3 high-tech homeland security company CEOs tell “Globes” about Europe’s need for advanced homeland security solutions.
The rise of radical Islamist terror organizations and the carnage that invaded Paris in November have significantly curtailed the sense of security for citizens of western democratic countries; and, subsequently, the trend has whet the appetite of public authorities and private facilities for anti-terror solutions.
Much like in financial markets, there are many players in the homeland and cyber security sector for which such an atmosphere is a boon for business.
The Israeli homeland security and anti-terror companies have largely built their expertise through their service with the IDF and other arms of the Israeli defense establishment. However, they do not cultivate a corporate culture of opportunism. Instead, they have accumulated personnel whose lifestyle revolves around developing solutions for personal security and they have their hands full these days.
We spoke to three industry officials to get answers for some of the questions plaguing companies and governments in 2016.
Our first panel member was Yuval Ovadia, the former anti-terror expert and founder and CEO of STI. His company specializes in developing homeland security technologies. Its leading products include advanced Under Vehicle Inspection Systems and substance detection systems.
Our second panelist was Tal Bar Or, a cyber and physical security expert and founding partner and CEO of Octopus. His company utilizes smartphone capabilities to gather all security operations in to one screen. Octopus’ system has been deployed by several government agencies and used by Jewish Agency delegates around the world.
Our third and final member was Ron Atzmon, CEO of AU10TIX – which provides ID and document authentication.
In recent months, many national leaders have stated the need for “adjustments” in the open border policy within Europe. Will this policy be amended? And which technologies will be adopted at border crossings?
Ovadia: “I believe European states will have no choice but to build their borders and border crossings anew not for tax purposes but purely based on security concerns. Security services and intelligence agencies already face difficulties sharing information within their own country; the idea that intelligence bodies from different countries will comprehensively share real-time information is a utopian ideal.
“At the end of the day, the strong countries Germany, France, and the UK will defend their homelands by deploying their intelligence agencies to prevent the spillover of events from neighboring states that do not have the necessary intelligence infrastructure or the capability to avert attacks.”
Bar Or: “There will be more supervision of existing crossings compared to the time before the Free Trade Area. Those crossings are currently used for customs checks and only operated in a security configuration when there is an alert. In the future, they will conduct vigorous security checks based on profiling and lists of persons of interest and also authenticate passports which can be forged.
“The crossings may also be supervised with means for detecting explosives and weaponry whether by dogs or by vehicle-mounted sensors. Additional supervision will also be instituted for commercial shipping for fear of weapon smuggling in transport containers; regulation similar to what we already have for air transport may require that ground-shipped containers be subject to security checks.”
Atzmon: “The reports from Europe already point to the continent’s response to the threat of terrorists hiding in the throngs of refugees from conflict zones and Africa. It is likely the core EU nations Germany and France will continue to try eating the cake and having it too by trying to institute selective supervision on immigrants arriving from beyond the EU for which they have intelligence profiles.
“Frankly, there is no avoiding the return of border crossing stations and manned patrols or the need to utilize technological means to discover trespassers. All the reports on the subject claim the European nations will try to institute efficient sharing of information regarding suspects, but it is more than reasonable to assume that a significant portion of those infiltrating to commit terror are unknown to intelligence bodies.
“This is why there is no way to avoid instituting identification procedures similar to those used in airports. Furthermore, it is reasonable to assume the authorities will try to integrate technologies for checking personnel and cargo without physical contact except for the sensors to reduce the level of discomfort for the subjects.
“The manual authentication of identifying documents has proven to be inefficient, both in terms of the reliability of the check and the length of the process. So again, there is no way to avoid using technologies which can authenticate documents at the forensic level with haste. Solutions based on mutli-light analysis have been available and in use for years.
“However, not all solutions are equally efficient. Second-generation technologies like the ones we developed are based on machine learning, and they are better at handling documents in bad shape.
“Therefore the potential package of technological solutions should include second-generation document authentication systems, body and cargo scanners, facial identifications cameras, and an intelligence apparatus that can monitor problematic documents and persons of interest.”
“Europeans feel threatened”
There are many suggestions that “Europeans need to wake up.” It’s a sentiment popular among Israelis. How will that affect their privacy?
Atzmon: “The European citizen feels threatened, which will impact their willingness to concede a measure of privacy. But the feeling is not uniform across the European Union. In Germany, for example, the public and the media are highly sensitive over their privacy. It is likely the majority of the changes will be felt at border crossings or when trying to conduct irregular financial transaction. Since the Europeans are already familiar with airport security measures, the introduction of similar means at the borders will not be perceived as a severe anomaly.
“At the end of the day, I believe the changes will mostly be felt in financial dealings, where ID authentication measures will become more conspicuous.”
Ovadia: “The affect on privacy is complicated. We all want to have privacy, but we all also want security. Under current conditions, social media monitoring is an important aspect of intelligence gathering. In terms of the physical component, there are many who say the physical examination and the security sensors provide them a sense of security despite the delay.
“People tend to forget that we are interested in prevention, not enforcement. The goal is to prevent a security event and not respond once it happened. Prevention requires activity whether by intelligence agencies, monitoring technologies, or the physical presence of force.”
Bar Or: “The Europeans already feel the change at mall entrances, specifically in France and Belgium, they already have guards like in Israel. The private security market is guaranteed to expand to meet the demand of clients who want to protect their clients.
