Security control nightmares

A side effect of being a roadwarrior is dealing with a number of security checks on a daily basis. I’m getting used to airport security, which typically require waving my ID at least three different times to three different people per trip (I already had to tape it together a couple of times). I even learnt to live with the most obnoxious TSA controls in the USA (what? taking my shoes off?), no matter how getting fingerprinted and photographed every time doesn’t make me feel that welcome after all.

While airport security is clearly understandable, what’s bugging me lately is corporate controls: customer visits typically start with the reception desk nightmare which requires thorough understanding of a number of obscure security procedures that will make you feel like being on candid camera or acting in a Monty Pithon sketch (apart from the vikings choir, sometimes). The typical setup goes more or less like this:

  • you can be greeted either by a nice and professional looking receptionist. The nicest and professional she is, the highest the possibility she has no clue on what you should do to be let in;
  • as an alternative a grunting security guard with a clear steroid addition problem will welcome with a “myheah?” as his most sincere form of flattery. The bigger the muscles the highest the possibility he has no clue on why he should actually let you in since you clearly look as a terrorist being hired by the competition to steal corporate secrets, ashtrays and paper towels from the toilets;
  • next step is introducing yourself, shouting your name, affiliation and host through a shielded bulletproof display with enough acoustic isolation to let anyone behind it sleep in peace during a carpet bombing attack. The various misunderstandings can get really funny after a while, but usually you end up hoping for the best, figuring that Mr. Jones who’s picking up the receptionist call will eventually be able to understand that Mr. Rakeltrino is actually the Rabellino guy Ms. James he’s waiting for;
  • once the reception staff understands that the only one alternative to you camping on the premises is actually letting you in, you’re asked to show your ID, fill a form, authorize the outsourcing security staff to sell your name to a list of known spammers and wait for poor Ms. James to show up, tell the receptionist that yes, she’s actually the one waiting for you and that, yes, you is really you and she’s supposed to meet you, as per the three different emails and five forms she had to fill to put you on the list.
  • Eventually you’re allowed to enter the building, while the security guard looks strangely at you muttering something like “you won this time, but I’m looking after you”. Once you do this every day for a couple of years, sneaking in an exclusive Hollywood wedding will be a piece of cake.

Now, while the above list can be somewhat exaggerated and humorous, the following one is for real. One the places I visit most is home of one of the most famous BigCos in the IT field (sorry, I won’t name the sinner): these guys did invent possibly the most used technologies in the enterprise field, and have some serious products when it comest to digital identity, from directories to RFID solutions. Every employee of the company has a smart-card based badge which allows them to enter their sites anywhere in the world, head to the first thin client available, insert their ID and have their personalized desktop display popping up automagically in no time flat.

Visitors, however, are a totally different story: every time I get there, and I do get there pretty often, sometimes as much as two-three times a week, I’m requested to fill in a paper form which clearly comes from scissor-cut photocopied paper. I’m required to write down who I am, what’s my affiliation, who’s my host and what is my ID number, expiry date and issuer. Plus, I’m required to agree on specific T&C about my personal data being treated (uh? shredded, I assume, there’s no much you can do with that lousy piece of paper) and sign. The whole process takes at least five minutes and gets bothersome in no time flat, expecially when you have to do it day-in day-out, and sometimes twice (well, it’s not security’s fault if you went for a sandwich for lunch).

I asked a couple of times if it would have been possible to have one of those pieces of paper so that I could prepare a set of photocopies which I would sign in original every time. No luck: they’re not authorized to have those forms leave the building. I then questioned a few guys I know who are full time consultants over there, and they confirmed that the same procedure applies to them as well, no matter the fact they have outlived by far the typical security staff turnover: they know part of their job is filling in 200+ forms a year and they managed to just live with that. I wonder how much it will take to me to get over it: thinking how these guys have some of the most advanced software systems in the world and how actively they promote digital solutions and paperless office while forcing stupid forms down their visitors throat just makes me sick.

Guys, if you read me you know who you are: this is an official proposal to build you some piece of software that will make you look a bit less lousy in front of your customers. (Almost) for free. :-)

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2 thoughts on “Security control nightmares”

  1. LOL!

    I had similar experiences with a number or BigCos, except that most of them had a computer that avoided filling the paper form again n’ again.

    But except this, the scenario is exactly the same :-)

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