Garden last week – albeit the raid was unarmed – therefore seemed rather anachronistic. And as more details emerge, increasingly redolent of a heist movie plot.

The robbery gang that stole millions of pounds from a safe deposit box on Easter Bank Holiday apparently tunneled into bank security vaults using two diamond tipped drills.

Hilti drills

The Hilti DD350 drill used in the Hatton Garden raid

The plot thickened further when Jeremy Lewington, operations manager at Elmcrest Diamond Drilling, revealed that only a few hundred people in the UK were trained to operate the highly specialised equipment subsequently identified as Hilti drills (see inset image).

“Whoever did this robbery knew what they were doing, it was obviously well planned,” he said. “It was a specialist job and needed people with the right training.”

“Highly skilled”

Nigel Stanley, a specialist in security and business risk at OpenSky, concurred.

“I expect that this crime was well researched and the criminals involved highly skilled,” he says. “I would imagine that their motivation to succeed would be more than sufficient to propel them to success in any venture they undertook – so it’s rather a pity that they chose to focus their energy on stealing rather than doing something constructive.”

But why did a ‘bank’ holding over £200m worth of jewels store evidence on site and unsecured?

“I am sure that complacency has a part to play in this story,” says Stanley, who has more than 25 years experience in the security industry.

al pacino dog day afternoon

A young Al Pacino in 1975’s Dog Day Afternoon

“Technology has come a long way in the past decade or so and the notion that criminals perpetrating this scale of crime would be polite enough to leave video evidence on-site is somewhat quaint.”

Were the footage stored in the cloud, Stanley believes, the criminal enterprise would not now be protected from exposure to so much footage.

“If the site had been storing footage in the cloud and was firing out video verification for the alarm signals it was generating I’m sure these criminals would have moved on to a softer target or they would have been disturbed in their act.”

“Cloud-based surveillance depends on CCTV style cameras being connected to remote servers via the internet. If they become disconnected they alarm – so any attempt to disable them is immediately detected. If they are set to record and alarm on an event they send footage and alarms out to remote servers. That footage and/or alarms can be immediately picked up by the relevant interested parties.

“The storage and control of the CCTV system is offsite, highly secure and can’t be removed from the site it is protecting as its not there in the first place.

Stanley believes any misgivings about the vulnerability of cloud compared to other types of storage are misplaced.

“It’s about as bomb-proof as CCTV is going to get.

“The world is full of risks and these days a lot of our lives are taken up by avoiding them. So I don’t quite get why it seems OK to store CCTV data on a potentially vulnerable site – it is an obvious risk.

“By nature, storing CCTV data in the cloud cannot be as risky as storing it locally. Not only is it more economic, scalable and flexible but, it is far more secure not only from physical theft but, from hacking and other similar types of attack.

What’s more the cloud does not have to act as a complete replacement to a locally operated CCTV system it can be added to it providing a back-up. One that is low-cost and blindingly easy to install and commission.

“There has never been an issue around the security of storing CCTV data in the cloud and there certainly isn’t one now.”

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