Euro 2016 football tournament is taking place at 10 stadiums across France
No matter how strong the security planning, it will take only one small failure to
create an opportunity for unimaginable events
(Photo credit: Marco Iacobucci EPP / Shutterstock.com)

Successful security at UEFA Euro 2016 may well depend on the ability of the French to bring cohesiveness to disparate technologies. Given the scale of the threats, a variety of security solutions are being used visibly and behind the scenes – in addition to the presence of 90,000 police, gendarmerie and uniformed soldiers.

I can’t remember an event where there has been a greater need for multi-agency working than the Euro 2016 football tournament now taking place at 10 stadiums across France, a country still recovering from the Paris attacks in November, torn apart by ethnic tensions, and in the grip of labour strikes. The security backdrop to the tournament is already dampening what should be a joyous festival for 2.5 million spectators watching the 51 matches over four weeks. Despite the comprehensive resources available to France and her neighbours, I see little cause for optimism.

Security communications

Starting at a macro level, there will be an enormous signals intelligence (SIGINT) operation in an attempt to intercept and analyse information from suspected terrorist cells, potential “lone wolf” jihadists and anybody whose communications arouse suspicion. The French government has been fighting a protracted battle to have voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) communication services (notably Skype, which is a known favourite of terrorists) registered as telecoms operators and thus subject to stricter regulation. 

The French government has been
fighting a protracted battle to have
VoIP communication services
registered as telecoms operators
and thus subject to stricter regulation

Internet communication may yet solve rather than cause problems during the tournament with the release of a mass notification phone App. In the event of an attack, the App will alert users on a geo-location basis and in a discrete manner should they be near an incident. Users will also be able to pre-program up to eight geographical zones that they might be visiting in order to receive context-specific information and advice on how to minimise risk.

Hooligans distract police attention from terrorism

During the first weekend, the tournament was already marred by fighting between Russian and English fans (with involvement from locals) in the port of Marseille, where tear gas and water cannon have been deployed. An England supporter is critical after suffering a heart attack while being beaten senseless. UK politicians have been quick to denounce these incidents but also to make the broader point that hooliganism distracts French police from vigilance against terrorism.

The England vs Russia game in Marseille has thrown up concerns at many levels. Toward the end of the match, Russian fans donned gum shields and martial arts gloves, turned their t-shirts into masks and charged English fans including family groups who were forced to jump over perimeter barriers with 10-foot drops in order to escape. Neutral observers complained about a lack of police presence and ineffective stewarding.

Inappropriate security scanning

As if this wasn’t bad enough, Russia’s equalising goal in the final minutes saw one of their supporters using a flare gun. Yes, a flare gun, which is larger than a handgun. This was accompanied by smoke bombs. A photo is doing the media rounds of a Russian holding two flares, each the size of a Coke bottle. One doesn’t have to speculate long on what might have happened if these containers were filled with plastic explosives.

Russia’s equalising goal in the final minutes saw one of their supporters using a flare gun
During the first weekend, the tournament was already marred by fighting between Russian and English fans
(Photo credit: Marco Iacobucci EPP / Shutterstock.com)

Am I alone in thinking that terrorists, seeing how lax security must be at the Stade Vélodrome, may be tempted to smuggle in more sophisticated explosives? The presence of the fireworks is doubly embarrassing since security at the Stade de France failed miserably in May during a domestic cup final when dozens of firecrackers were brought into the ground despite what was claimed to be vigilant searching of fans.

Debate over fan zone

The French are flexing their technological muscle and have made much of the fact that there is anti-drone technology at the 90,000-capacity fan zone beneath the Eiffel Tower. This is to guard against a possible terrorist “spectacular” such as a chemical or biological attack of the kind hinted at in data found on a laptop used by Paris attacker Salah Abdeslam. The future of the fan zone is uncertain. Former president Nicolas Sarkozy sees it as a sitting duck for a terrorist attack and has asked for it to be scrapped while police chief Michel Cadot wants it to operate only during games played outside the two Parisian stadiums.

Am I alone in thinking that
terrorists, seeing how lax
security must be at the Stade
Vélodrome, may be tempted to
smuggle in more sophisticated
explosives?

Generally, the French government prefers a concentration of fans rather than dispersed groups. Of course, commerce should not be a factor, but there will inevitably be behind-the-scenes pressure from advertisers to retain fan zones since their merchandising potential is enormous. If they go ahead, the zones will feature CCTV surveillance, bag searches and even body-frisking should police suspicions be aroused.

