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False Positives and Security. - totherme [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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False Positives and Security. [Feb. 15th, 2008|02:59 pm]
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Bruce Schneier continues to document the increasingly ridiculous war on the unexpected:

Offshore oil rig evacuated after someone dreamed of a bomb.

Sheridan College under lock-down because someone notices a tripod.

Man arrested for posession of an MP3 player.

While reading, I found myself thinking about the fire service. I remember being taught in school how prank 112/999/911 calls cost lives. While all the fire engines are out entertaining the prank caller, a real fire elsewhere may be killing people.

One of the characteristics of those real fires though, is that they're almost certainly not consciously trying to kill people. Except in extremely rare cases of premeditated arson, the probability of a real fire is independent of the probability of a prank call. That's not going to be the case with terrorists though - unlike accidental fires, terrorists actually want to hurt and frighten people. They're quite capable of calling the police to one place, and doing bad things in another. So surely our safeguards against false-positive terror alerts should be significantly stronger than our safeguards against false-positive fire alerts?

The War on the Unexpected: Not just annoying - downright dangerous.