Saturday, March 16, 2013

VIDEO: Kenyan Presidential Security

While reviewing the latest YouTube videos on security, I came across the video above. If you're not aware, Kenya recently held its presidential elections where Uhuru Kenyatta was named its fourth president-elect. As is the case in the United States, Kenya's head of state has a protection detail.

Here's what I gleaned from the video:
  1. Kenyans have a different protection mentality than most Westerners which may actually be good. The news anchors were briefly explaining what happens once the election has been certified, when she said "he'll become the 'property of the state'". Additionally, the detail and not the principle control his/her security.
  2. While awaiting the election to not be challenged, Uhuru will have a temporary detail and a code name assigned to him much like in the States where the president-elect receives his/her detail as soon he receives his party's nomination.
  3. There details seem to be structured somewhat similarly as Western nations. There is an exterior perimeter surrounding the vehicle and an interior as well. The exterior appears to be doing some outward surveillance while the inner perimeter concentrates on the road ahead. They also seem to have control over the reception line as well.
While researching this story, I came across another video which was a bit more telling.

From this video, we can see a few similarities and some differences.
  1. Changing radio call signs. No secrets here. Great tactic that is used all over the world.
  2. Route clearance. Another great move. Though, I am curious why took this road. Many details would have avoided it for its obvious issues.
  3. Open air vehicles should ALWAYS be a no-no.
  4. Giving the principle the threat information briefing every night is good. Though, I think this should be something he gets along with his intelligence report first thing in the morning.
The Kenyans are moving in the right direction towards VIP security. There were lots of things I like from a protection specialist perspective. And there were things I did not like. Most of the things I did not like are lessons best learned through countless drills and exercises to hone in how vulnerable your principle is. In light of al Shabab's threats and terrorist activities against the Kenyans, it's safe to assume they are working out some of the kinks.

VIDEO: Security Threats by the Numbers - Cisco 2013 Annual Security Report

The kind folks at Cisco published their Annual Security Report. What I like about what they did is they chose to publish in a video infographic format. As you can tell, I'm a HUGE fan of infographics. However, if you're a stickler for PDF reports, I'll have a link below the video of the entire report.

Some interesting facts:
  • Global cloud traffic will increase sixfold over the next five years, growing at a rate of 44 percent from 2011 to 2016.
  • Only one in five respondents say their employers do track their online activities on company-owned devices, while 46 percent say their employers do not track activity.
  • 90 percent of IT professionals surveyed say they do indeed have policies that prohibit company-issued devices being used for personal online activity—although 38 percent acknowledge that employees break policy and use devices for personal activities in addition to doing work.
  • Cisco’s research shows significant change in the global landscape for web malware encounters by country in 2012. China, which was second on the list in 2011 for web malware encounters, fell dramatically to sixth position in 2012. Denmark and Sweden now hold the third and fourth spots, respectively. The United States retains the top ranking in 2012, as it did in 2011, with 33 percent of all web malware encounters occurring via websites hosted in the United States.
To read more of the report, click here.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

GUEST AUTHOR - DEVIN RUIC: Disarming the Gun Control Debate

Today's article is a guest blog post from Devin Ruic, a Department of the Army civilian, having previously worked with the Defense Intelligence Agency as an intelligence analyst. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio he decided to take his talents to Washington, DC in 2010 before shifting slightly more north to Baltimore, Maryland in 2012. Devin has years of recreational shooting experience with various firearms, and is expert qualified with the Army’s M11 semi automatic pistol.

