Security versus ease-of-use / 2001-09-17

2001-09-17 Security versus ease-of-use 17 years ago
After the recent events in the US (events that shocked me a lot)
security at airports has been 'beefed up' a lot. No more 'curbside
check-in', better ID needed and a lot more visible security personnel
at airports.

Given the fact that the terrorists boarded the planes with correct
identification (for as far as is known at the moment) this change
in security policy might not have prevented the attacks.

But it might be that the interest is in a better feeling of security
and not in security by itself. Peoples sense of security has been
shocked because of the recent happenings. Since the WTC bombing in
1993, no foreign terrorist attack has happened in the US. People
felt safe in the US, only seeing terrorist attacks on TV news
happening in foreign countries (and not seeing much of it since US
newsreports don't have as much foreign event coverage as I am used
to in the Netherlands).

It is important for people to have a sense of being secure in their
daily lives. It makes our environment predictable and a predictable
environment takes a lot less energy in dealing with it.

So people like the extra checks that happen, giving them a feeling
that a repeat of the events is not very likely.

But, given time, when all the recent events have faded, people will
be annoyed at the amount of time needed to check into a plane.
People fly because it's a fast way of getting from A to B. Especially
in the US where it is the fast way of getting across any large
distance. There are people in the US who commute by plane.

This is where the 'security' versus 'ease of use' pops up again.
In a 'security' sense I'd like the computer I am typing this on to
make sure at every keypress whether the typing fingers are mine.
In a 'ease of use' sense I'd like the computer to be ready for my
typing as soon as I pull up my chair.

The solution I use is somewhere in the middle, my screensaver
automatically locks my screen when I am not using it for 5 minutes
and I manually lock it when I'm walking out of my office. At this
moment this level of security satisfies both my wish for security
(I don't want anyone to be typing as me) and my wish for ease of
use.

Airport security and computer security are a bit alike.

Before I go further on this: I do not want to compare the (possible)
results of a computer break in with the results of a airplane
security breach as we saw last week.

Airport users and computer users want ease of use. The airport and
the owner of the computer only want to let in authorized users with
no malicious intent. They both want to serve the valid users and
please them. The airport owner has a commercial interest in letting
his customers return. The computer owner does not want his users
complaining about the idiot security measures.

Security is a dynamic process. At this moment airport users want
the extra security measures. In a few months they will be calling
for 'curb-side check in' to be restored.


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