Thursday, October 8, 2009

Locks as Security

There is an interesting article on the KCRG-TV (Cedar Rapids, IA) website about a recent theft on anhydrous ammonia from an agricultural co-op outside of Olin, IA. As frequently happens in these cases there was an 850 gallon release of anhydrous ammonia which required an evacuation of the town for a number of hours. The local sheriff believes that this was a theft to support the manufacture of methamphetamine. These types of thefts/releases are not uncommon in rural areas of this country. What was unusual in this case was the fact that the storage tank was protected by a locking device that was apparently left intact. According to the article:
“In 2005, the state used grant money to give out thousands of locks to prevent criminals from getting into the tanks. Those tanks are stored at co-ops, and on farm fields across the state. The locks are specifically designed from a company called Tanks-A-Lok.”
This locking the tank was successful in that there was apparently a state-wide decrease in the illicit production of meth. But, according to the sheriff, “within the last 9 to 12 months things are picking up again”. The tank lock manufacturer does not understand how the thieves are bypassing the locks. This is the problem with the use of security devices that are not backed-up with observation or guards. It works for a while, but sooner or later someone figures a way around the device and the thefts resume. In today’s world it wouldn’t be surprising to find that the technique for bypassing these locks was posted on some web site somewhere. Locks and CFATS Any security device needs to be kept under observation to remain effective. Facility Security Officers (FSO) at high-risk chemical facilities need to learn this lesson quickly. Security devices only work when they are kept under observation. This is done to ensure that the ‘bad guys’ don’t have the opportunity to take a long detailed look at the device to figure out a way to defeat or by-pass the device.

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