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people tokeep and bear arms shall not be infringed.~The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, as passed by the States.
The topic of gun regulation is fraught with emotional responses. Advocates for new, restrictive gun legislation refer to exceptional tragedies, like the Newtown Massacre, as an attempt to personalize the loss of victims to the entire country. Gun enthusiasts refer to the Second Amendment, studies lambasting previous gun bans, and anecdotal evidence surrounding the use of specific firearms, like the AR-15, as a personal defense tool. Unlike many commentators, I see value in both of these positions. First, let us discuss regulation and where it came from, starting with this: for decades fully automatic firearms (or "machine guns") have been illegal to purchase or manufacture for civilian use, but how?
Well, sawed-off shotguns have been considered illegal since at least 1939, when the Supreme Court decided in The United States v. Miller that there was no reasonable expectation of Second Amendment protections regarding a "shotgun having a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length" because it did not have a "reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia."
The Supreme Court went further, discussing the origins of the "militia" as mentioned in the Second Amendment, and determined "the Militia comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense.’A body of citizens enrolled for military discipline.' And further, that ordinarily when called for service these men were expected to appear bearing arms supplied by themselves and of the kind in common use at the time." This decision provides what could be reasonable regulatory guidance moving forward, then.
Firearms need to have this reasonable relationship to the efficacy of a militia, and that militia is traditionally composed of physically capable males (and women, in modern times) who supplied their commonly used firearms to the cause (a violent, historical "Bring Your Own Beer"). In the 1930s, sawed off shotguns were determined to be neither useful nor in the common use,and therefore those could be easily outlawed (targeting primarily criminal elements, where the ownership and use of said firearm was most common).
Following this crucial decision, and fast forwarding a couple of decades, we arrive at the federal Gun Control Act of 1968. Whether or not you are a connoisseur of federal law, some of its provisions should sound extraordinarily familiar. This act banned the sale or transfer of a firearm to a number of "prohibited persons" including convicts, fugitives, known addicts, the mentally-ill, non-citizens, and other even more-likely-to-be-violent types. If you are feeling a sense of Déjà Vu, that is because almost all of the recent debate has referenced this decades old prohibited persons list, and how in the world we as a society actively prohibit these people from acquiring firearms.
Some of the provisions of this act still sparked controversy, particularly down the line when it was alleged that the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) had overstepped its bounds as described by the law, and unconstitutionally restricted some retailers and Federal Firearms License (FFL) holders. In 1982, a Senate panel convened in response to these allegations determined that the Second Amendment protects "an individual right of a private citizen to own and carry firearms in a peaceful manner."
In order to fix the legislative problems with the Gun Control Act of 1968 as originally determined by the 1982 Senate panel, the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 was passed. This eased many of the restrictions that were considered controversial in the original act (interstate travel with a firearm, the ban on mailing ammunition, interstate purchases of rifles, etc), but also included an amendment at the 11th hour to ban fully automatic machine guns. Amendment 777 to H.R. 4332, introduced by New Jersey Democrat William Hughes, banned the new production and sales of machine guns starting May 19, 1986, but grandfathered in any firearms produced or owned prior to that date. Aha! I knew those pesky machine guns would come back up - but there you go, a precedent for banning a whole class of firearm.
Democratic Senator from California Dianne Feinstein, the driving force behind the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, is attempting to reinstate a more strict version of the ban following the Newtown Massacre, as well as a slew of commonly referenced "mass shootings".
Both the 1994 ban and this proposed 2013 ban primarily target semi automatic rifles, dubbed "assault weapons", such as the AR-15, many Saiga (Russian, basically Kalashnikov brand) shotguns, a number of semi automatic pistols, and so-called high capacity magazines. Most recently, any ammunition loading device capable of holding more than ten rounds has fallen within the reticle (Woo, topical humor!) of this "high capacity" moniker.
