BlackBerrys versus terrorism

Long an indispensable gadget for businesspeople, the BlackBerry wireless handheld device from Research In Motion Ltd. has been drafted into the United States' war on terrorism.

Massachusetts State Police officers patrolling Boston's Logan International Airport are using BlackBerrys to perform background checks on suspicious persons and vehicles, comparing information in the field to an Internet-based XML database from LocatePlus Inc., the company that provides the devices. The 100-terabyte relational database contains information on more than 200 million U.S. residents, according to LocatePlus.

The LocatePlus database integrates data from a wide variety of public and private sources, including motor vehicle records. Using proprietary data mining technology, LocatePlus analyzes the data and assigns a security rating to individuals. Information is protected using SSL encryption, and each BlackBerry device must be registered with LocatePlus to access the information.

Massachusetts State Police at Logan International Airport in Boston now have instant access via BlackBerry wireless devices to vast commercial databases that contain details on 200 million U.S. residents. While the company does not disclose exactly how it determines security rankings, LocatePlus CEO Jon Latorella says factors such as whether someone has been a lifelong resident of the United States and the pattern of residences used can affect the rating. Similarly, a scarcity of information on an individual or a lack of a permanent address might raise flags, he says.

Since earning ignominious distinction as the point of departure for two of the four hijacked planes used in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Logan has been an early adopter of technology that could be used to thwart future attacks.

In addition to a baggage screening system, Logan, in recent years, installed a document authentication system to verify the identities of potential employees. The airport has also tested a number of other technologies, including biometric authentication systems and thermal imaging cameras, according to the Massachusetts Port Authority, the state agency that runs Logan.

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