Wednesday, January 16, 2002

Corporate security faulted

Assessment: talk, but little action

By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        When it comes to corporate security, most companies are no safer than they were before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a corporate security expert said Tuesday.

        The attention shifted to everything from checking identification at the door to preventing hackers from accessing sensitive information from a computer network, but that focus hasn't translated into action, said Al Decker, director of security and privacy services for Plano, Texas-based computer services firm EDS.

[photo] Susan M. Cinadr, an employee of EDS, places her hand in a biometric security scanner as it is demonstrated by EDS consultant Jeffery Poulson.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
| ZOOM |
        “On Sept. 11, we saw that war is no longer about countries but about icons, including corporate America,” Mr. Decker said. “It's not just embassies. But the infrastructure is no more secure than it was on Sept. 10, and while a lot of companies have looked at the problem, costs are the overriding concern in this economy, and not much has been done.”

        Mr. Decker and other EDS officials were in Cincinnati on Tuesday to kick off a multicity media tour to discuss corporate security and show off some of the newest technologies.

        The presentation included demonstrations of hand-recognition devices in use at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, and nine U.S. cities for immigration purposes.

        It came a day before federal officials are expected to unveil plans for how they will meet Friday's deadline for screening all checked airline baggage for explosives as required by a law passed in November.

        Officials from EDS gave the presentation in concert with CincyTech USA, an offshoot of the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce created to push more regional technology development.

        “As companies in this area increase their business, they will no doubt become part of the global economy,” CincyTech executive director Jonathan Holifield said. “And this has led to an exponential growth in information technology at all levels, whether it be multinational corporations or middle-sized to smaller entrepreneurial efforts.

        “So that makes security everyone's concern.”

        The system that EDS officials displayed Tuesday and in use in Israel for both arrivals and departures includes a “smart” ID card that includes a digital version of a handprint. If the actual handprint doesn't match the specifications listed on the card, or if the card brings back a warning from a national police database, the person is not allowed access to the plane or into the airport.

        The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service uses the same system for arriving passengers wanting to bypass customs at seven domestic airports, including JFK in New York; Miami; Newark, N.J.; and Dulles outside Washington, D.C.

        EDS access-control consultant Jeffery Poulson said that at the Israeli airport, no one that has not been previously authorized has gained access, at least to the company's knowledge. And about one in 10,000 passengers who have clearance are barred. He would not give specifics on cost.

        But Mr. Decker said that technology is only one part of the solution, retelling the story of a company that spent 10 times as much to fix its computer network after the recent Nimda worm hit than it would have cost to prevent such an attack.

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