Location-based securityUsing location-based services to protect infrastructure

Published 4 March 2011

Location-based services (LBS) have enabled marketing firms to alert mobile phone users of nearest coffee shops and eateries as well as help phone owners find their geographical location on hand-held mapping devices; now, location based service enabled phones can help protect critical infrastructure facilities by alerting authorities about threats and giving them time to apprehend intruders

For some time, location-based services (LBS) have enabled marketing firms to alert mobile phone users of nearest coffee shops and eateries as well as help phone owners find their geographical location on hand-held mapping devices.

A new take on LBS could help governments protect critical infrastructure against criminal or terrorist threats by identifying intruders as soon as they cross into high-security areas, says an intelligence solutions firm.

Brian Varano, director of marketing for True Position, was in the UAE last week to present new LBS security solutions at defense and intelligence conferences in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Varano said a growing clientele list in the region for True Position is asking for more sophisticated and immediate technologies that can reduce the threat levels to sensitive sites and high-level buildings across the Middle East.

Developed over the last eighteen months, the firm’s new True Position Location Intelligence offers geo-fencing by setting up an invisible electric barrier to protect a land mass area around facilities such as power plants, government structures, or water-treatment plants.

Mobile phones that are not pre-authorized by True Position are automatically detected inside the geo-fencing area, giving authorities time to apprehend intruders, Varano said.

It’s the ability to create a barrier of radio frequency around a protected area,” he said. “We can create any size or shape of geo fencing.”

Varano said that True Position installs “special measurement units in cell towers” to provide very specific monitoring abilities by officials overseeing the software.

Online tracking

Any phone that is not authorized in the area, you would get an instant alert and do immediate online tracking,” Varano told Gulf News.


Asked whether terrorists or criminals carry mobile devices into highly secure areas, Varano said mobile phones are often used as essential tools to calculate and coordinate attacks. “The mobile phone is at the core of almost all acts of criminal or terror,” he said. “Phones are used to execute criminal activity. This is a great way to turn the tables.”

Gulf News reports that implementing an invisible trip wire that is triggered in real time not only protects the integrity of critical structures, it can go a long way to ensure the safety of workers and communities in the vicinity.

Electronic data can also serve as “timely forensic location intelligence” to piece together acts of aggression by unknown parties.

One example is that in the case of an improvised electronic device being used in a terrorist incident, the electronic data — the mobile number of the device — could be mined to source the aggressor.

Events and activities of the device owner may also be tracked in the lead-up time before any incident or attack.

Looking back in time at all mobile locations and call activity, True Position LOCINT can recreate events and identify both suspects and their associates,” the company said on its website.

The ability of LBS to track mobile phone users is an upside for software solutions companies looking to help secure areas from harm.

The same technology is causing concerns about privacy among general society, according to a study released by Microsoft in January.

Privacy matter

Brendon Lynch, chief privacy officer for Microsoft, said a survey of 1,500 people around the globe by the computer giant discovered that respondents were worried about how location-based data can be gathered and reviewed.


Lynch said that 84 percent of respondents said they were worried that LBS data from their phones was being used without their consent and that 83 percent said they were concerned about privacy matters.

While location based services aren’t particularly dangerous on their own, consumers need to think about the layers of information they leave online,” Lynch said in a statement. “As people use more online services, it becomes easier for others to connect the dots concerning their activities.”

Microsoft’s tips to limit online dissemination of LBS data

  • Pay close attention to the location privacy settings on phones, social networking sites and online applications.
  • Do not “check in” on location-based social networking sites from home, and don’t include GPS coordinates in tweets, blogs or social networking accounts.
  • Limit who you add to your social network location services, and do not make your location data publicly available or searchable.
  • Do not geo-tag photos of your house or your children. In fact, it’s best to disable geo-tagging until you specifically need it.
  • Only trusted friends should know your location. If you have contacts you do not fully know or trust, it is time to do a purge.