Let’s return to the future in Minority Report as a way to understand some implications of NYPD's Domain Awareness System (DAS).
You may remember that in Minority Report Tom Cruise’s character heads a “PreCrime” pilot program that is about to be expanded nationally. The PreCrime system so accurately predicts crimes before they are comitted that the future perpetrators are apprehended and prosecuted based on the system’s evidence. The story’s denouement involves a senior manager hacking the PreCrime system to frame Cruise’s character for a murder the manager intends to commit.
The movie highlights the risk of a powerful tool being used as a weapon; and suggests the risk is highest with those who best understand and control the most powerful and complex of tools. In the case of NYPD’s DAS, those who enforce the law in the biggest city in the United States can now in real-time, for example, “search for suspects using advanced technologies such as [over 3000 street level] smart cameras and license plate readers” and track unfolding events in overlay on detailed city maps.
I’ll talk about the “counterterrorism” emphasis of the DAS program in the next article. Here I want to point out that our safeguards against hackers within IT systems can also protect against rogue activity from occurring within the system. For example, if you have a good config change approval system, you can lock-down or significantly limit direct access to your most critical switches and routers. This reduces the potential for both accidental and deliberate damage.