Via Bruce Schneier, apparently the physical security of British nuclear weapons until around 1998 consisted of, essentially, a bicycle key:
To arm the weapons you just open a panel held by two captive screws - like a battery cover on a radio - using a thumbnail or a coin.
Inside are the arming switch and a series of dials which you can turn with an Allen key to select high yield or low yield, air burst or groundburst and other parameters.
The Bomb is actually armed by inserting a bicycle lock key into the arming switch and turning it through 90 degrees. There is no code which needs to be entered or dual key system to prevent a rogue individual from arming the Bomb.
Oh. Well. Of course. Why use a hard-to-forge sequence of letters and numbers like the U.S. or U.S.S.R. when a little key will do?
So what prevented an accidental (or deliberate) British detonation until Tony Blair fixed the problem? Why, tradition, of course, what what!
The Royal Navy argued that officers of the Royal Navy as the Senior Service could be trusted: "It would be invidious to suggest... that Senior Service officers may, in difficult circumstances, act in defiance of their clear orders."
(Insert nervous laughter here.)
Via Bruce Schneier, Cory Doctorow: "The DRM business model is the urinary tract infection of media experiences: all of the uses that used to come in an easy gush now come in a mingy, painful dribble..."
A larger-than-usual bunch of news stories piqued my interest this morning:
Terrorism only works if people allow themselves to be terrorized. People like, for example, shoppers in New Haven, Conn.:
Two people who sprinkled flour in a parking lot to mark a trail for their offbeat running club [the Hash House Harriers] inadvertently caused a bioterrorism scare and now face a felony charge.
New Haven ophthalmologist Daniel Salchow, 36, and his sister, Dorothee, 31, who is visiting from Hamburg, Germany, were both charged with first-degree breach of peace, a felony.
The siblings set off the scare while organizing a run for a local chapter of the Hash House Harriers, a worldwide group that bills itself as a "drinking club with a running problem."
Mayoral spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga said the city plans to seek restitution from the Salchows, who are due in court Sept. 14. "You see powder connected by arrows and chalk, you never know," she said. "It could be a terrorist, it could be something more serious. We're thankful it wasn't, but there were a lot of resources that went into figuring that out."
Maybe there's something about New England that prevents the police there from exercising common sense (see, e.g., blinking advertisements).
Update, 15:20 CDT: Security expert Bruce Schneier has declared this the "stupidest terrorist overreaction yet."
Via Bruce Schneier, a really good article about security theater:
At the time, it seemed reasonable. Richard Reid tried to ignite explosives hidden in his shoe while aboard a December 2001 flight from Paris, so Congress banned butane lighters on planes.
But in retrospect, the costs of the ban outweighed the benefits. Airport retailers had to stop selling lighters. Lighter vendor Zippo Manufacturing Co. laid off more than 100 workers in part because of the prohibition. Transportation Security Administration screeners at one point had to confiscate 30,000 lighters every day, quadrupling the amount of garbage the agency had to dispose of. TSA even had to hire a contractor to help with all the extra trash.
Welcome to homeland security, where everyone has an incentive to exaggerate threats. A Congress member whose district includes a port has little to lose and much to gain by playing up the potential for container-borne terrorism. A city with a dam talks up the need to protect critical infrastructure. A company selling weapons-detection technology stresses the vulnerability of commercial aviation. A civil servant evaluating homeland security grant applications has an interest in over-estimating dangers that might be addressed by grantees rather than denying funding and risk blame in the event of a disaster.
(Via Bruce Schneier.) I'm really not sure what to make of this, or what, actually, they're selling:
Via security guru Bruce Schneier, an actual, real-world Trojan Horse that gets in...well, almost everywhere.
Via Bruce Schneier, a former British military bomb-disposal operator offers some thoughts about the clowns who completely failed to bomb anything in the UK last week:
If these guys at the weekend really were anything to do with al-Qaeda, all one can really say is that it looks as though the War on Terror is won. This whole hoo-ha kicked off, remember, with 9/11: an extremely effective attack. Then we had the Bali and Madrid bombings, not by any measure as shocking and bloody but still nasty stuff. Then we had London 7/7, a further significant drop in bodycount but still competently planned and executed (Not too many groups would have been able to mix up that much peroxide-based explosive first try without an own goal).
Remember, this country carried on successfully for six years with hundreds—thousands, sometimes—of tons of explosives raining down on it every night for six years, delivered by very competent Germans who often died doing that job. The civilian death toll was around 60,000 according to most sources; the equivalent of 20 9/11s, more than three for every year of the war. Civilisation was not brought down. Germany and Japan withstood even greater violence, and survived it too.
Bruce Schneier asks: "Is there a Special Olympics for terrorists going on in the U.K. this week?"