Geographic Information Systems (GIS) include a set of tools that allow people to map and annotate the locations of previous terrorist events or potential vulnerabilities to guard against. The maps can be distributed to intelligence agents and law enforcement personnel for viewing on hand held devices such as PDAs or smart phones. If an organization wants to learn about using GIS and does not want to invest in GIS software, they may purchase a book called “Getting to Know ArcGis” by Tim Ormsby et al. The book comes with step by step instruction on how to use GIS as well as a trial version of ArcGIS Desktop which is good for up to 180 days.
GIS maps can be simple or elaborate with as much data as is needed by their intended audience. I once spoke with a security professional at one of my monthly ASIS International meetings. This man sometimes provided the technical security countermeasures (TSCM) for President Reagan’s visits to make sure he was not being bugged by electronic eavesdropping devices. It seemed that having customized annotated GIS maps on handheld devices such as PDAs would have been a nice convenience for those providing executive protection and TSCM. Counterterrorism professionals must remember that the maps are only as good as the data it represents . If someone who collected data for the maps did not report the existence of a new building, a subway entrance, or manhole cover leading to a large set of tunnels, than the map has limited value.
Here is another example of how GIS can be used to try to predict technology dead zones with cell phones and a discussion of why that might be important for security professionals. In the United States, there are data sets available that show the location of cell phone towers. These towers can be mapped using ArcGIS Desktop and the digital maps be distributed for use on PDAs. The location of the towers could give a clue to the locations of dead zones regarding cell phone coverage and suggest places that would be safe from cell phone activated bombs or places where cell phones can be tracked or listened in on. Software such as FlexiSpy can be installed on an unattended cell phone and allow the installer the ability to receive the same calls, text messages, and listen in on the target phone . Other software programs allow the spy to know the location of the target phone at any moment. There also exist small cell phone jammers that be used as countermeasures to block signals around cell phones.
Handheld devices are becoming more and more powerful as storage capacity becomes greater and devices become smaller. The hand held devices have more powerful microprocessors to run programs and high resolution screens to see detailed maps. It is important to keep up with consumer hand held devices and the applications for use with them because the devices can be used as tools by both sides of the “War on Terror.”
References 1. O’Looney, (2000),”Beyond Maps, GIS and Decision Making in Local Government”, ESRI Press