Glossary – Secure Products

This 2008 glossary, co-developed with Aiden Sidebottom of UCL, was a first attempt to develop an integrated and rigorous suite of definitions spanning the unclear divide between the fields of crime prevention and security. It was developed in response to reading an otherwise excellent research report which used the term ‘vulnerability’ in four different senses.

The definitions relate to the crime-centred risks, and counterpart security properties, attached to domestic electronic consumer products such as mobile phones or music players, although it does contain more generic terms. It is planned to revise it to take account of more recent thinking, and indeed to produce one overarching glossary.

The rationale for the glossary is set out here:

The glossary

Any criminogenic property of product which causes the offender to form the intention to steal it, whether because of its perceived value, vulnerability (including visibility and distinctiveness) and capacity for realisation of value. Attractiveness is also in the eye of the offenders, in terms of what they themselves value and how well-equipped they are to take the product and realise its value.

Sea fishing term denoting unwanted fish caught with the targeted ones. In crime prevention, property stolen incidentally through being associated with the target product, e.g by being in same target enclosure (handbag, pocket, car or house).

Criminally mitigating
A property of a product which counteracts and diminishes the criminal harm caused by that product.

A product’s properties which lessen the probability of its theft.

A product’s properties which heighten the probability of its theft.

Any distinguishable physical or informational attribute of the product, which could be incidental or a deliberate adaptation by design. Features individually or in combination confer properties on the product.

Ecological term for environment where members of a particular species population typically lives, and (through evolution) are adapted to. Crime prevention equivalent could be used to denote the environment/s where a particular product or a set of products typically exist. The Risk environment is the risk dimension of the habitat.

Herd immunity
Public health term denoting a type of immunity that occurs when the vaccination of the majority of the population (or herd) provides protection to un-vaccinated individuals. Crime prevention equivalent is where criminals’ belief that secure products will dominate the ‘catch’ makes the attempt unworthwhile.

Incidental security
Properties which unintentionally reduce a product’s risk of theft.

Insecure Product
An insecure product is one with strong criminogenic, susceptible and criminally hazardous properties, but without effective security adaptations/properties to reduce the elevated risk of theft to some acceptable level of both probability and harm. An insecure product is both vulnerable and valuable to the offender.

Currently refers to consumer electronic products such as mobile phones and laptops, though applicability is more general.

Realisation of value
The process whereby possession of the stolen valuable product is converted into enjoyment, status display, misuse or resale.

Safe product
A product is safe and does not need particular security adaptations because it is used only in secure environments, protected by enclosures and surveillance technology and/or people acting as crime preventers.

Something that is secure is less at risk of theft than expected on the basis of its criminogenic, susceptible and criminally hazardous properties, because of specific adaptations to its risk environment.

Secure product
A secure product, more specifically, is one whose risk of theft is less than expected on the basis of its criminogenic, susceptible and criminally hazardous properties, because it is deliberately adapted to its expected risk environment to be criminocclusive, resilient in itself to harm, designed for incorporation in a resilient system and shielded against misuse. A secure product protects itself:

  • By the incorporation of security or securing components.
  • By deliberate security adaptations to its inherent causal properties, realised through constructional features and/or materials. These adaptations either work by themselves (such as anti-slash wire mesh incorporated within the fabric to resist mistreatment), or in conjunction with human action such as guardianship (for example where the opening flap of a handbag is fastened by Velcro, which alerts the owner by movement and noise when it’s opened).

Security communications
Security communications, whether text and images (e.g. on ‘beware bag thieves’ posters), semiotics (e.g. the appearance of robustness of a target – Whitehead et al. 2008) or signals (such as audio/visual/electronic alarms or winking ‘armed’ lights), carry a range of information to diverse audiences: deterrent or discouraging messages to the thief, mobilising messages to owners or managers and so forth.

Security product
A security product’s principal purpose and design rationale is protecting some other target, person or property against crime.

  • Primary security – reduces probability of harmful event
  • Secondary security – if event does happen, limits harm as it unfolds to product, owner and beyond – i.e. increases resilience of product and system
  • Tertiary security – limits propagation of harm that may occur post-event – i.e. increase shielding against misuse of product

Security adaptation
A security feature deliberately designed to make the product more secure against the risks typically to be encountered in its expected habitat or risk environment.

Security Level
The security level of a product is the degree to which its security properties outweigh its criminogenic and criminally hazardous features.

Shielded against misuse
A product incidentally/deliberately difficult for offender to use as resource for crime.

The degree to which a product, its owner or related systems, people or institutions are capable of being harmed by a criminal event or its consequences.

Valuable product
A product with the potential to meet some purpose of the offender – including for enjoyment, status display, misuse or resale. See also realisation of value.

Vulnerable product
Any product whose own properties enable it to be seen and taken by the offender. Vulnerability incorporates all criminogenic factors associated with theft of product except the motivation it engenders in the offender.