On commencement day, police carefully scanned visitors to the Harvard University with a wand. At another gate to the yard on the same day, a security guard said, "you've got a name tag, go in" and there was no wand.
Does this sound like your security system? It probably sounds like many security systems. This is the tale of how they can be easily compromised.
Meanwhile, back at Cambridge, Mass., the dorm that we stayed in opened to the part of the yard that is called the Tercentenary Theatre, where the ceremonies were taking place. No one stopped me from entering that area, even though non-alums are not invited to the commencement ceremony, and tickets were required at the gates. That afternoon, no one stopped me, again without a ticket, from entering that same area via the dorm to hear actor John Lithgow speak. Nor did anyone stop me when I went up to the stage and sat under the tent with my wife's reunion class.
The dorms were accessed via a swipe card. Of course, most people were nice and would hold the door open before you could pull your card out. And during peak times, the locks were disabled to let visitors use the restrooms in the dorm.
It didn't take long for the lesson to sink in that the most important element of security is not technology or fancy devices; it is discipline and training. Wands at one gate but not another, while one guy waved me through on the strength of a name tag?
I wasn't thinking that there might be a terrorist attack on the 2005 graduating class or on the speakers (but last year was Kofi Annan). Rather, the New Yorker in me saw how easy it would be to go shopping for the electronic toys that the affluent alums brought to their dorm rooms. Disabling the locks to let people go to the restrooms. How nice! It meant the dorms were open at just the period when most people were elsewhere. And those room keys will stop a thief, right?
Name tags are great. They let you put names to the faces you forgot. But it can't be all that hard to loiter a few minutes outside a gate, see what design was used and create your own. Or someone who can pick a wallet with ease should be able to sever the string holding a tag with equal skill.
And as to holding the door open for the next person--at an airport, there are often signs that two people cannot piggyback on one person's access code or card. But then, we'll hold the door open. We just want to be nice. Right?
This is like your security system, right?
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