Considering I have just introduced a 'common use' (yes, I know, I'll stop now) phrase important to this discussion, I will discuss its origin. "Assault weapon" certainly sounds like a firearm just about no one needs. Heck, it sounds a lot like "machine gun". Unfortunately for those not familiar with firearms, that isn't what the term means. For the purposes of the legislation, the term "assault" rifle refers to a semiautomatic rifle with a detachable magazine and a pistol grip, forward grip, an adjustable stock, a grenade/rocket launcher (Holy... what is that doing in there?!), a barrel shroud, or a threaded barrel. So, any semiautomatic rifle with a detachable magazine (many, if not most, modern rifles) and any one of those other characteristics is banned. None of those characteristics (except for the grenade launcher, because how in the world is that legal, anyway?) make the firearm more dangerous or lethal, they simply help stabilize the firearm and make it more comfortable to shoot - an important characteristic for anyone hunting or shooting for recreation or defense. For those keeping score at home, I did not forget that a threaded barrel can allow for the use of a suppressor, but remember that anyone wishing to purchase a one has to apply through the ATF, undergo a background check, pay $200, deal with subsonic ammunition, and receive a revenue stamp - the document proving that the suppressor is legally owned.
Regardless, these weapons must be significantly more dangerous than your day to day target rifle, right?
Not necessarily.
Well, they must represent a high proportion of gun violence, right?
Also a no. The oft-referenced Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Report (UCR) highlights this. In 2011, 13,913 murders (or non-negligent manslaughters) were committed. Of these, 323 were committed with any kind of rifle (whether it be fully automatic, semi automatic, bolt action, or lever action). That represents only 2.3% of these crimes. Another 356 were committed with a shotgun, again without distinction between pump action and semiautomatic. By comparison, 6,220 were committed with handguns alone. This accounts for a much more impressive 44% of these crimes.
So why in the world go after "assault rifles" and not pistols as a whole?
A look at the conclusion of a 1988 study conducted by the Violence Policy Center entitled "Assault Weapons and Accessories in America" may give us a pretty good idea (emphasis added): "Although handguns claim more than 20,000 lives a year, the issue of handgun restriction consistently remains a non-issue with the vast majority of legislators, the press, and public. The reasons for this vary: the power of the gun lobby; the tendency of both sides of the issue to resort to sloganeering and pre-packaged arguments when discussing the issue; the fact that until an individual is affected by handgun violence he or she is unlikely to work for handgun restrictions; the view that handgun violence is an "unsolvable" problem; the inability of the handgun restriction movement to organize itself into an effective electoral threat; and the factthat until someone famous is shot, or something truly horrible happens, handgun restrictionis simply not viewed as a priority. Assault weapons—just like armor-piercing bullets, machine guns, and plastic firearms—are a new topic. The weapons' menacing looks, coupled with the public's confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons—anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun—can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons."
It boils down to the confusing nature of the terminology and whether or not a firearm looks scary, and whether the general public will care enough until it becomes a large scale tragedy, rather than the all too common shooting in an urban environment. In my opinion, every shooting should be addressed by future laws, not just famous ones.
So why high capacity magazines? Many commentators claim that the time it takes for an active shooter to change magazines can provide a crucial opportunity for victims to escape. This is a reasonable claim, and I do not dispute the anecdotal evidence supporting it. Shooters have been tackled and subdued, and victims have escaped during these precious few moments. Not always, however, is this the case.
Eric Harris, one of the Columbine shooters, did not have access to high capacity magazines, but instead came into possession of thirteen 10-round magazines. He was able to fire 96 rounds from his Hi-Point 995, a carbine rifle firing pistol ammunition, before he killed himself. 13 victims died.
Seung-Hui Cho, a student at Virginia Tech, murdered 32 people, using a Walther P22 (which has a 10-round magazine of .22 long rifle bullets) and a Glock 17 (which can house 10, 15, 17, 19, or 33-round magazines of 9x19mm ammunition). Cho fired at least 174 rounds in a matter of minutes, and police found an additional 203 live rounds in his possession after the fact. Having chained the doors shut behind him, Cho prohibited his victims from escaping, and was able to reload with near impunity, regardless of his magazine capacity and choice of pistols, rather than an “assault rifle.”
None of this changes the fact that far too many innocents have died at the hands of madmen who, through either a failure of the system or a previous criminal act came into possession of firearms and then used them in the commission of horrendous crimes. In order to combat these crimes, something does need to be done - and members of both parties accept that basic fact. The difference lies in what should be done, and how the current crop of politicians is moving forward.
The first logical step in combating illegal firearms is universal background checks. This is a truth that National Rifle Association President Wayne LaPierre needs to accept - even without prosecutions for every failed background check, limiting the means of dangerous criminals from purchasing firearms is not a bad thing. Plus, when you peddle the idea as the face of the gun lobby in 1999, 2013 is a really bad time to attempt and backtrack. However, there are obvious weaknesses in the current federal background check system. If it were a foolproof system Gerald Hume - a schizophrenic with a violent past - would not have been able to purchase a number of firearms and ammunition from FFLs and proceed to engage in an 11 hour standoff with police while Hume protected the chopped up remains of his own mother from discovery.
