Security brains think about jacking stuff. All the time.

By » Sat, June 9 2012
494024911 8688507849 450x299 Security brains think about jacking stuff. All the time.

Nobody better steal these bricks. (img by bibi-pov)

I worked at a fulfillment center for a while. It had what you would expect for a place with valuable stuff: alarms, vaults, man trap entry and exits, cameras all over the damned place, bag checks, etc. I spent about every spare moment I had in the place thinking about ways to defeat the security systems. Not because I was planning a heist, but because it was interesting.

I learned some weird things, e.g. most of the security measures in place were there for insurance purposes, not theft protection. Metal detector scans, for example… the most valuable items in the place were non-metallic. But random scans with a metal detector meant an x% insurance break, so they were part of the security system. And that the real key to good security is having several interlocking systems relying on lots of mostly-honest people.

Here are the things I thought about while counting high-end merchandise small enough to easily pocket or palm:

If I were an outsider, how would I get in and steal stuff?
The location of the building was supposed to be secret. But the company gave logo jackets to all of its employees and let us leave for lunch. Result? Everyone in the neighborhood knew who we worked for and what we did. Not that that made it easy to knock the place over.

heat Security brains think about jacking stuff. All the time.

Just be glad it's not a Nixon mask. (img by TheGuyWhoFilmedHeat)

The building wasn’t hardened, but that doesn’t mean that it would have been easy to break into. You had to scan a badge to get into several doors on your way into the building. There were panic buttons all over the damned place, which was big enough that you wouldn’t be able to get everyone under guns very quickly, but small enough and tightly enough knit that and employee would see a problem and hit a panic button. If you broke in after hours, all the good stuff was kept in vaults, which would take a long time to get into.

Why not just grab someone who comes in to open the building and make them let you in? Protocol meant that there were at least 2 people around to open, one to watch the other from a distance. Police response would be fast enough that even if someone did try to take a hostage (which I would imagine would be messy as hell), they wouldn’t get very far. And armed robbery carries a much higher penalty than burglary.

Deliveries and shipments happened at roughly the same times every day. But there was always someone watching the someone on the loading dock. Call to the cops, a few minutes to respond. Same with opening the building.

It’d be much easier to knock over the delivery trucks, but you’d have to know what you were looking for. Fulfillment centers often rely on camouflage for a lot of their security. Plain old Fedex boxes with envelopes inside and mundane return addresses are the entirety of security en route. It’s actually more likely that a delivery truck will have a door malfunction and lose packages on the road than it is that someone would try to hijack one.

Basically, external people would have to pull off heist movie grade shenanigans. Which is so unlikely, it’s pretty funny to even think about. If I were going to steal stuff from this company, I’d do it from the inside.

If I were an insider, how would I steal stuff?
This was easier to think about because I was an insider. And the first thing everyone thinks about is cameras. Which there were a lot of… But cameras are reactive. The ones in the building were primarily for sorting out errors and mishaps and only secondarily for making sure employees didn’t jack stuff.

And just taking stuff wasn’t the major hurdle: concealing the theft for any amount of time was much harder. Items passed through lots of hands over and over again, and were counted and verified several times when they came into and left the building.

4435858242 f5972b7af2 450x299 Security brains think about jacking stuff. All the time.

Now I'll jam this thing in your fucking ear! (img by Andy Chimicles)

If someone tried to steal stuff on its way into the building, tallies wouldn’t match, camera evidence could be checked, and the gig would be up. If someone tried to steal stuff on its way out of the building, we’d get a call in a few days when a customer received an empty box, figure out when the item shipped, and watch the cameras for a few minutes.

The only feasible way to steal stuff and have it not show up for a while would be to shuffling around how things were stored, mislabeling stuff, and doing some pretty simple sleights. That way, the missing item could go undetected for a few months, and by then there would be tons of footage to review… there’s a chance you’d get away with it.

But it would take a hell of a lot of upfront investment (months of training, working, observing) for a few tens of thousands of dollars of return. It’d be like working a regular job.

But say you pulled it off
Even then, though, after you got the thing out of the building, there would be other hoops to jump through, like removing marks of provenance, which most people on the job (myself included) didn’t have the first clue about. And I can use words like “fence” but that doesn’t mean I have the first clue how I’d modify the item enough to sell it, then actually sell it. Craigslist?

You’re better off stealing bicycles or selling drugs… or just working a regular job. It was still good to think about. For fun, figure out what are the most valuable items at your workplace and how you’d steal them. At best, you’ll find a loophole and improve your security. At worst, you’ll occupy your brain for a while.

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