Conducting mock disaster drill to improve emergency response

I recently reported on a disaster scenario exercise in London, and the French are conducting exhaustive equivalents in order to test response techniques should there be an attack at a stadium or fan zone. One such operation saw volunteers pretend to be fans at a mocked-up Northern Ireland vs Ukraine game in Lyon where actors, pretending to be jihadists, conducted a suicide bombing. Other drills have simulated chemical attacks, and in Nîmes over 1,000 cadet police officers acted out the role of spectators at a fan zone while colleagues in protective clothing went through decontamination routines.

Violence likely to overshadow Russia vs. Ukraine match

In terms of fan behaviour, what are the upcoming games with the most potential for violence? Turkey vs Croatia has passed off peaceably despite grave concerns. One nightmare scenario that UEFA must be dreading is if Russia were to come top of their group and Ukraine qualify as a third-placed team. Then the tournament has the prospect of the two sides meeting in Paris. Anybody who thinks this would be a sporting contest is misguided. The game would be a hate-filled microcosm of the recent Russian annexation of Crimea and the war in east Ukraine.

No matter how much planning and technology the French authorities have at their disposal, it will take only one small failure to create an opportunity for unimaginable events. All we can hope is that sport will soon disappear from the front pages of our newspapers and be relegated to the back with the tournament remembered for sporting achievement rather than security lapses.

Read more about security at UEFA Euro 2016 here

 

Download PDF version

Author profile

Jeremy Malies European Correspondent, SourceSecurity.com

Jeremy Malies is a veteran marketeer and writer specialising in the physical security sector which he has covered for 20 years. He has specific interests in video analytics, video management, perimeter intrusion and access control.

In case you missed it

What characteristics do salespeople require in the physical security industry?
What characteristics do salespeople require in the physical security industry?

A basic tenet of sales is ABC – always be closing. But it's a principle that most professional salespeople would say oversimplifies the process. Especially in a sophisticated, high-tech market such as physical security, the required sales skills are much more involved and nuanced. We asked this week's Expert Panel Roundtable: What unique characteristics are required of salespeople in the arena of physical security systems?

Can microchip implants replace plastic cards in modern access control?
Can microchip implants replace plastic cards in modern access control?

A futuristic alternative to plastic cards for access control and other applications is being considered by some corporate users in Sweden and the United Kingdom. The idea involves using a microchip device implanted into a user’s hand. About the size of a grain of rice and provided by Swedish company Biohax, the tiny device employs passive near field communication (NFC) to interface with a user’s digital environment. Access control is just one application for the device, which can be deployed in lieu of a smart card in numerous uses. Biohax says more than 4,000 individuals have implanted the device. Using the device for corporate employees Every user is given plenty of information to make an informed decision whether they want to use the deviceCurrently Biohax is having dialogue with curious corporate customers about using the device for their employees. “It’s a dialogue, not Big Brother planning to chip every employee they have,” says Jowan Österlund, CEO at Biohax. Every user is given plenty of information to make an informed decision whether they want to use the device. Data capture form to appear here! “Proof of concept” demonstrations have been conducted at several companies, including Tui, a travel company in Sweden that uses the device for access management, ID management, printing, gym access and self-checkout in the cafeteria. Biohax is also having dialogue with some big companies in the United Kingdom, including legal and financial firms. Österlund aims to have a full working system in place in the next year or so. A Swedish rail company accepts the implanted chip in lieu of a paper train ticket. They accept existing implants but are not offering to implant the chips. Österlund says his company currently has no plans to enter the U.S. market. The device is large enough to locate easily and extract if needed, and small enough to be unobtrusive Access control credential The device is inserted/injected below the skin between the index finger and the thumb. The circuitry has a 10-year lifespan. The device is large enough to locate easily and extract if needed, and small enough to be unobtrusive. The only risk is the possibility of infection, which is true anytime the skin is pierced, and the risk is mitigated by employing health professionals to inject the chip. Use of the device as an access control credential or any other function is offered as a voluntary option; any requirement by an employer to inject the device would be illegal, says Österlund. It’s a convenient choice that is made “based on a well-informed decision by the customer.” Aversion to needles, for example, would make some users squeamish to implant the device. More education of users helps to allay any concerns: Some 10% of employees typically would agree quickly to the system, but a larger group of 50% to 60% are likely to agree over time as they get more comfortable with the idea and understand the convenience, says Österlund. Protection of information The passive device does not actively send out any signals as you walk. It is only powered up by a reader if a user has access rightsIn terms of privacy concerns, information contained on the device is in physical form and is protected. The passive device does not actively send out any signals as you walk. There is no battery. It is only powered up by a reader if a user has access rights. With use of the device being discussed in the United Kingdom, there has been some backlash. For example, Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), has said: “Microchipping would give bosses even more power and control over their workers.” A big misconception is that the chip is a tracking device, says Österlund. It isn’t. “We love people to get informed,” says Österlund. “If they’re scared or apprehensive, they can just read up. It’s not used to control you – it’s used to give you control.”

