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Satellite Surveillance Bonanza

Washington, DC Nov. 17th, 2007 ---- The quantity and quality of satellite surveillance photographs available today would amaze, and horrify the intelligence officers of just a few years ago. For not only are they better than the photographs of earlier years, but they are available to anybody, anywhere. The ability to view a parking lot, count the cars and with some satellite services on the open market determine the makes and types. Fortunately the ability to read the number place is not available on Google.

This bonanza of easily available images is a double edged sword which can benefit criminal and terrorist organizations more than it can benefit the general public seeking to look at The White House from Space. For commercial organizations the satellite images are an invaluable source of corporate intelligence, and I have to say we use them daily. For farmers and urban planners they show more details and trends than have ever been available from terrestrial measurements.

But there needs to be an understanding that if you have something that needs to be shielded from competitors, or kept away from being revealed to criminal groups, then consider the Eye in the Sky. Today that eye can be a satellite, or a high flying Reconnaissance Drone.

Reconnaissance Drones are no longer the sole domain of the military intelligence community, for police departments now are evaluating them, and corporations are secretly using them too. It does not take much technology to develop a simple drone, with photo reconnaissance capability, even signal intercept capabilities for eavesdropping on WiFi and internal communications. Add the capability of updating satellite photographs with drones, even photographs from light aircraft, and many industries should have cause for concern. You can learn a lot about a manufacturing plant by counting the barrels, tankers and delivery trucks outside the plant. In winter the snow melting on roofs, the snow cleared from roads and parking lots, and many other indicators provide invaluable intelligence pointers. Similarly not clearing snow, or never seeing tracks or changes point to abandoned or unused facilities. They also can show where the security staff patrol!

Beware of showing weak spots in your security, for if the property is under surveillance from afar, you may not know of the threat until it is too late. The bonanza of readily available sophisticated satellite images is a good thing, and a bad thing at the same time.

 

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