Vulnerability Assessment Team (VAT)
Argonne has expanded its capabilities to protect U.S. interests at home and abroad. The VAT moved to Argonne's Nuclear Engineering Division in October of 2007 from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The VAT conducts multi-disciplinary research and development on physical security devices, systems and programs. "The VAT's expertise and capabilities align extremely well with Argonne's work in national and homeland security," said Alfred Sattelberger, Associate Director of Physical Sciences and Applied Science and Technology at Argonne, who helped to find the group a home at Argonne. "Since the tragedies of Sept. 11, 2001, this lab has been actively bolstering its research portfolio to support the federal government's national security efforts. We expect that the VAT will be integrated into that work."
The VAT has worked extensively in the areas of product anti-counterfeiting, tamper and intrusion detection, cargo security, nuclear safeguards and the human factors associated with security using the tools of industrial and organizational psychology. The VAT also runs a rapid, one-stop microprocessor shop where Argonne scientists and researchers can have a microprocessor solution - hardware and software - for analog or digital measurements in about a week. Another VAT activity is playing host to the Journal of Physical Security, the first scholarly, peer-review journal devoted to physical security R&D.
The VAT made the move to Argonne because the team wants to make scientific research an integral part of its activities - a strategy not typically considered or employed when it comes to physical security, said Roger Johnston, who heads the team.
More information is available on:
- VAT current projects, seals, vulnerability assessments, microprocessor prototypes, selected papers & invited talks, experience and expertise.
- For further information see also the links listed below.
- The Journal of Physical Security
Check out the CURRENT ISSUE:
The Journal of Physical Security
About the Journal of Physical Security
The Journal of Physical Security is our modest effort to deal with some of the serious problems with the field of physical security—in particular, the lack of scholarly peer-reviewed journals. There are a number of useful trade journals that cover physical security. There are also numerous peer-review journals that focus on criminology, law enforcement, cryptography, terrorism, national security, computer security, or security management. The field of physical security, however, has long needed a journal that can serve as a central focus, as well as a vehicle for rigorous discussion and advancement of the field, especially in the areas of research, development, modeling, testing, and analysis. We hope to contribute to the advancement and understanding of the field. Physical security is not just of great practical importance, it is also an intellectually challenging, multidisciplinary, fascinating subject worthy of thoughtful study.
For more information: Journal of Physical Security |
In a Nutshell
VAT fact sheets are available as a bundle or as separate fact sheets.
Download the Fact Sheets bundle [1.7MB] |
- Sticky Bomb Detection [553KB]
“Sticky bombs” are a type of improvised explosive device (IED), typically placed on a motor vehicle by a terrorist.
- Detecting GPS Spoofing [128KB]
It‘s easy to generate fake GPS time and location signals using widely available GPS satellite simulators. This spoofing can be detected with $15 of parts.
- Vulnerability Assessments of Biometrics & Other Access Control
The Vulnerability Assessment Team is probably the most impressive physical security research team in the world.
- Tampering with Drug Tests [151KB]
The Argonne Vulnerability Assessment Team: Internationally recognized expertise in tags, seals, cargo security, & physical tamper/intrusion detection
- Better Tamper-Indicating Seals [222KB]
Anti-Evidence Seals: Fundamentally a better way to do tamper detection.
- Countering Tampering & Counterfeiting [343KB]
The Argonne Vulnerability Assessment Team: Internationally recognized expertise in tags, seals, anti-counterfeiting, cargo security, nuclear safeguards, & physical tamper/intrusion detection.
- Handbook of Security Blunders [138KB]
By Roger G. Johnston, Ph.D, CPP and Jon S. Warner, Ph.D. (the editors of the Journal of Physical Security) Available February 2010
- Key Keepaway [124KB]
Securing a secret key by keeping its fragments in motion.
- Assuring the Veracity of Monitoring Data [122KB]
See RG Johnston, MJ Timmons, and JS Warner, Science & Global Security 15, 185-189 (2007).
