Thursday, February 12, 2009

Airline Security after 9/11

After the unfortunate attack on September 11, 2001 the country as a whole became concerned about further terrorist attacks. Many new policies and technologies have been created in an effort to detect and prevent further terrorist attacks. One of these technologies is the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System, or CAPPS. CAPPS has been the subject of much debate concerning the exact use of the database.

The Transportation Security Administration, at the order of Congress, assembled CAPPS after the September 11, 2001 attack. CAPPS was designed to be a nationwide database that compares passenger names against watch lists, traveler credit reports, and consumer transactions. The databases considered for use with CAPPS are credit bureaus and ChoicePoint, both of which aggregate and sell information. Before flight, passengers are required to provide their names, phone numbers, and addresses to be checked for accuracy. The commercial databases will then use algorithms to judge whether a person booking a ticket is who he/she claims to be. A boarding pass will be issued with either a green, yellow, or red score. Passengers with a red score will be detained until federal law enforcement officials arrive.

CAPPS has the potential to ferret out would be terrorists; it also has the potential to be harshly abused. David Sobel, of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, stated, "Even in the wake of Sept. 11, people are still worried about the collection and use of their personal information." (work cited) A document list, obtained from the Electronic Privacy Information Center through a lawsuit with the FBI, stated the databases "Еcontain billions of public records including: property records, census information, professional licenses, telephone books, newspaper articles, drivers records, vehicle records and credit bureau headers." (work cited)

When CAPPS was first created it had very few guidelines to follow. People fear a government that heavily monitors the transactions of everyday people. [Some of the complaints against the CAPPS program specified the use of CAPPS as a method of capturing deadbeat dads, or screening out passengers who fit a criminal pattern, or that the system would retain information for up to 50 years.] Sen. Ron Wyden said in a written statement, "We cannot stand by and allow the government to shine a spotlight onto the personal records of law abiding citizens who have a constitutionally protected right to privacy. It is Congress' duty to find out on behalf of all Americans what federal agencies are hoping to do with their personal information." Jim Dempsey, president of the Center for Democracy and Technology, said, "On the one hand, we want people with outstanding warrants to be caught. On the other hand, we have not been a checkpoint society. We will fundamentally change the nature of our society if we start exploiting our societyТs gates for general law enforcement."

In response to the public outcry of objection to the limitless CAPPS, the Transportation Security Administration began to issue more detailed regulations. Jim Dempsey said in support of these changes, "Maybe a person wanted for armed robbery flies on airplanes, but he's not going to rob a person on an plane." These regulations limit the type of information that CAPPS can gather from commercial databases, restricts the amount of time that the system will hold onto the data, and restricts the database owners from using this data for any other purpose. Lisa Dean of the Electronic Frontier Foundation stated, "No health or financial data will be used. Information will be retained for days, not years. And no (Internal Revenue Service) or deadbeat dads databases will be used." CAPPS will, however, allow the Transportation Security Administration to look for people suspected of "crimes of violence" as well as domestic groups suspected of terrorism. As part of this system the Transportation Security Administration plans to create a Passenger Advocate Office that will identify the sources of false data and correct them.

As a further peace offering to the privacy advocates, who are still leary of a surveillance society, the Transportation Security Administration stated it would not release CAPPS for an additional 60 days so that further views could be submitted regarding the system. The Department of Homeland Security Chief Privacy Officer, Nuala O'Conner Kelly, stated that the new rule would increase passenger security while still respecting the privacy of travelers. The Transportation Security Administration, administrator Adm. James M. Loy, said that CAPPS would reduce the wait times, the number of passengers who go through secondary screenings, and the number of people misidentified as potential terrorists. With all these new regulations CAPPS ended up with a new name as well, CAPPS II.

CAPPS II will be instrumental as a device to prevent attacks like the September 11, 2001 attack in the future. CAPPS II is a double-edged sword, though, in that the amount of information the system has access to is mind-boggling and could be used to the detriment of law-abiding citizens. With careful regulation and a fierce determination not to pry into the lives of private citizens, CAPPS II could be the most effective weapon we have against terrorist attack. Luckily, Laura Murphy of the American Civil Liberties Union's Washington Legislative Office plays referee with this statement, "There is broad agreement across the political spectrum that we must not allow America to turn into a surveillance society. Data surveillance programs inevitably erode our privacy, with demonstrating that doing so makes us any safer." With privacy advocates like Laura Murphy calling foul, we should be just fine.

