Security Technology Can Save The Euro 2016 Games

This post is also available in: עברית (Hebrew)

The UEFA European Football Championship is one of the world’s most prestigious football tournaments, second only to the World Cup. The competition is held every four years with the next one to be held in France next year. In view of the breaches in national and international security infrastructures exposed by Friday’s attacks in Paris how the event will fare is unclear. What is certain is that with an event of this magnitude – 24 teams participating in 51 games held at 10 different stadiums, and hundreds of thousands of fans planning to attend – the risks are enormous. Fans, personnel and players alike could be facing grave danger.

Two explosions outside the Stade de France kickstarted Friday’s bloody rampage. More bloodshed was spared only by security guards’ vigilance, who prevented a terrorist from entering the stadium armed with an explosive vest. The attacker detonated the shrapnel laden vest outside the entrance upon discovery.

Prior to the game, 80,000 spectators flowed towards the stadium from the trains for several hundred meters. Were he successful in entering the stadium, or if the terrorists planned to target the crowds on their way inside, the consequences could have been gruesome beyond imagination.

The attacks conclusively demonstrate the ISIL has not only the will, but the means as well, to execute monstrous attacks on European soil. French Football Federation President Noel Le Graet acknowledged that there was concern over the risk of terrorism during the Euros, but now the concern is significantly higher.The question raised by these events is whether authorities are prepared and equipped to deal with the danger.

The French government is ultimately responsible for securing the Euro 2016 games, but the Interior Ministry and the French Football Federation agreed in September to split the duties. The FFF will hold responsibility for securing stadiums, training camps and team hotels, while the state will secure these locations’ surroundings. Additional potential targets lie in the areas where fans will congregate between games, or where they will watch games they do not attend on giant screens. Private security firms will ensure safety in the locations under FFF responsibility, with the police securing all other areas.

Further details regarding security arrangements have yet been released, but what we can say with absolute certainty is that advanced security technology will have to be used in order to ensure the safety of participants and attendees. Simply relying on personnel and old fashioned techniques will not be enough.

Magnetometers have long been used to detect explosive devices at airports, but their operation requires skill and determination, as proved by a series of stress tests conducted by the US Department of Homeland Security on TSA checkpoints in American airports. Laser-based bomb detection could supplant this need.

Laser-based IED detection technology has been saving lives in conflict zones for a while now, but recent developments in the field could prove invaluable to saving lives at large civilian gatherings. Newer systems provide a larger range of capabilities, such as recognising materials undetectable by conventional screening systems, for example liquid explosives – like those used in the Paris attacks. Some models come equipped with frequency jamming technology, to prevent remote-detonation of explosives.

“These new means are portable, light, and offer screening to detect explosive materials and drugs with great reliability and in a fast and simple way. Furthermore, the systems are connected to intelligence networks, allowing to transfer information to various intelligence services and computerized systems in order to follow movements of explosives before they turn into a ticking bomb,” said Eli Venezia, CEO of Laser Detect Systems, who specialise in the development of portable means for explosives detection.

Of course, at this stage there can be no replacement for highly skilled personnel. French authorities would do well to engage with security services in countries with extensive expertise in the areas of terror prevention to ensure the highest quality of training.

Want to know more about the companies behind the technology? Click here.

Even the most skilled and trained, however, cannot be vigilant for ever. Long hours spent in stressful environments produce demonstrable deterioration in alertness. Reduced functioning opens up a crack for attackers to exploit.

To close the gaps in security, innovative video surveillance and video analytics solutions must be employed. New technologies allow for tracking of suspects in huge crowds with expending additional man-force. Facial recognition technology, used in conjunction with databases built through intelligence work, can enable suspect apprehension before it is too late. Advanced video analytics algorithms provide the ability to detect and recognise patterns of suspicious activity of individuals, such as “scouting out” an area by repeatedly returning to it and more.

Finally, as terrorists’ communications have increasingly been obfuscated and hidden in electronic networks, intelligence gathering must focus in these areas. If forums, twitter and facebook platforms, and other means of electronic communication is where terrorists now operate – security agencies must be present there as well. Tracking a flow of information of this magnitude would be impossible without the assistance of Big Data. Massive, modern computing power engaged in the analysis of textual evidence can help prevent the next big attack.

Without employing these modern tools, the Euro 2016 games could be in danger. Let us hope authorities will be quick in catching up.

Want to know more about the companies behind the technology? Click here.