Aviation security is vey much in the news again. First came calls to review the need for some of the more onerous checks on air travellers and then – with the discovery of 2 bombs in cargo planes – came calls for tougher security across the entire air transport system. How do we accommodate these opposing viewpoints and strike a sensible balance between security and the efficient operation of air transport.
In his excellent book “Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly About Security in an Uncertain World”, Bruce Schneier offers a simple but effective process for analysing security solutions(or indeed any other risk management activity). It consists of 5 questions as follows:
- What assets are you trying to protect?
- What are the risks to these assets?
- How well does the solution mitigate these risks?
- What other risks does the solution cause?
- What costs and trade-offs does the solution impose?
Applied sensibly, these question are a great help in assessing if the costs (direct and indirect) of the proposed solution are justified. In particular, question 4 helps to avoid the unintended consequences that so often attend well-intentioned attempts to reduce risk. I would commend their use to all those involved in the ongoing debate about aviation security at this difficult time.