Zit Seng's Blog

A Singaporean's technology and lifestyle blog

What Makes An Item Supicious

You’ve probably heard by now, Hougang MRT Station was closed temporarily yesterday because of an unattended piece of luggage. The police were called in, and after the bag was found to be “non-dangerous”, the station was reopened after about an hour of disruption. Good thing the incident wasn’t more eventful than that.

But I’ve always wondered, what makes an item suspicious? Surely just because a luggage becomes unattended doesn’t suddenly make it suspicious, and a threat? After all, I’ve left a luggage behind on one occasion, accidentally, in a “hot” place like Changi Airport, at the immigration hall, no less. For some reason, that didn’t trigger a security incident. In fact, I found it was simply pushed aside, from the original rather awkward place I had left it, when I went back to retrieve the luggage later.

There are so many “unattended things” we see every day. Perhaps the public needs an education about what counts as suspicious. Could some light be shed on what was it, exactly, about the luggage at Hougang MRT station that raised concerns?

Doesn’t the below item look suspicious? I does look like to me. But if I sound the alarm bells on this item, I suspect I might be the one accused of being a public nuisance.

I’m really curious about what that metal object is about. This is at Changi Airport, and I posted a similar photo of this in 2007. This particular photo was taken on Christmas Day last year.

When we talk about spotting viruses and other malware on computers, we ask users to report unusual computer behaviour. I appreciate that this can be as vague and as meaningless as how we’re being told to report suspicious items to the police. “Unusual computer behaviour” is probably easily understood by IT professionals, but maybe not so by those less computer-literate. But at least when it comes to computer security, we can and do give examples about stuff appearing in your browser toolbar, new dialog boxes asking you to perform or endorse various actions, and share other specific symptoms based on known malware at-large.

Can the police give us more concrete examples of suspicious items? Surely it’s more than just being unattended?

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