Mobile social networking: the new face of personal anti-terrorism

How the mobile Web can help you survive a terrorist attack I found an ad for a Windows Mobile application, the Terrorism Survival Bundle, that addresses the tough problem of surviving a terrorist attack. Most of us, unless we’re Delta Force veterans, have no clue about what to do even though helpful agencies like the Department of Homeland Security and all kinds of non-profit groups have put together lots and lots of information about this. “However, most people have never seen the government and non-profit organization publications giving this necessary information,” laments the ad. “Having to find relevant information in paper handbooks during a crisis is difficult and time-consuming.” Boy, I’ll say. Imagine you’re in a vacation hotel overseas somewhere when the killers attack, trying to surf the DHS Website as they kick down your door, assuming the hotel even had wireless Internet access. But not to worry: “The Terrorism Survival Bundle puts this information at your fingertips, in an easy-to-read, easy to search format.” But most of the information seems to be just that: information, a library of static documents, which while more up-to-date and diverse is, in essence, not too different from the DHS’ own “basic emergency supply kit." The BESK is loaded with helpful suggestions like “Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both” and “Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food).” Yet all this doesn’t get at the real issue: someone is [a) shooting b) bombing, c) spraying an aerosol, d) cranking up their iPod really really loud] at you, what do you do? We tracked down a real security expert, U.S. Army Colonel [Ret.] J. W. “Howlin’ Mad” Cox, a pathbreaker in the emerging field of personal anti-terrorism, who talked by cell phone from an undisclosed location. NW: So what do you make of these suggestions like the DHS emergency supply kit? Cox: They’re crap. They haven’t caught up to the tactical advantages of wireless broadband, the mobile Web and social networking. What are you going to do with the “can opener” when a gunman breaks your door in? Throw it him? LOL NW: What would you do? Cox: I’d drop him with a double-tap from my Glock 26 sub-compact 9mm with a 3.46-inch barrel length, pulled from my carbon-fiber composite holster with a tension-adjustable passive retention system. I don’t leave home without it. But of course I’m a trained soldier. NW: I guess the question is: what should I do? Cox: First, hardware. Right now, the problem is sissy phones. We need gear that’s built to deal with killers, not sushi bistros. But expect more milspec cell phones soon for consumers. NW: I guess the Luis Vuitton camo iPhone case is a long way from NIJ Level 3 ballistic ceramic body armor. Cox: Steve Jobs doesn’t get it. I’m talking to certain handgun manufacturers. NW: You mean like…a Colt-branded cell phone? Cox: Armored, replaceable battery, and replaceable mini-clip of 4 bullets. Fab. That was off the record. NW: So, what should I look for in a phone for personal anti-terrorism today? Cox: For now, you need a quad-band smartphone, if you travel overseas. For the U.S., I prefer the iPhone 3G, though reception can be problematic in some areas with AT&T. Plus, the Wi-Fi adapter gives you a fall-back comms system. But most of all, the Safari browser is so intuitive to use. In an emergency, that’s critical. You also need a camera, though the iPhone sucks with nothing better than 2 megapixels and no video recording. NW: Do they offer security applications on the App Stor? Cox: [heavy sigh] Not the kind we need. I’ve been trying for months get them to add a personal anti-terrorism subsection to “Lifestyle.” You tell me what’s cooler: “iStylist Makeover” or “Boomerang for iPhone” anti-sniper software? NW: What about Bluetooth? Cox: Affirmative. Bluetooth can link your phone and applications with peripherals such as chem/bio agent sensors, Geiger counters, eaves-dropping antennas, or the handheld Camero Xavier 400 through-the-wall imaging system. NW: What else? Cox: You need the right ammunition, metaphorically. Applications that will give you an edge over the terrorists. Basic: VoIP client, mobile VPN or other encryption, IM, Internet mail account, fast-release holster. We need to get to presence-based, event-driven buddy lists for emergencies. Google Earth and Google Maps for location-based services. NW: What about GPS? Cox: Assisted GPS is critical for real-time, turn-by-turn directions whether on an exploding street or inside a burning building: as a civilian, you can’t afford to stick your head up in a gunfight. NW: But I need to know where to go, right? Cox: One word: Twitter. NW: Are you serious? Cox: Totally. Twitter is global and gr8. Think about it: instant, on-the-spot, actionable intel. One one-word tweet, “terrorists,” will initiate the survival instinct of the online community. I call it the Virtual Tactical Team. The VTT is open-source instantity: constantly self-sifting and self-correcting. A Web of transparent, ultimately infallible hive intelligence. It’s the network effect, dude. You have to let go of your old categories. NW: Are they serious? Cox: CounterTwitters. Very serious NW: What else? Cox: Protect your identity. At all costs. Terrorists, too, can use social networks to quickly compare the database of hotel guests with online identity sources. Create a false public Facebook page that lies about who you are. Pretend to be mob hit man, a Delta Force commando, Osama Bin Laden’s other driver, or a vacationing French bureaucrat. NW: You mentioned a cell phone camera…. Cox: And a Flickr account, critical for sitrep imagery. Practice emergency snaptweeting. You can upload photos and see what others have posted. Identify terrorists before they ID you, plan your egress, and avoid congestion points, not to mention assault rifles. Eventually, expect a real-time tactical video equivalent. Kewl. NW: What’s in the future? Cox: Real-time counter-strike capability: backtracking GPS coordinates to mobile phones used by the terrorists, interfacing with police and military tactical networks, feeding coordinates and tactical imagery to counter-fire teams and air assets, optional laser-targeting peripherals. Think of the upsell opportunities for something like Sprint’s in-store “ReadyNow” cell phone program. NW: All this time, I thought mobile social networks were a kind of cyber exhibitionism. Cox: They’re the new face of personal anti-terrorism. NW: Are you sure I won’t need that can opener? Cox: BFN

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