Skip to main content
De Facto

Ricin and The Fear of Terrorism

I'm rather wondering if the media have 'Lost the plot' today.

The calming message is of course "If you think you have Ricin poisoning" - which has no known antidote - "contact NHS Direct or your GP for advice".

Advice on what? Funeral arrangements? And then, if you live in London SW19, it will take on average seven days to see your Doctor anyway, so a relatively pointless exercise for the unfortunate victim in such circumstances.

Worse still is that the media appear to be ducking the delivery mechanism issue for the poison. Yes Ricin can be inhaled or swallowed or smeared on a victim's door handle but the most worrying terrorist option also includes the water supply, which you may be happy to know, can resist the Ricin toxin but only if it is chlorinated to 10 ppm.

So, we are told on the BBC, "A gram of Ricin can theoretically kill 30,000 people" and it's only logical to think of the broader terrorist or Al Qaeda application and its delivery mechanism, other than as an unusual assassination weapon, as witnessed in the case of Georgi Markhov and the umbrella gun.

There's more than enough material on the Internet to help any amateur chemist distill Ricin from the husks of castor oil seeds and it's much safer to handle than the Smallpox virus or plague bacillus; the latter of course being available on mail order over the Web, as was demonstrated in the States two years ago.

My own guess is that the water supply is the simplest target of opportunity for Ricin, which is perhaps why nobody is asking the question on television but then, you'd need a truck load of Castor beans from your local supermarket, otherwise the result of too great a dilution of the chemical would involve a chronic laxative effect on the victims, not quite perhaps what the terrorists had in mind but very messy!


Popular posts from this blog

Mainframe to Mobile

Not one of us has a clue what the world will look like in five years’ time, yet we are all preparing for that future – As  computing power has become embedded in everything from our cars and our telephones to our financial markets, technological complexity has eclipsed our ability to comprehend it’s bigger picture impact on the shape of tomorrow.

Our intuition has been formed by a set of experiences and ideas about how things worked during a time when changes were incremental and somewhat predictable. In March 1953. there were only 53 kilobytes of high-speed RAM on the entire planet.

Today, more than 80 per cent of the value of FTSE 500* firms is ‘now dark matter’: the intangible secret recipe of success; the physical stuff companies own and their wages bill accounts for less than 20 per cent: a reversal of the pattern that once prevailed in the 1970s. Very soon, Everything at scale in this world will be managed by algorithms and data and there’s a need for effective platforms for ma…
The Mandate of Heaven

eGov Monitor Version

“Parliament”, said my distinguished friend “has always leaked like a sieve”.

I’m researching the thorny issue of ‘Confidence in Public Sector Computing’ and we were discussing the dangers presented by the Internet. In his opinion, information security is an oxymoron, which has no place being discussed in a Parliament built upon the uninterrupted flow of information of every kind, from the politically sensitive to the most salacious and mundane.

With the threat of war hanging over us, I asked if MPs should be more aware of the risks that surround this new communications medium? More importantly, shouldn’t the same policies and precautions that any business might use to protect itself and its staff, be available to MPs?

What concerns me is that my well-respected friend mostly considers security in terms of guns, gates and guards. He now uses the Internet almost as much as he uses the telephone and the Fax machine and yet the growing collective t…

Civilisational Data Mining

It’s a new expression I haven’t heard before. ‘Civilisational data mining.’

Let me start by putting it in some context. Every character, you or I have typed into the Google search engine or Facebook over the last decade, means something, to someone or perhaps ‘something,’ if it’s an algorithm.

In May 2014, journalists revealed that the United States National Security Agency, the NSA, was recording and archiving every single cell-phone conversation that took place in the Bahamas. In the process they managed to transform a significant proportion of a society’s day to day interactions into unstructured data; valuable information which can of course be analysed, correlated and transformed for whatever purpose the intelligence agency deems fit.

And today, I read that a GOP-hired data company in the United States has ‘leaked’ personal information, preferences and voting intentions on… wait for it… 198 million US citizens.

Within another decade or so, the cost of sequencing the human genome …