Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dishonesty within the ranks of security professionals?


"People who claim to be professionals in an industry that is all about security and protection of property shouldn't steal, right?"

Am I incredibly naive for making such a ridiculous statement and expecting the agreement of other security professionals?

As the years go by, I find that many in our industry have become desensitized to incidents of obvious dishonesty. No, I'm not talking about locksmiths and safemen who go bad and burglarize a customer or pilfer safe contents when nobody is looking. Thankfully, that is still a rare occurrence perpetrated by a few rogues who find themselves immediately ostracized by their colleagues and abandoned by clients if and when these indiscretions are discovered.

No, I'm referring to the subtle and common dishonesty. I'm talking about crimes like theft of intellectual property from web sites or stealing another's business name (and therefore his/her reputation) for use in scams. I'm talking about theft from association classes and trade show exhibitors or distributing, without permission, technical data created, collected and/or published by others. These are the little crimes that most in our industry don't pay much attention to, unless they become a victim. These crimes are motivated by personal gain, greed and laziness, just like robbery, burglary, credit card fraud or identity theft... so why would we consider tolerating them or sweeping the evidence of such misdeeds under the rug when they are discovered within our ranks?

Only three months ago, two of our industry colleagues discovered that photos from their own safe databases were turning up on CDs and DVDs that were being distributed (without their permission) by another well respected safe & vault professional that they also considered a trusted colleague and perhaps even a friend. This data was included on a class hand-out DVD that contained over 2 Gigabytes of safe photos, published articles, detailed safe and lock drawings and reams of material that was apparently downloaded from a popular, for-profit, online safe technicians forum. Of course, this isn't unusual or rare. Many of us are quite aware that safe & vault data is being traded, like baseball cards, at conventions, safe-opening parties and other industry gatherings. Maybe some of you already have some of this illicitly-obtained material in your own photo collections and computer databases? What's the big deal, right?

A few years ago, another friend told me that he had discovered that a guy, who he had shared his convention hotel room with, was attempting to copy safe data from his laptop computer while he wasn't looking. That same individual was later accused of stealing drill bits and other SAVTA property from classrooms. Pilferage from classes is, unfortunately, also nothing new. I've donated many tools and educational items to SAVTA over the years and many have disappeared into the pockets and tool kits of previous attendees and, therefore, are no longer available for use by current attendees. I'm not the only contributor who has experienced this phenomenon.

In 2005, a very expensive scope disappeared from my SAVTA exhibitor booth and, again, I am not the only exhibitor to experience these kinds of losses. At the last SAFETECH convention in San Diego, I returned to my room one evening to find my own notebook computer had grown legs and disappeared. Was it just a local burglar or an attendee? These are but a few of the incidents of which I am aware. Yes, SAVTA, exhibitors and attendees should be insured for these losses, but that's not the point, is it? Considering what we do for a living, this shouldn't be happening at all! Would I be scoffed at if I compared this larceny to a cop who takes a bribe to look the other way during a prostitution raid or a priest who molests an alter boy? Isn't this about abuse of trust? Where is the outrage within our community of so-called "professionals"?

In the safe & vault business, technical data is an extremely valuable commodity. One only needs to consider the cost of classes, association dues, drill point books, data CDs, videos and works such as the prized, hand-drawn illustrations made by Ed Willis to confirm that these things have enormous value to those of us who earn our living opening and servicing safes and vaults. Have we fostered a black market, that will eventually hurt our own bottom lines and futures?

I often wonder what goes through the mind of a technician or locksmith who would never think about stealing from a client, but who dutifully downloads and collects the photos and information shared by others on online forums, decides to burn a CD or DVD of it, then distributes it to friends and students or sells it. Maybe he doesn't think he will be caught. Maybe he doesn't care because making a few bucks or promoting himself by using the work of others is more important than personal loyalty, integrity, self esteem or his own good reputation.

As these kinds of abuses are becoming more common, i.e. no longer limited to those unethical purveyors, many of my friends and colleagues have decided not to post photos and details about openings in online technical forums in response to help requests. In fact, many have stopped replying to posts entirely, not only because of data theft, but because they are finding it much harder to make a living as more new techs enter their markets who, instead of creating their own database or legitimately purchasing the creative or technical work of others, have been equipped with tools, photos, data, drill point books and charts that have been supplied by the purveyors of the purloined. This pervasive "entitlement mentality", in addition to cheapening our industry, may have finally killed the goose. In my opinion, that naive goose should have gone belly-up, years ago!

© 2011 by Ken Doyle - The Safecracker
ADVANCED Safe & Vault
San Francisco Bay Area
Telephone: 1 (415) 519-3401

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