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Analysis of Axis 10

Effective and efficient financial calculations play a very important role at quarter-end. At each quarter-end, there are strict time restrictions involved in preparing the Axis dataset model to run, outputting calendar year reports, reconciling and analyzing the results. The financial calculation software, Axis, plays a very crucial part in this process. It is vital that the calculations from Axis are accurate and produced in a timely manner. It is also important to keep up-to-date with all the new versions of Axis. Recently, the newest version, Axis 10, had been introduced with many new enhancements. These new features will be the key in efficient time management at quarter-end. Improvements to the software result in an initiative to convert all products from Axis 9.4 to Axis 10. This report will give a brief description of the Axis program, outlining the conversion process, and evaluate various problems faced. In conclusion, it will compare the advantages and disadvantages concerning the transition of the two version of Axis.

Axis in General
Axis is a software produced by GGY that can be used by all levels of people in an organization. It provides technical, actuarial and financial information. The software is also able to display results from a financial statement point of view. This allows the user to see how decisions can affect both the income statement and balance sheet. The versatility of the software allows user the opportunity to produce accurate financial calculation and make informed decisions. Recently, GGY had introduced a new version of Axis. This new version, Axis 10 has two main enhancements: Distributed Processing, Integration of Datalink and Object Explorer.

Conversion Process
Following is a user guide to a successful conversion from Axis 9.4 to Axis 10. It is very important to make sure that the datasets and databases are both converted into Axis 9.4 Maintained before getting started on the conversion into Axis 10.

To convert a dataset into Axis 9.4 Maintained:
1. Open up Axis 9.4 Maintained.
2. Click on Dataset Action button.
3. Scroll down and select the option Restore Dataset…
4. Browsed through the directory to where the dataset (version 9.4) was saved in the Open pop-up window.
5. Double click on the dataset name, and select Yes when asked ‘Would you like to convert it?’
6. Return to the Dataset window and back up that dataset to a folder on the LAN once it is converted into 9.4 Maintained.

To convert a database into Datalink Maintained version:
1. Open up Datalink Maintained version.
2. Click on File button.
3. Scroll down and select the option Backup/Restore Database.
4. Browsed through the directory to where the database (version 9.4) was located in the Backup/Restore Database pop-up window.
5. Click on Restore New.
6. Click on Database Button and double click on the database that had just been restored.
7. This will convert the database into 9.4 Maintained.
8. Go back to File Х Backup/Restore Database and back up the database to C:DATALINK 94MAIN

Note: It is very important that the database is backed up in this particular directory or it cannot be converted into Axis 10.

Once the conversion process into 9.4 Maintained is complete, the next step is to reconcile the results. To reconcile, the batch that was run at quarter-end should be rerun in 9.4M and viewed using the report. This is necessary to confirm that the result from both versions does not differ.

To convert a dataset into Axis 10:
1. Open up Axis 10
2. Click on Dataset Actions
3. Scroll down and select Restore Axis 9 Dataset and Convert…
4. Browsed through the directory to where the dataset (version 9.4 Maintained) was saved in the Open pop-up window.
5. Select a temporary directory to restore the dataset (usually in the C: drive) in the next pop-up window.
6. In the Convert AXIS 9 Database Wizard – Step 1, select the right module and click on the ellipsis (…), scroll down and select the database that you have backed up earlier.
7. Under the Option section, select If dataset had seriatim data convert it to a new format.
8. Under Datalink tables data, select the option Convert only if user def table has no source file.
9. Click on Finish.
10. Double click on the dataset name to continue the conversion process.

Once the conversion process is finished, follow the reconciliation step from above and rerun the quarter-end Datalink and calendar year recalculation batch. Record the results in the same Excel spreadsheet and make sure the numbers reconciled.

Conversion Problems
The transition process was faced with many impediments and problems. The majority of the problems occurred in Datalink. These errors arise from the automatic conversion of certain alpha fields into numeric fields in Axis 10. When this occurs, the ALLTRIM formula that has alpha input fields become invalid. This problem was resolved by taking out the ALLTRIM formula.

The previously used version of Axis 9.4 is can be inefficient at times. This inefficiency is due largely to the amount of time needed to run a batch job. Potentially, Axis 10 have the capacity to help eliminate this problem by introducing the new feature, distributed processing. Also, the newly integrated application allows for quicker training, as there is only one application to learn.

The advantages of the Axis 10 are clearly the better usage of time and resources by staff at quarter-end. The drawback to the new version is mainly due to the large amount of time spent on conversion.

Even with the initial drawbacks associated with the Axis 10 conversion, the impact that the software has on the issues concerning time restriction and clarity of integrated application is positive overall. When the staff is fully trained to use the new version to its full potential and the all the problems from conversion has been resolved, Axis 10 will substantially increase the time efficiency of the quarter-end process.

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