Challenging the security myth

August 2002 Access Control & Identity Management

The security industry in South Africa has become too complacent. We seem to be satisfied with doing an injustice to our customers by not properly informing them about what true security entails.

Conventional protection methods may have worked in the past, but with criminals making a career out of foiling these systems, a radical new approach is needed. Hi-tech gadgetry which smoothly disable security systems and gangs of highly organised criminals that enter premises and within a few short minutes take everything of value, may have been the stuff that action movies were made of, but life has a peculiar way of imitating art.

To prove the point, let us take a look at a few popular myths that so-called security experts are actively perpetuating with their customers.


A state-of-the-art alarm system with an armed response contract can secure my business.


Increasingly, reports are being received where everything worked as planned, the alarm was triggered and the armed response was there within minutes, but the computers (the heart of the business) were gone.


We are in a secure office park with 24 hr guards.


Tell this to the many companies which had their guards taken hostage while their offices were cleaned out at leisure.


Premises will be adequately protected by roller shutters to all doorways and bars on all windows together with alarm system and armed response.


Roller shutters and bars have zero effect on determined intruders. In most instances these items are not alarmed so the intruders only need to come a few minutes earlier to remove these expensive barriers. The clock only starts ticking when actual penetration occurs.

And this they already have under control by bringing enough people to carry out what they want in the time available.


If we have an intrusion and our computers are stolen we will at least have new equipment.


Many companies are under-insured. Replacement takes weeks instead of days; restoration of data from back-ups is a nightmare even if the stored information was recent. The time it takes to get back to where you were is often too long to avoid irreparable damage to the company and its future existence.

Holistic approach

The security industry has to make a paradigm shift in their thinking. Criminals are very successful, in spite of technology seemingly being on the side of the 'good guy'. In fact, the examples discussed above show us how they have turned our belief in adequate security against us by finding a way to circumvent it. The uneven struggle between 'us' and 'them' can be likened to going into battle armed with a water pistol - it may look real, but offers no protection.

The answer to stopping criminals in their tracks is taking an holistic approach to security. Part of the solution is Smokecloak, a theft prevention system. Smokecloak works by rapidly filling a protected area as soon as the alarm is triggered, within 30 seconds visibility is reduced to approximately 30 cm, making it impossible for thieves to see. The premise behind Smokecloak is simple - what they cannot see, they cannot steal. Once the alarm is reset and the smoke evaporates, it is business as usual. The smoke generated by the Smokecloak machine is completely harmless and noncontaminating. This means that no countermeasures can be taken against it, gas masks will be completely useless as it takes away visibility.

Why is it that businesses are prepared to pay exorbitant insurance premiums every month, replace their equipment after a robbery (and again and again) and also suffer huge losses due to destruction and vandalism to specialised equipment, but not to embrace the solution offered by Smokecloak. Or does the reluctance lie with the security industry? Admitting that Smokecloak is an essential link in the chain of effective protection is not minimising the importance of the other links, ie alarm systems and armed response. In fact, Smokecloak allows them to live up to their promises. This is a wake-up call to the industry; criminals are taking their business seriously, shouldn't we?

For more information: Malcolm Thomas, Transaction Control Technologies, 011 888 1210,

About the author:

Malcolm Thomas is managing director of Transaction Control Technologies (TCT), the South African distributor of Smokecloak.

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