“The authorities already have the ability to monitor cellular phones and land lines used by their citizens, through the network operators and the communications infrastructure. I believe they will expand their legislation to give authorities a free hand in spying after citizens suspected of involvement in terror. When it comes to the open platforms that exist like social networks I expect countries to develop or purchase tools for gathering and analyzing intelligence on their citizens, specifically but not exclusively for Arabic speakers.”
“Efficient response to threats”
Which technologies are currently missing that can provide more security for urban residents and frequent travelers?
Bar Or: “We are missing advance notice systems with two-way interfaces to connect between government agencies, municipalities, police forces, and citizens. People can serve as human sensors and report to the authorities even before the attacker has initiated his plan.
“Alert citizens can report and direct emergency services through their smartphones using pictures or videos. Today, there is no convenient and quick app or interface, and all the reports are placed through phone calls which lack the ability to provide precise locations or pictures of suspects.
“Furthermore, there is a shortage in technologies that can unify and coordinate the assets involved in urban security both human and machine in one platform that enables efficient response to threats.”
Ovadia: “As I see it, the real technological shortfall is in the real-time identification and location of explosives. STI specializes in that field.
“The world mostly leans on solutions provided in response to existing issues and not on technologies developed from an expert perspective, with an emphasis on time to market, price, and target audience. The existing solutions are often characterized by a penchant for false alarms, low levels of detection, and expensive maintenance.
“And that is where we step in. STI’s tech developers came from field units, and they understand the real needs of the client.”
Atzmon: “It is important to stress that the availability of advanced identification authentication technologies does not imply they are being used. Upgrading existing measures with advanced capabilities will not be a uniform endeavor.”
Are liberal governments capable of handling the threat of modern terror groups or are we in the midst of an inevitable geopolitical shock?
Atzmon: “This is a political and sociological question. I believe we are in the midst of a historic and irreversible change at the societal level which Europe must confront. There are two social phenomena we have seen in Europe that will escalate. The first: immigrants will create a society within a society and a substantial portion of them will not integrate into the local scene.
“It is expected they will create ‘enclaves’ of residential areas characterized by low socioeconomic status, social isolation, and a salient Islamist mentality. We are already seeing cases in which Sharia law was imposed in refugee centers in the heart of Europe and neighborhoods in Brussels that police dare not enter.
“Unlike in the past, the enclaves will be much bigger and likely lead the original population to flee if they can afford it. The Turkish experience and the current immigration waves suggest many of the immigrants will take ‘simple’, low-paying jobs. Friction with the European population, specifically youths in low socioeconomic areas, is expected to shift the natives rightward and into neo-Nazi-type movements. You see these groups even in Germany, and they are far more widespread in Eastern Europe.
“European governments and courts committed to the liberal policies of the post-war era will struggle to handle the clash of conduct. They will try to deal with the situation subtly, through intelligence gathering, and to invest in efforts to adapt the immigrants’ mentality to fit the European mindset. Unfortunately, I am skeptical of their chances for success.”
Bar Or: “Liberal governments struggle to deal with terror groups, which at times requires focusing on the troublesome minority and thus be portrayed in Western eyes as a racist and undemocratic regime. Meanwhile, it is clear that a liberal government will find it difficult to initiate threatening tactics for fear of hurting freedom of expression or their citizens’ privacy.
“So I do believe geopolitical change in Europe is possible. As I see it, Europeans will tilt rightwards because of their fear of immigrants and the loss of their national character. It is possible such movement will take Europe backwards, and that minorities that feel persecuted will turn to terror and violence as a measure of last resort.
“The aggressiveness of Islamist groups will only increase, as will the exposure of Europeans through their traditional and social media to the horrors committed by these radicals. The fear will only radicalize Europe as just happened in Israel despite the European inclination for liberalism.”
“Governments work more slowly”
There was a massive attack 15 years ago in New York. At the time, there was a lot of buzz about homeland security, but not much was actually done. Can governments actually provide more homeland security?
Ovadia: “Providing a more substantive response is a necessity, not a choice. But technology is only a part of the comprehensive solution. Technology without additional layers without the personnel and administrative supervision cannot provide a comprehensive solution; it can only provide specific solutions that will leave gaps. Terror groups will narrow in on these gaps and use them in future attacks.”
Bar Or: “We recognize that governments are always seeking more solutions. I see governments and municipalities seeking smart city technologies including cameras supported by analytics, facial recognition software, and monitors for hazardous materials.
“Meanwhile, authorities are also looking for technologies to assist their emergency response units police, firefighters, and EMTs. The fastest path to the implementation of such technologies is through the municipalities, projects generally championed by mayors before elections or after attacks. On the national level, governments work more slowly and acquire or develop tools which have been converted from military use. The private sector, on the other hand, is quick to implement these solutions. Private corporations do not wait for the authorities; they protect their employees and guests at their facilities.”
Atzmon: “The use of HLS technologies is unavoidable, especially when it comes to non-invasive measures. Where you once had to physically look through a person’s belongings, today you can employ X-ray machines. Out of that same respect for privacy and based on a simple cost-benefit analysis it is in the best interest of governments to provide a sense of security through technological means instead of invasive measures. Can European governments do it? Definitely. Will they? It largely depends on security developments on the continent.”
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news – www.globes-online.com – on February 14, 2016
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2016