Feeds

'Please read this important email: you are being shot'

Are you Twittering this?

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Analysis These days, no major tragedy is complete without ambulance-chasing technology boosters muscling in on the aftermath. The Asian tsunami and the London 7/7 attacks both provided a tasteless excuse for evangelists to hype their favourite cause: instant real-time communications in general, and blogging in particular.

But with the Virginia Tech massacre, the reliance on technology itself is in the spotlight.

Campus administrators took two hours to warn students there was a threat to their lives.

Police were alerted that a gunman was on the loose at 7:15am. The second shooting spree began at 9:45am.

All students and staff received this warning by email (yes, email): "A gunman is loose on campus. Stay in buildings until further notice. Stay away from all windows."

You may infer that students, by then, will already have heard the shots. The shooting rampage lasted 29 minutes. Two minutes after it finished, a helpful email (yes, another email) was dispatched telling students classes had been cancelled, and to draw the curtains and stay indoors.

As the security inquests begin, that detail speaks volumes about America's web obsession - that PC technology is again being touted as the answer. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer describes other colleges' emergency systems, and lauds "a web-based 'flash alert' system".

American students now communicate predominantly through text messages, but this fact seems to escape both college administrators and reporters covering the emergency response systems.

But mobile phones are capable of receiving emergency messages if they're within a specific geographical area - irrespective of the type of phone, and without the administrators needing to keep track of everyone's phone number. It's called "cell broadcast" and it's a 3GPP/3GPP2 and IS95CDMA specification. So it works on four of the five major US networks: Cingular, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint.

Loudspeakers should suffice for students who have their cellphone set to silent, or who don't have a cellphone at all.

Expect lots of cranky technology "solutions" in the next few days. Most will involve high expenditure programs on unnecessary equipment. Many more will advocate the latest web-based gimmicks, such as Twitter.

But if the Virginia shooting teaches us anything about technology, it's that by putting technology first, we usually choose the wrong tool for the job. So much for "social networks". ®

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Bladerunner sequel might actually be good. Harrison Ford is in it
Go ahead, you're all clear, kid... Sorry, wrong film
Euro Parliament VOTES to BREAK UP GOOGLE. Er, OK then
It CANNA do it, captain.They DON'T have the POWER!
Musicians sue UK.gov over 'zero pay' copyright fix
Everyone else in Europe compensates us - why can't you?
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Megaupload overlord Kim Dotcom: The US HAS RADICALISED ME!
Now my lawyers have bailed 'cos I'm 'OFFICIALLY' BROKE
Forget Hillary, HP's ex CARLY FIORINA 'wants to be next US Prez'
Former CEO has political ambitions again, according to Washington DC sources
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing and building an open ITOA architecture
Learn about a new IT data taxonomy defined by the four data sources of IT visibility: wire, machine, agent, and synthetic data sets.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
5 critical considerations for enterprise cloud backup
Key considerations when evaluating cloud backup solutions to ensure adequate protection security and availability of enterprise data.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.