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Security Theater: Why you aren’t as safe as you think you are

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The illusion of security is all around us and affects everyone, no matter who you are—from TSA screenings, to the password on your Twitter account. These defense measures are presented as safe and secure but in reality, the security around them is very fragile, or in some cases, non-existent. We put complete trust into the systems in place, even though we don’t really know much about the detailed problems they can entail. Here are four misconceptions about everyday safeguards that are more flawed than you may think.

1. TSA Security Checks are supposed to prevent airplane terrorism

Before Sept. 11, 2001, private companies were running Transportation Security Administration—not the government. Everything ranging from baseball bats to scissors were allowed on planes—a thought that would never come to mind in present day, since there is now an extreme amount of safety precautions. Or so we think—most of the rules set into place are not enforced, and when they are, it’s very poorly. When you’re waiting at the TSA security checkpoint at the airport, you have to take off your shoes, belts, pocketed belongings, and put any liquids (3.4 ounces and lower) in a separate bag.This seems like a lot of security for it not to work how it is supposed to. To try and show how well the TSA kept us safe, Homeland Security conducted tests in 2015 where mock weapons were put through their scanners. It didn’t go as  planned, though, when 95 percent of the time the TSA failed to identify the weapons. This shows how unreliable the system could be, which is the reality as the illusion of security could cause people to let their guard down at an airport. That does not mean that people should be terrified, but that does show that they shouldn’t think that just because security is present, they’re safe.

2. Credit/Debit Card numbers are secure in banks

Credit and debit cards are a necessity used in today’s society. They are more convenient than carrying a stack of money around with you that can be easily stolen. They are seen to be one of the most secure items that a person can have. Since all of your money is stored in a card that you can keep by your side most of the time, people think that they can’t easily be broken into. In reality though, there are websites that are dedicated specifically to buying and selling credit card numbers in bulk for prices that are sky high. These websites aren’t just on the “Dark Web,” a part of the internet where people take place in highly illegal activities, as the majority of people think.  It turns out, these domains can actually be accessed on a typical internet browser like Google Chrome or FireFox. The way that people get these credit card numbers is by hacking into banks that have very low security systems. These websites carry anywhere from 150,000 to 500,000 credit card numbers at any time, and about half of those are sold every week. At the moment, there has been added security to credit card with Electromagnetic Verification Chips, but the hackers that have these stolen credit card numbers can easily see the security measures that are put in place that are meant to stop them and can find a way around them.

3. Signing Receipts is a sure confirmation of your identity

Normally, when you purchase something with a credit card, the cashier hands you a receipt that they ask you to sign that authorizes the purchase. Most people think that after the receipt is signed, it goes to the bank and is examined to see if the signature is real. Actually, when you sign a receipt, it doesn’t even go to the bank—even the cashier isn’t required to examine the signature! All the cashier has to do is make sure the receipt was signed, meaning anyone can use your credit card and sign a receipt to make a purchase while using their own signature. Even though they would be committing fraud,  a silly receipt signature isn’t going to stop them. In cases like this, the only thing a person can do is call their bank and tell them to cancel the purchase and card. However, the person committing the fraud does not receive any sort of punishment.

4. Medicine Safety Tabs are Useless

Medicine safety tabs are those annoying pieces of plastic you have to peel off before accessing a new bottle of ibuprofen or similar medicines, and have been around since the 1980s. For most people, these tabs have always been around, so we take them off the medicine bottles immediately without thinking about why they’re there. The reason behind these plastic precautions exist is because in 1982, there were a string of murders involving a serial killer in Chicago who put cyanide in Tylenol bottles. This event caused the death of seven people, ranging from young kids to adults. This threw the medicine industry and consumers into panic. These strings of murders are the reason that most, if not all medicines, have a safety tab underneath the main cap. However, this safety tab can easily be punctured, and will not stop someone from performing a similar string of murders in today’s society. Another event that was occuring at the same time as the poisoning was unintentional overdoses off of Tylenol. The recommended dosage for children is no more than four doses per 24 hours and no more than eight doses per adult. For children, the dosage amount is only half of an adults, which caused an enormous amount of accidental overdoses due to the medicine ending up in the wrong hands at the wrong time. These overdoses are another reason medical tabs were added to bottles. This may be the only aspect that has some sort of value of safety, since any tampering would be visible.

5. The Department of Homeland Security Doesn’t Protect Us From Anything

The Department of Homeland Security is a department of the government whose purpose is keep the people of the US safe from all hazards not just terrorism. The DHS is the organization that created the TSA and the alerts that get sent to your phone if someone goes missing called “Amber Alerts”. Most of the time when an Amber Alert gets sent to our phones the basic reaction is to swipe it away like it wasn’t even there. Homeland Security will say that this system has saved hundreds of missing children, but there is heavy evidence to support the contrary. Timothy Griffin, a criminologist did a study of cases between 2003 and 2006 and his evidence showed that the Amber Alert system has done absolutely nothing in the terms of returning abducted children. According to Griffin, all Amber Alerts create is fear and public panic around an extremely rare event. There are a few cases where Amber Alerts do help save people, for example in 2002 Tamara Brooks and Jacqueline Marris were kidnapped at gunpoint and because of an Amber Alert being sent out a few hours after it was reported both of the people kidnapped were returned unharmed. Yet these situations are even more rare then an Amber Alert being issued. Most of the time if a child is abducted, they’re killed within the first three hours. A majority of these Amber Alerts are sent out during that third hour since it takes time to notice a child is missing. So in most cases Amber Alerts don’t help abducted children get back to their families if anything all they do is create mass hysteria in the public. The DHS is also responsible for creating such things as surveillance systems that are supposed to be high tech but in reality are extremely low quality, putting barricades in front of buildings to stop truck bombs, but leave the loading dock protected by a plastic gate, and putting magnetic strips in driver’s licenses or bar codes on them containing your fingerprint. All of those things do absolutely nothing but either provide an illusion of security or don’t work in the way that they are intended to. The Department of Homeland security is by far the biggest culprit in the play of “Security Theatre” because everything that they have done since they were created in 2002 has done nothing but provide to the argument that security theatre is all around us.

The illusion of security is all around us, yet just because our defense measures have flaws, it doesn’t mean that we aren’t safe. Since Nov. 11 2001, other means of keeping us secure have been added to the world. This includes the increased number of air marshals on flights, the reinforced cockpit blast doors, and spreading awareness to passengers. Your credit card number might be out on the internet, but banks have put in measures to keep your money safe and catch people who commit fraud. Even though safety tabs are easy to puncture, the areas that hold these medications are usually heavily populated with cameras so . The illusion of security causes us to lower our guard and may make us less safe, but the lower security in some areas is compensated for higher security in others.

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