New software to help detect likely terrorists

DUBAI - Screening potential terrorists and performing background checks on people entering a country will now become easier and far more efficient with the development of revolutionary new security software.

By Prerna Suri

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Published: Thu 20 May 2004, 9:50 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 2:25 PM

Developed by Language Analysis Systems Inc., a private company in the US, the new software, called LAS, is being used by US embassies and consulates throughout the world for visa screenings and was also instrumental in tracking terrorists, linked to the September 11 hijacking, to their Florida locations.

The software is now available to governments in the rest of the world, who can use this technology to connect their airports, seaports and land borders together through one comprehensive system, greatly minimising the chances of a potential suspect entering the city.

Michael Short, Managing Director, Quest Research Limited, said that the system is based on a massive electronic database which houses nearly a billion names and its speciality is that it translates names from non-Roman alphabets into English-language equivalents. Meaning that a list of possibilities will be shown by the system in the case of non-European names, such as Chinese and Korean, which have different pronunciations than their English equivalents and which ultimately became the Achilles heel in such security searches.

"This system checks names in a very structured way by using computational linguistic algorithms. A name such as Chang, for instance, will have different spellings and pronunciation in different countries and a suspect travelling by this name can easily bypass airports using outdated security systems. With LAS, the system will search the name through its root in nearly 200 languages and will show all the possibilities including spelling variations so there is possibly no way that this person can escape."

The problem with the current software such as Soundex and Soundex Plus, which governments use, say experts, is that it misses nearly 66 per cent of the search which may be due to wrong spelling, non recognition of different language characters, as it relies on an English platform.

"If someone enters your border and is on your hit list, LAS shows all the matches possible including the probability of whether the person is a male or a female. The system also shows you the place from which that name originated from and a list of other similar sounding names," said Mr Short.

The software took nearly 20 years of research before it was finally approved by the US authorities. It can used by airlines wishing to cross-check passenger lists, immigration authorities issuing visas and even by banks to avoid money laundering.

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