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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Aero India 2013 Security loopholes

Aero India 2013 concluded last week in Bangalore and we’re fortunate that it ended without any incident. Despite having an army of security guards, police, CRPF, Military folks, the show had several security vulnerabilities. Here’re a few of them.

The food court was outside the security range. So those who wanted to go to food court had to exit the exhibition area and while coming back, they had to clear security one more time. For the afternoon show, scheduled to begin at 2 PM, people crowded near the security gate in large numbers, eager to be in before the show starts. Baggage and pass checks were bare minimum or rather name sake. Barricades were almost non-existent.

The hangers (which were converted into exhibition halls) had a small rear door. These are flagged as EMERGENCY EXITs on the inside and are manned by a police or security guards. I saw a security guard opening this gate from inside and allowing an outside person in plain clothes to enter in, bypassing security gates  he was supposed to pass through. In other words, if you know someone from the inside (needn't be a high level person, even a security guard or cleaner will do), it was very easy to enter the main area through some vulnerable points.

The exhibition halls had 2 entrances. If one of them had been marked as entry and other as exit, flow of people could have been streamlined. But there were no such differentiation. This works fine when no of people are few. But when crowd throngs in thousands, this becomes unmanageable. Security guards at the gate are supposed to scan the pass against a RFID scanner, see if the scanner gives red or green and then allow entry accordingly. However, after airshow almost every one tried entering nearby exhibition halls, in all directions, security guards were helpless. Many people entered the hall, with or without any check.

If one person had a pass to enter a restricted area, he would take another 4-5 with him (family members, friends etc)- guards wouldn't object to this. This is also a bad practice and vulnerability

Those who flashed big tags, walked around authoritatively were allowed into restricted areas without close scrutiny. It is very easy to print a pass which looks similar. A well dressed and authoritative looking person can easily confuse the security and make his way through. (This happens all the places, very difficult to scan every individual at every gate. May  be an access controlled gate- like one works in metro stations-would be a better idea)

The security seemed fool proof early morning when the crowd was less. But by noon, the crowd was unmanageable and security forces looked helpless. They tried their best to check everyone and their bags, but any smart person could have easily bypassed the check, if he was determined to.

Possible improvements:
  • Keep the food court inside the premises-saves repeat security checks
  • Keep automated gates which open when a valid access card is flashed, for restricted areas
  • Well planned barricades, entry and exit can streamline people, making them more manageable 

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