The border with Mexico is an obvious starting point for the security community. Many had assumed that 'wall' would mean a high-tech fence or possibly just a virtual barrier of perimeter intrusion detection systems (PIDS), video surveillance with analytics and thermal imaging. However, during a press conference shortly before inauguration, Mr Trump put journalists straight. Unless there is a mountain or river already doing the work along the 2,000 miles to be protected, this really will be a wall and it will be made of concrete; a substance that the president has used to some effect in his previous career.
Initially, the money will be federal funds to ensure a prompt start, but Mexico should expect to reimburse its neighbours. Mr Trump's estimate is $12bn but consultants with relevant civil experience are putting the likely figure at $30bn.
CCTV and access control expenditure
Will there be a mass purchase of CCTV cameras to augment the new wall? Probably – but don't expect Vice President Pence, currently tasked with kick-starting the project, to spend central government money on Chinese brands which the administration regards as part of an irresponsible economic menace. He will be happy to pay a premium to source products originating from the US and will soon discover just how many surveillance cameras really are designed and assembled in Silicon Valley. Of course, US manufacturers may not be able to supply cameras of all the types required but there are alternatives to China. I for one believe that Mr Trump knew exactly what he was doing when he departed from protocol and accepted a congratulatory call from Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen.
If you take the president at his word, then there will be another project with massive security content. Mr Trump has made the extraordinary pledge to relocate the US Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. With the status of Jerusalem being a core element of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, even the most upbeat observers see this proposal as likely to set off a new Intifada. The expenditure on perimeter and blast protection, CCTV and access control would run to many millions of dollars and like the new US embassy in London, would involve primarily US contractors and brands.
As I write, the UK prime minister has just declared that Brexit will be 'hard' with no membership of the free market. Hastily arranged US-UK trade agreements may result. Marine Le Pen of the French National Front is declaring herself emboldened by Mr Trump's victory. She was seen in Trump Tower a week before the inauguration but would not comment on whether the visit was business or personal. An anti-immigration Euro sceptic, she is likely to make the second round of the French elections in May. The broader point is that protectionism is now rife, the European Union may dismantle and Trump is openly rooting for its collapse. Even more worryingly, the incoming president has said that he regards NATO as antiquated with many member nations not pulling their weight.
|Mr Trump declared that he would recruit some of the "greatest computer minds anywhere in the world" to tackle cyber security|
Cyber Security adviser Rudy Giulani
Initially I had hoped to limit this article to physical security, but in the era of the Internet of Things (IoT), it is no longer possible for anybody discussing major issues to polarise themselves as being focused on either physical or cyber security. However, this is where the Trump administration enters high comedy. Incoming White House adviser on Cyber Security is Rudy Giuliani, a former Mayor of New York, who had previously intimated that he wanted to be Secretary of State or nothing. His recent role has been with the firm Giuliani Security & Safety which describes itself as “a full-service security, investigative and crisis management consulting firm.” If anybody can tell me exactly what the company does then please use the comment box below.
In the era of the Internet of Things, no one discussing major issues can polarise themselves as being focused on either physical or cyber security
We're back to the previously mentioned press conference during which Mr Trump declared that he would be recruiting "some of the greatest computer minds anywhere in the world" to tackle cyber security problems head-on. Giuliani's company website has mysteriously gone offline after pundits noted that it was riddled with irreparable security flaws, mainly stemming from expired Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption. Layout smacked of the turn of the last century, the platform was a three-year-old version of Joomla and SEO was non-existent since the site was relying on Adobe Flash which is now all but ignored by browsers. When I think of Giuliani, I remember him primarily as having showed exceptional physical courage on 9/11 as he strode through the streets of his burning city in the knowledge that further attacks were probable. However, as a cyber chief he is risible.
Cyber security treaty
Is there anything positive to be said? Can we be at all hopeful for the Trump presidency? John McAfee (yes - that's the founder of the software company that protects many of our computers) has been more than usually candid when saying that the US is simply no good at cyber security but what the country may excel at is full-on cyber war.
There is now a consensus that US and Israeli intelligence agencies used the Stuxnet worm (a self-replicating malware programme) to compromise 14 industrial sites across Iran in 2010 alone. The targets included a uranium enrichment plant. Note the crucial escalation here: Stuxnet does not merely hijack computers or steal information; it sabotages the core mechanical components of infrastructure such as the turbine in a power station or the gates of a dam.
If nations are now capable of blowing up each other's critical national infrastructure (CNI) by malware intervention alone, maybe there is an open goal that would allow Mr Trump to be remembered; not just for a vicious election campaign and an unqualified cabinet stuffed with billionaires, but for a significant legacy? The international community has signed agreements on chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. Could the forty-fifth president steer us to a cyber security treaty?