Thoughts on physical security – in the aftermath of Paris attacks

1/ As an investor in Evolv Technology, a company that aims to protect physical spaces against threats, I am reading articles on Paris attacks carefully. There is a lot to digest. How coordinated these attacks were, how sudden, how they targeted the youth, and how some attack sites were able to contain the damage a lot more than some others.

2/ It is an unfortunate reality that we are increasingly living in a world threatened by those who seek to hurt innocent people en masse. This is our generation’s struggle and we must overcome, and beat this evil.

3/ Public spaces globally are at risk. Especially spaces that weren’t considered as such. For eg sports events: Boston marathon, Paris Stadium etc. These are soft targets, usually less secure. And they attract lots of people, crowds that are harder to screen, harder to control, and harder to evacuate in case of emergency.

4/ Security at public venues, such as stadiums, concert venues and public events, is getting beefed up…but there is still a long way to go before we can actually feel much safer than we do today. We have to improve everything, from physical screening to the security team’s reaction if a nefarious activity is detected.

5/ None of us want to go through everyday life as constantly being surveilled or searched. But such tech potentially saved hundreds of lives in Paris (at the Stadium). Technology will never be perfect, and it is a constant battle against those wishing to bring harm. But that is, if anything, a reason to do more, faster.

6/ A suicide bomber was stopped at the door of the stadium when he went through the security screening, and was patted down. A belt was detected and while exactly what happened at that point is not yet clear, he was certainly prevented form entering the stadium and causing greater harm. Once the bomb detonated, how the stadium security apparatus reacted is also admirable. Instead of letting chaotic evacuation happen, they were able to be more organized and methodic, and performed a controlled evacuation. Kudos to the staff there for saving many lives.

7/ There will be lots of analysis of what happened in Paris. What tech worked, what didn’t, and where systems failed. And what info or preparation have saved more lives. Unfortunately the reality is that the security will never be leak-tight, but would certainly make it more difficult for terrorists to infiltrate and carry out their plans.

8/ New tools and technologies in the physical security space are being developed and tested. Lots of private companies are also working on the same – making them detectors smaller, faster, cheaper, less invasive to everyday life, and more networked with the broader security systems. Security screening technologies of various sorts are not the answer alone. Obviously the scourge of terrorism has to be dealt with in the broader context, at the root cause level. But the security industry needs to step up its game and double down its efforts.

9/ Technology is our friend in this war on terror. We need it to work better, and for the state of the art technology tools to be shared broadly, worldwide. Terrorists are attacking soft targets everywhere, from Paris and Beirut to Karachi, Baghdad and Kabul.

10/ Unfortunately global sharing of best practices is not routine. Esp for soft target locations (vs for example, airports). There is just not an easy system to get plugged into, get security briefs, trainings and support. Its ad-hoc, largely organized around large multi-national companies, and expensive. For example, should every decent sized facility have a security director, access to at least video based surveillance tools with the latest analytics, and an emergency response plan, an active shooter plan?

11/ Should we screen for both metal and non-metal threats at all facilities, i.e. institute Airport like screening processes? Should we routinely practice face recognition on know terrorist accomplices or potential threats? Even in Paris attacks at least some of the attackers were known to be terrorist sympathizers. What should be our plan of action to track their movement and activities?

12/ There are lots of questions, but a few great answers. At least as yet. However, I k=have first hand knowledge that the security industry is hard at work analyzing, learning…and deploying the tools they have access to. I am rooting for them, and investing in the hope they succeed.