Let me be absolutely clear - I am suggesting a vast increase in the sharing of information between the States and the Federal database system, to include information that would label potential gun buyers as violently mentally-ill. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) permits the waiving of privacy in the case of national security activities, whether these relate to intelligence collection or counterintelligence. A new version of this act could allow for a redacted version of the information regarding an individual’s adjudicated mental status to be listed within a federal database without unnecessarily infringing upon a patient's’ privacy, in the same way as federal investigations already sidestep the restrictions HIPAA imposes. There is already a precedent for medical data being used to prohibit gun ownership - the prohibition on gun purchases by patients prescribed marijuana, despite the legality of medical marijuana state-by-state. Regardless of the justification for the prescription, the ATF draws the line at the use of a federally-illegal narcotic in conjunction with firearm ownership. If marijuana users are more of a concern than the adjudicated mentally-ill who are determined to be violent, we are living in an upside down world.
Second, banning a semiautomatic rifle with but one military characteristic is illogical. Origins within military design are ubiquitous in firearms - a Soviet-issued infantry rifle is among the most popular hunting rifles in the US and the Colt 1911MA1 pistol, designed for the US military, is still possibly the most popular handgun in America, neither being more dangerous than the average target or hunting firearm. Additionally, a rifle with a ten round magazine chambered with a .22 round may be less lethal than a semi automatic pistol chambered with a .45 round, depending on the intent and capability of the shooter – but this is not a consideration worked into current legislation that would ban even .22 caliber rifles shaped like their higher caliber “assault weapon” brethren. Regardless, an attempt to limit the potential danger associated with either of these weapons in a the hands of a violent shooter is a natural response to mass shootings utilizing “assault rifles” specifically (though we should not provide a pardon to the use of illegally owned handguns in the same manner). To this end, regulation of high capacity magazines moving forward is a middle ground that can accomplish both gun legislation parties’ goals.
For pro gun regulation advocates, the institution of a policy similar to that of the regulation governing suppressors can effectively control the public’s, and potentially criminals’, access to seemingly unnecessary high-capacity magazines. This could, anecdotally speaking, provide for more opportunities for victims to escape active shooter situations while the perpetrator changes magazines.
Despite the institution of such a regulation, those citizens and firearm aficionados that want high capacity magazines for any number of reasons could still apply to the ATF in order to purchase either the magazines or the components to maintain currently owned and grandfathered-in magazines, thereby not banning wholesale the ownership or manufacture of these devices, while still encouraging the manufacturing and sale market of lower capacity magazines for hunting, recreational, and self defense purposes. Using the logic that criminals are unlikely to pass the necessary application process and background check for the hypothetical regulation, the supply of high capacity magazines and their component parts to these criminal elements would dry up over a number of years, while law abiding citizens continue to enjoy their freedoms, as well as allowing firearms to be effectively customized to its legal shooter - male, female, competitor, hunter, or otherwise.
Gun legislation is controversial, from whatever perspective you look at it. From the extremes, either the Democrat-controlled Senate and Executive Branch are looking to create a database to exploit in the future (it isn't), or Republican gun owners are looking to take up arms against the democratically elected government (they aren't). This is not a debate where we can use ad hominem attacks, like those in the previous sentence, nor should we. Instead, we should look to solutions that allow for the continued exercise of constitutionally guaranteed rights, while still moving toward a system that will prohibit the mentally-ill or criminally-minded from acquiring theweapons they use to commit murder.
The firearm regulation debate should not be a push from one side of the political spectrum, but rather a push from every gun owner, parent, hunter, teacher, target shooter, and doctor alike. We can attempt and ban objects used to kill - but cars, knives, garbage bags, and even our own hands would be on that list. We need to deal with the people that commit these acts and their possession of the weapons enabling them. We also need to realize that no action we will take will create the utopia of peace we want to leave for our children - but that doesn’t mean we shouldn't act, it means we should act intelligently and hope they will be left with better circumstances than and a more peaceful world than we were, while still retaining their Constitutional rights.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are exclusively those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any agency of the U.S. government.

