Magazine article Security Management

Everybody's an Expert

Magazine article Security Management

Everybody's an Expert

Article excerpt

The security profession is hot, and charlatans are being drawn to what they see as a profitable opportunity. As a result, since 9-11, you can't swing a dead CAT-5 twisted-pair cable without hitting a passel of purported security experts. These freshly minted mavens pad their bios with spurious qualifications, such as media appearances that signify public relations acumen more than security know-how. The advice "buyer beware" has never been more apt.

The chicanery might even be criminal. For example, earlier this year, a self-proclaimed security expert was arrested by the U.S. Secret Service on charges of attempting to extort money from shopping malls. The consultant had contacted the owners of several shopping malls in the Washington, D.C., area, soliciting their business for antiterrorism work. He had drafted a report chronicling what he saw as poor antiterrorism preparedness at these malls. Malls could avoid being named, he told them, if they hired him, which would cloak the damning information in strict client confidentiality.

As far as mall representatives could tell, the consultant had no prior experience in providing the level of consulting he purported to offer. The bid for business seemed to amount to nothing more than hush money.

For example, a letter to David Levenberg, vice president of security at General Growth Properties, which owns the Landmark Mall and Tyson's Galleria in Northern Virginia, read in part as follows: "Security, in general, and terrorism measures in particular, at these two venues are wholly unsatisfactory.... Due to the rapidly approaching release date of the upcoming report on this topic, we request that if you are interested in contracting [the firm] in an advisory capacity that you respond to this letter by e-mail or telephone by close of business Wednesday, 25 June 2003."

In a subsequent e-mail, Levenberg asked about the purpose of the deadline. He received an e-mail reply that read in part: "The deadline is related to the publication of this report. The upcoming report is highly critical and unflattering.... Obviously, if a company is serious and genuinely interested in addressing the terrorism security failures we identified during our research, it benefits everyone to proceed in a private forum."

Wary of this language and the man's refusal to provide references and background information, Levenberg contacted others in the mall security community, including Tom Cernock, director of corporate security for Simon Property Group, which operates the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City, another mall criticized in the report. …

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