- Human Factors in Security [237KB]
- Effective Video Monitoring for Nuclear Safeguards [234KB]
Non-scary, but believable video monitoring.
- Rapid Sampling Tools [112KB]
Sampling gases, liquids, or flowable powders from inside a container without opening the container, or becoming exposed to its contents.
- Better Real-Time Monitoring of Cargo [145KB]
The ’Town Crier‘ Method
- Chirping Tag & Seal [120KB]
A better approach than RFIDs!
We recently were at:
See also our list of selected INVITED talks and keynote addresses on physical security.
In the Press
How your vote can be hacked -- Argonne's Roger Johnston and Jon Warner featured in CNN Money video (Nov. 1, 2012)
Getting paid to break into things: Argonne's Roger Johnston on NBC -- Argonne Youtube channel (Mar. 15, 2011)
Roger Johnston interviewed by Phil Rogers, NBC Chicago News.
- The Journal of Physical Security (JPS) was mentioned in Steve Gibson's popular Security Now! podcast (Jan. 30, 2013). Please note that the relevant material about JPS is at minute 55:23 to 58:22. A transcript of the show is also available.
- RT News live interview
- Counting Votes Should Be a Transparent Process, Bill Mego, Naperville Sun Times, October 2, 2012
For more news items featuring the Argonne Vulnerability Assessment Team, visit:
VAT in the Press »
For a selection of VAT papers available upon request, see Publications.
For copies of the VAT papers and presentations on a wide variety of physical security issues (tags, seals, product counterfeiting, vulnerability assessments, RFIDs, GPS, nuclear safeguards), contact Roger Johnston at
- 287 Security Blunders You Should Avoid, Jon S. Warner and Roger G. Johnston, ASIS International Annual Meeting, Sep. 21-24, 2009, Anaheim
Assessment’s Big Picture”, Sarah D. Scalet, CSO Magazine, June 2007,
Roger Johnston talks about how aliens, Elvis impersonators and your worst security users can help you find and fix security problems
- The (In)Security of Drug Testing, Roger G. Johnston, Eric C. Michaud, and Jon S. Warner, ANL-62762
5 Myths of RFID”
Big pharma's RFID trials aim to keep fake drugs out of your medicine cabinet but the technology has significant limitations.
CSO Online Magazine, May 15, 2007
Pharma's Anti-Tampering Strategies Don't Work”
Random Codes Make Sense?”
Medical DeviceLink.com Magazine, May 2005
- You can read about Roger Johnston and the VAT in the book "Safe: The Race to Protect Ourselves in a Newly Dangerous World," by Martha Baer, Katrina Heron, Oliver Morton, and Evan Ratliff (Harper Collins, 2005), pages 254-257 and 259.
- More about the work of the VAT can be found in a feature article that appeared in the May 2005 issue of Mechanical Engineering.
- "Get Creative to Reveal Unseen Vulnerabilities”, IOMA Security Director’s Report, Issue 05-11, November 2005, pp. 1, 12-13. SUBSCRIPTION NEEDED to read full article
- F. Kahn, "The Eyes Don’t Have It", Business Travel Executive, June 2005. SUBSCRIPTION NEEDED to read full article
- J.S. Warner, and R.G. Johnston, "GPS
Spoofing Countermeasures", LAUR-03-6163, Appeared in Homeland
Security Journal, December 12, 2003
- J.S. Warner, and R.G. Johnston, "A
Simple Demonstration that the Global Positioning System (GPS) is Vulnerable to
Spoofing", LAUR-03-2384 The Journal of Security Administration
25, 19-28 (2002)
- On Mar. 15, 1997, Roger was interviewed on National Public Radio (NPR) for
"ALL THINGS CONSIDERED":
"Tamper Proofers" the broadcast
- 2013 CSO40 Award Honoree - See CSO Magazine Recognizes Security Business Value with Inaugural CSO40 Awards
- About other awards the VAT won...
Last Modified: Tue, March 12, 2013 11:33 AM