12 Nov 2012

How SCIFs Allow Firms to Get their James Bond On

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High Tech Gadgets

One installment in the 007 franchise, Skyfall, introduced a slightly changed cast of characters. For instance, Q was played by nerdy 20-something Ben Whishaw. He is definitely not your father’s James Bond character. In fact, there is a distinct lack of the high tech toys that are a staple of Bond movies. Apparently MI6 has deemed such gadgets redundant, along with aging spies like 007. Without giving away too much of the plot, suffice it to say that James Bond and M are both in a fight for their professional and literal lives in this installment.

Over the years, Bond fans have been regaled with everything from tricked out Aston Martin convertibles replete with ejector seat, to buzz saw wrist watch and even a jet pack. But fiction aside, how much high tech wizardry is really invoked in today’s cloak and dagger business? In other words, how do firms really get their James Bond on in the 21st century?

The SCIF Saves the Day

One way is by the use of Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities, known in the trade as SCIFs (pronounced “skiff”). A SCIF is a high security, portable, containerized structure used to protect Top Secret information. These facilities are employed by the Department of Defense, CIA, NSA, FBI, and even some military contractors. Some SCIFs are no bigger than cargo containers. (These are cargo containers protected by vault doors and electronic countermeasures.) Some SCIFs can be entire rooms or even multi-story buildings outfitted with myriad physical and electronic security devices. What all SCIFs have in common is the latest in security.

In addition to the structure itself, everything within the structure is shielded from prying eyes and ears. This means that every telephone line, electrical system, computer, data and emergency system is shielded from interference and interception. Additional shielding and isolation is often required to harden the facility and preclude electronic eavesdropping. Even the ventilation system is equipped with steel manbars that are 1/2-inch in diameter and 6 inches on center each way, welded at the intersections, with inspection ports built inside the SCIF.

It seems that the old saw of slipping through the duct work to gain access to a top secret facility just won’t cut it nowadays. What will Hollywood screenwriters do now? Who knows? One thing for certain is that most of the gear that is built into every SCIF would make Q proud.

Interested in how everyone from the President to the people who routinely handle classified information manage to protect our secrets? SCIFs are one of the spy gadgets that most people have never heard about.  They may not be as cool as the some of the old movie gadgets, when it comes to real life cloak and dagger operations, SCIFs represent a real taste of 007 tech. Try putting that in your martini, Mr. Bond.


Ed Meskel is Vice President of SCIF Global, a Jacksonville, Florida firm that specializes in the design, construction and shipping of SCIFs worldwide.

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About the Author


Ed Meskel is a 26 year retired Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer/Submarine Communications Electronic Technician. He is the onsite lead Project Manager for SCIF Global Technologies who's main mantra is "Results. Not Excuses."

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