Bruce Schneier is a smart guy. I only caught on to his existence a few months back, but I think almost everything so far of his that I have read I either completely agree with, or had never thought of.
Not like any of that matters, but he wrote an article today about how security through verifying a persons credentials means nothing if the people verifying them don’t know what the credentials look like.
Imagine you’re on an airplane, and Man A starts attacking a flight attendant. Man B jumps out of his seat, announces that he’s a sky marshal, and that he’s taking control of the flight and the attacker. (Presumably, the rest of the plane has subdued Man A by now.) Man C then stands up and says: “Don’t believe Man B. He’s not a sky marshal. He’s one of Man A’s cohorts. I’m really the sky marshal.”
What do you do? You could ask Man B for his sky marshal identification card, but how do you know what an authentic one looks like? If sky marshals travel completely incognito, perhaps neither the pilots nor the flight attendants know what a sky marshal identification card looks like. It doesn’t matter if the identification card is hard to forge if person authenticating the credential doesn’t have any idea what a real card looks like.
The real scary part is that this whole conversation was brought up because of how there is a rise in the number of fake officers pulling people over. I have had quite my fair share of times being pulled over, and I don’t think I have even once thought to somehow verify if the officer pulling me over was even an officer.
You see some form of flashing lights, you pull over, and some guy comes to your window and yells at you for something. What if this guy is pretending to be an officer and steals your car, rapes you, mugs you, or kills you?
I think the thing that tops it off is that from my own experience, if you question an officer when they pull you over, they tend to not be happy about it. I got yelled at by a female officer once because when I pulled over, I shut my car off, turned the dome light one, and put my hands on the top of the steering wheel (in clear view). She started yelling at me saying completely insane unrelated things like “what, do you hate cops or something?”
In my mind, I was making a shaky situation a little more comfortable. If your an officer approaching an unkown person in an unknown dark car, at night none the less, and you are also on patrol by yourself, you approach the car with caution, and usually with your hand on the handle of your gun ready to pull it out on a moments notice.
I am not sure about most people, but I don’t like guns being pointed at me, just like I am sure most officers do not like that either. If I make the situation as comfortable as possible for the officer, the chances of an accident happening are much slimmer, it puts the officer at ease, and maybe, because of that you might also get a warning instead of a ticket. I did get a warning that particular time, but how do you even respond to insane comments like that from a person that can take away your license, or for that matter accidentally kill you. Sure, getting killed is a bit far fetched, but it happens. This officer was apparantly on edge that night, and for some reason me “setting the scene” in such a way set her off.
Another time I was driving home from a late night out. No drinking involved, just aimless driving around with 2 friends. It was like maybe 2am, and I missed my friends steet. I stopped in the middle of the street and debated just backing up the 20 feet or so and turning onto his street, or going around the block instead. In that few seconds I was stopped, a car came into site behind me which obviously made backing up a bad idea, so I drove away to go around the block instead.
The car behind me happened to be an officer, he decided I was acting suspiscious, pulled me over, and individually interrogated all 3 of us along with running all of our licenses and my registration to see if their where any warrants/problems. There wern’t any problems, so he hands us all our licenses back and tells me to get back in the car and leave. Me, being a bit upset about being pulled over and interrogated for 20 minutes without any reason calmly said something along the lines of “would you mind telling me why exactly you pulled me over?” the cop flipped out, snatched my license back, screamed at me and told me to get into the car, then called for backup, and they then when over the outside of my car looking for any reason to give me a ticket. Then eventually told me to leave and go home.
Yes, in both stories the officers were real officers, but what happens when someone is in a situation where the officer is a fake? The lesson I learned over my past experiences is not question anything they say, say as little as possible, take the ticket and if you feel you got it unjustly, appeal it and deal with it in court instead. If a cop starts yelling at me and tells me to get out of the car, even if he says it over the PA from inside his car, yes, I am going to get out of the car because I know what happens if you don’t. Now I have just completely exposed myself and left myself in a real vulnerable position.
Sure I kind of veered way off course from Bruce Schneiers story, but he raises a real good point, and it is a legitimate real problem. People who look and claim to have authority normally are assumed to actually have authority. If they are faking it, you’re not going to realize it until it is too late.
So how are we any safer? Either on a plane or anywhere else?