Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


Evaluating Security

The study, published in the January issue of the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, concluded that the estimated $7.55 million spent on [SARS] screening at several Canadian airports failed to detect one case of the disease.

“Sometimes what seems like a reasonable thing to do doesn’t turn out that way,” the report’s lead author, Dr. Ronald St. John, told the Canadian Press.

Reports the CBC. (Kudos to the CDC for making its articles available as free web pages.) And wouldn’t it be nice if all security measures got this sort of treatment?

2 comments on "Evaluating Security"

  • Pete says:

    So what is your assessment of this preventive measure? It was fairly well-reported that there wasn’t really a problem in Toronto to begin with, so perhaps this is the cost of comfort to reduce travelers’ perception of risk.
    What if the possible (not probable) loss was calculated at $7 billion worth of more screening (i.e. now you have to screen another subset of the population), more SARS cases, and deaths? What if it was $700 billion?
    Don’t you get a bit tired of the whole “perfect hindsight” regret mode the world is in? Remember, at the time these decisions are made nobody knows where the SARS cases are. As an infection vector, airplanes certainly seem like a reasonable place to look, given recent history (at the time), the higher risk of spreading worldwide, and the simple fact that this was a “controllable” subset of people – a choke point.

  • adam says:

    I think it was a great preventive measure to put in place, given the unknown and potentially enormous risk that SARS represented. I think it’s great that someone chose to evaluate how effective it was. It’s possible that with better visibility and management, as the crisis was happening, it would have been possible to do the assessment.
    Incidentally, Toronto was one of the largest outbreaks outside China–there’s a vibrant Chinese immmigrant community in Toronto, and there were 30 or more cases of probable-SARS, and quite a few of those died.

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