Ethical consumption: should you buy security products ‘Made in China’?
Ethical consumption: should you buy security products ‘Made in China’?

Should ‘Made in China’ be seen as a negative in security systems and products? It’s an important and complex issue that merits a more detailed response than my recent comment in the Expert Panel Roundtable. For me, there are two sides of the answer to this question: Buying products that have certain negative attributes that are not in alignment with some part of a belief system or company mandate. Buying products that do not perform as advertised or do something that is unacceptable. For integrators and end users making the buying decisions, the drive to purchase products may not be based on either aspect and instead on the product that can do the best job for their business. But for others, a greater emphasis on the ethical implications of purchasing decisions drives decision-making. What is ethical consumption? Ethical consumption is a type of consumer activism that is based on the concept of ‘positive buying’ in that ethical products are favouredEthical consumption — often called ethical consumerism — is a type of consumer activism that is based on the concept of ‘positive buying’ in that ethical products are favoured, and products that are ethically questionable may be met with a ‘moral boycott’. This can be as simple as only buying organic produce or as complex as boycotting products made in a totalitarian regime that doesn't offer its citizens the same freedoms that we enjoy in the United States. Consider the goals of the Boston Tea Party or the National Consumers League (NCL), which was formed to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. Some examples of considerations behind ethical consumption include fair trade, treatment of workers, genetic modification, locally made and processed goods, union-made products and services, humane animal treatment, and in general, labour issues and manufacturing practices that take these factors into account. Increase in ethical consumption The numbers show that ethical consumption is on the rise. In a 2017 study by Unilever, 33 percent of consumers reported choosing to buy and support brands that they believe are doing social or environmental good. In the same study, 53 percent of shoppers in the United Kingdom and 78 percent in the United States said they feel better when they buy products that are ‘sustainably’ produced. There’s clear evidence that products from some Chinese companies suffer from cybersecurity vulnerabilities Though the aforementioned question that sparked this conversation centres around concerns with products made in China, there are many other countries where, for example, governments/dictators are extremely repressive to all or parts of their populations, whose products, such as oil, diamonds, minerals, etc., we happily consume. There are also a number of countries that are a threat in terms of cybersecurity. It may be naive and simplistic to single out Chinese manufacturers. Impact on physical security products Product buying decisions based on factors other than product functionality, quality and price are also starting to permeate the security marketplace. While this hasn't been a large focus area from the business-to-business consumption side, it's something that should be considered for commercial security products for a variety of reasons. Hardware hacks are more difficult to pull off and potentially more devastating" There’s clear evidence that products from some Chinese companies suffer from cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Last fall, 30 U.S. companies, including Apple and Amazon, were potentially compromised when it was discovered that a tiny microchip in the motherboard of servers built in China that weren't a part of the original specification. According to a Bloomberg report, “This attack was something graver than the software-based incidents the world has grown accustomed to seeing. Hardware hacks are more difficult to pull off and potentially more devastating, promising the kind of long-term, stealth access that spy agencies are willing to invest millions of dollars and many years to get.” This, along with many other incidents, are changing the considerations behind purchasing decisions even in the physical security industry. Given that physical security products in general have been lax on cybersecurity, this is a welcome change. Combating tech-specific threats In early January, members of the U.S. Senate introduced bipartisan legislation to help combat tech-specific threats to national security posed by foreign actors and ensure U.S. technological supremacy by improving interagency coordination across the U.S. government. The bill creates the Office of Critical Technologies & Security at the White House, an indication that this issue is of critical importance to a number of players across the tech sector. Members of the U.S. Senate introduced bipartisan legislation to help combat tech-specific threats to national security posed by foreign actors To address a significant number of concerns around ethical production, there are certifications such as ISO 26000 which provides guidance on social responsibility by addressing accountability, transparency, ethical behaviour, respect for stakeholder interests, respect for rule of law, respect for international norms of behaviour and respect for human rights. While still emerging within physical security, companies that adhere to these and other standards do exist in the marketplace. Not buying products vulnerable to cyberattacks It may be counter-productive, even irresponsible, to brand all products from an entire country as unfit for purchasing. Some manufacturers’ products may be ethically questionable, or more vulnerable to cyberattacks than others; so not buying products made by those companies would make sense. The physical security industry might be playing a bit of catch up on this front, but I think we're beginning to see a shift toward this kind of responsible buying behaviour.