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The September 11 Attacks and Counterterrorism Technology

A special issue of Technology Review highlighted key security technologies.
September 9, 2011

In the weeks after the September 11 attacks, Technology Review published a special issue dedicated to technologies that could help combat terrorism. It described, among other things, the need for intelligence agencies to better connect the dots; the rapid progress of face recognition and other biometric technologies; how keeping track of real-time health data could detect surreptitious biological attacks; and even how a wired infrastructure could improve resilience.

You can read that issue in full, for free (after registering), in our digital archive.

In short, much our initial focus was on how a variety of information technologies might better protect the nation–especially if researchers and others could improve at sorting out useful information from digital chaff. As we observed a decade ago, “the software for making sense of the traffic can’t keep up with the volume. Don’t expect that to change anytime soon.”

But society continues to produce and store digital information at a rapidly expanding scale. This year, according to the analyst firm IDC, the amount of information “created and replicated” will surpass 1.8 trillion gigabytes, a ninefold increase in just five years. Meanwhile, the sharp rise in ownership and usage of mobile devices has created the potential for far greater network stresses when new emergencies hit. (Witness the network failures that accompanied the zero-casualty Virginia earthquake last month.)

Information solutions are always advancing. But so are some of the underlying problems.

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