Intuition and Security

Thursday, October 08, 2015

A post by security expert Bruce Schneier on "'Hinky' in Action" illustrates the protective value of following up on intuition:

On the other side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, at Port Angeles, Washington, [Ahmed] Ressam was approached by U.S. customs agent Diana Dean, who asked some routine questions and then decided that he looked suspicious. He was fidgeting, sweaty, and jittery. He avoided eye contact. In Dean's own words, he was acting "hinky." More questioning -- there was no one else crossing the border, so two other agents got involved -- and more hinky behavior. Ressam's car was eventually searched, and he was finally discovered and captured. It wasn't any one thing that tipped Dean off; it was everything encompassed in the slang term "hinky." But the system worked. The reason there wasn't a bombing at LAX around Christmas in 1999 was because a knowledgeable person was in charge of security and paying attention. [bold added]
Schneier emphasizes that this is something that neither profiling nor computer search algorithms can accomplish. The bold reminds me a little of Stanton Samenow's general advice on how to avoid becoming a victim of a crime. "Gut feelings", being somewhat emotional in nature, are hardly infallible, but rooted as they are in our nature as living rational beings, they merit attention. They also remain beyond the scope of automation.

-- CAV

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