EESA Success Stories
Argonne Team Challenges Physical Security
Physical security--the art of protecting tangible assets--is the counterpart to cyber security.
Physical security can take the form of locks, tamper-indicating seals, guards who stand watch
at nuclear facilities, fingerprint scanners and metal detectors, and even cargo security systems
that track trucks full of nuclear material. It is high-tech, low-tech, often ancient and usually
overlooked. Physical security defenses aren't challenged very often, but when they are, the results
can be catastrophic.
Using research and development techniques, devise and demonstrate methods to defeat
physical security, then develop countermeasures to improve it. These studies will assist in
improving national security.
Argonne's Vulnerability Assessment Team (VAT) conducts
multi-disciplinary research and development on physical
security devices, systems and programs.
The Chirping Tag and Seal developed by the Argonne Vulnerability Assessment Team for securing sealed radiological sources and nuclear material.
The VAT works extensively in the areas of product anticounterfeiting,
tamper and intrusion detection, cargo
security and nuclear safeguards, as well as the human
factors associated with security using the tools of industrial
and organizational psychology. The VAT also runs a rapid
turnaround, one-stop microprocessor shop where Argonne
scientists and researchers can order microprocessor
solutions (hardware and software) for analog or digital
measurements. The VAT hosts the Journal of Physical
Security, the first scholarly, peer-reviewed
journal devoted to physical security R&D.
Argonne's VAT experts have revealed the dirty
secrets behind electronic voting machines,
"high-security" electronic locks, tamper indicating
seals, iris and fingerprint scanners
and even GPS navigation systems. Current
work includes vulnerability assessments,
developing better security devices, consulting
and training, and designing specialty field tools
for counter-terrorism, emergency response and
"Real security is thinking like the bad guys," maintains Roger Johnston, head of