29.04.2016 Author: Vladimir Platov

Biometrics and Сounter-terrorism

3454444Hardly anybody would object the necessity of stepping up anti-terrorism measures, especially in such public places as transport, and, more specifically, subways and airports. As The Telegraph reports with reference to Vice Admiral of the British Royal Navy Clive Johnstone, the risk of Daesh launching terrorist attacks against sea transport has lately been on the rise.

July 15, 1983 is considered the day on which such phenomenon as the “terrorism against passengers of international airports” became a part of our reality. On that day, a suitcase stuffed with explosives blew up in front of the counter of a Turkish Airlines at the international Orly Airport in Paris, France.

On March 20, 1985, a sarin attack that shook Japanese capital was perpetrated on Tokyo subway, leaving many civilians injured or dead.

In the recent years, actions of terrorists have not only led to deaths of many hundreds of passengers, but also significantly complicated operations of transportation companies, making commuting less comfortable and more expensive.

To prevent the occurrence of new tragic events like those that left France and Japan moaning, many countries have been introducing tighter security measures to counter terrorism on transport and in other domains of life. Biometric control that is used not only to filter criminals, but also to identify potential performers of terrorist attacks based on specific criteria became one of the most important aspects of anti-terrorism measures.

For example, it is planned that in the course of the next few months, 20 thousand new surveillance cameras will be installed in Moscow subway that has been repeatedly targeted by terrorists and that serves over 9 million passengers daily. The cameras will scan the face of each person entering the subway and verify it against the database of suspicious individuals and wanted criminals. The upgraded security system will also issue warnings whenever it detects an individual lingering on a platform or acting suspiciously. Another reason for the introduction of the new system of biometric video control in Moscow subways has to do with boosting the security before the FIFA World Cup that Russia will host in 2018.

The police forces of other countries are also introducing similar surveillance systems.

After the July 7, 2005 bombing in London, British government reconsidered the security measures and overhauled the state system of prevention of acts of terrorism on transport. “Smart” surveillance cameras have been successfully tested. To assure the system is viable, the British police tested the cameras in the summer of last year at a large music festival attended by 100 thousand people. The police justified the use of the surveillance system by saying that it was a measure against pickpockets.

Spanish commuters are used to special security measures enforced on the transport and see it as a norm. Tighter security has been observed in the country for many years and was given a special priority on March 11, 2004 when a series of explosions claimed lives of 191 and left more than 2,000 passengers, riding suburban trains in Madrid, injured.

The Norwegian police have been using biometric control technology (the EasyPass system) at the Gardermoen Airport assuring the passenger’s facial features match the photograph in the passport.

Israeli transport system is considered one of the key potential targets of terrorist attacks. Israel Security Agency (ISA) has been working on the development and implementation of advanced innovative technologies and concepts in the field of anti-terrorist protection since the beginning of the 1970s.

The law enforcement agencies of many countries showed a strong interest in a biometric technology developed in 2012 by the Japanese Hitachi Kokusai Electric. This technology involves a system of biometric cameras and is capable of scanning millions of faces per second, instantly recognizing the face of a person registered by the camera. Japanese developers designed a software allowing for targeting a specific person while scanning 36 million faces per second. According to the concept implemented in the software, cameras shoot hundreds of thousands of people present at rallies, in shopping malls and in other places of mass accumulation of people and save images of all the scanned faces in a file. Then the data is sorted out based on the biometric criteria to facilitate the search for the targeted face. The new software developed by Japanese Hitachi Kokusai Electric was successfully tested in such crowded facilities, as railways, big shopping malls, and subways.

Let us hope that the steps, which different countries are taking in an effort to improve the counter-terrorist measures, including introduction of biometric control, will help boost global security and minimize the risk of terrorism.

Vladimir Platov, expert specialized on the Middle East region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.

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