INFOGRAPHIC: Top 5 Celebrity Break-ins

Saturday, March 9, 2013

INFOGRAPHIC: Presidential Security Facts

INTERVIEW: Guardly Offers Insight Into Indoor Positioning System and The Future Of Emergency Dispatch

I'm just going to put it out there. I love Guardly. After writing my last piece on the public safety mobile app, I decided to subscribe to the service. And to be honest, I'm blown away by it's user-friendly GUI, the depth of its coverage, how robust its emergency protocols are, and the overall potential it has for much greater deployment. So last week, when I saw that they developed a new feature for some of their college campus clients, I became quite curious and called Guardly to find out. Here's my interview with Guardly CEO, Joshua Sookman.

Josh, it's great to speak with you again. I love the product and I'm calling to find out about your latest development.

Scriven, it's great to hear from you. Well, we've been developing a new feature called Indoor Positioning System which will relay to emergency contacts and dispatchers where you are in much greater detail. By greater detail, I'm referring to your location inside a building.

Wow. Is that like GPS? If so, that sounds like an incredible development. 

Not quite. So here's how it works. We begin using the features that already exist in your phone to analyze certain data like WiFi connections and various radio frequencies to narrow down where you are.

How does that look to the dispatcher?

It works just like the original display but with added metadata. It can tell the dispatcher if you're in a specific room or the elevator shaft or a stairwell.  We use those radio frequencies and WiFi hotspots to do this. Each location in a building will have a different frequency signature. So that data can point to a specific location in the building. Basically, we want to take what used to be a 2D world and used augmented metadata to depict a 3D environment for the dispatcher. We believe doing this will decrease response times in getting help to you, as so much time is used in the initial moments of an emergency dispatch call to get this information out of the caller. Having that information available immediately, should reduce the time from call to dispatch.

Where is this available and on what platforms?

It's available only to select customers and is available on the Android OS.

So I've made no secret that I love Guardly and I see it as part of a greater movement in emergency management to decrease response times and provide better and more timely information to emergency responders. What are your feelings about such initiatives as Text to 911?

Great question. Honestly, I think it's a great step in the right direction. With it and services like guardly we should lesser response times. Again, the more information you get, no matter how you get it, is absolutely the key. An area of concern for us and those of us in emergency management is the potential for emotional stress and possible PTSD-related issues given the level of information dispatchers could be exposed to. As we expand what is capable from using all of the features mobile phones come with such as video and audio, there is a potential for having too much information exposure for those who may not be accustomed it.  We also believe services like Guardly are an evolution of technologies that have made things more "hyper-local" and personal. We believe, as these technologies grow and evolve, so will services like Guardly and the quality of information available to first responders.

Josh, as always, it has been great talking to you. I look forward to seeing more of what Guardly has in store for the public safety sector.

For more information on Guardly's Indoor Positioning System, see the link below:

To read my review on Guardly, click on the link below.

To download Guardly, click here.

INFOGRAPHIC: Tips and Facts You Need to Know About Break Ins

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