Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

July 4, 2007

Global Security Challenge Ups the Ante and Extends the Deadline

Filed under: Business of HLS,Technology for HLS — by Jonah Czerwinski on July 4, 2007

When the GAO foiled DHS efforts to detect smuggled nuclear material coming across the border last year, they did so without actually having to dupe the detection equipment.  They forged the associated documentation from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  That shifted blame from the DNDO to the strategy itself and the coherence among the motley web of agencies involved in securing the Homeland. 

GAO’s investigators were able to enter the United States with enough radioactive sources in the trunks of their vehicles to make two dirty bombs using counterfeit documents.  

To be sure, CBP felt the heat for this, too, since their strategy allowed the documentation to travel separately from the material it described.

The CBP inspectors never questioned the authenticity of the investigators’ counterfeit bill of lading or the counterfeit NRC document authorizing them to receive, acquire, possess, and transfer radioactive sources. 

And the NRC had to do some soul searching about the part it plays in this strategy.  But whatever happened to the issue of dealing with the forgery? 

While this was another example of both imperfect strategy as well as technology, the technology issue is almost always easier to solve.  Here’s an interesting option: Something called the Laser Surface Authentication or LSATM (developed by Ingenia Technology) reads the surface of paper, plastics, and metals with a low cost laser to determine its structure and veracity.  It generates a signature or “fingerprint” to verify a material for authentication and tracking of anything from credit cards to passports to medicines.  Perhaps even NRC documentation someday. 

Groundbreaking stuff – especially for a company only a few years old.  Last year it was this breakthrough technology that won Ingenia the Global Security Challenge, an international competition run by students at the London Business School. 

The LSATM snagged the top prize of $10,000 bestowed by the jurors.  The jurors were not students, but rather the Director of Siemens Venture Capital, the Global Director of Information Risk Management for Barclays Capital, the Deputy Director of the DOD Technical Support Working Group, and the Strategy Director of BAE Systems Integrated System Technologies, among others. 

Not bad for a bunch of grad students. 

Here’s another way to gauge the success of a competition: The top prize this year jumps to $500,000.  Get to work though because the deadline was already extended from June 30 to July 15.  Check out the press release here. 

Who knows, this year the winner may offer an exit function for US-VISIT.  

Happy Fourth of July!

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