- Associated Press - Monday, June 23, 2014

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Cyber-attacks, contaminated food and computer-controlled cars are part of the new face of security threats at large-scale stadium events, an expert told members of a congressional committee that met Monday to review the lessons learned from the Super Bowl held in New Jersey.

It is generally agreed that the massive security effort for the Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium in February was a resounding success, with the only hiccup coming in the area of transportation when thousands more fans than predicted took trains, leading to long postgame delays.

That made the most interesting part of Monday’s hearing sponsored by the House subcommittee on emergency preparedness, response and communications, a discussion of what future terror threats may look like.

A program at Rutgers University that studies stadium security under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security began looking at crowd management and stadium evacuation models in 2010, and in 2012 was asked by DHS to produce a counterterrorism manual for stadium security.

Program director Fred Roberts shared some of the findings with committee members. Modern vehicles are increasingly run by computers that are vulnerable to hacking that could affect braking, acceleration and steering. That could make a stadium’s exterior a “soft” target, he said.

“What could happen if someone hacked into a car in a busy parking lot when thousands are people packed together tailgating?” he said.

On a larger scale, Roberts said the fact that information about a stadium’s physical facilities often is available publicly when new building plans are filed could creating a vulnerability. Rep. William Pascrell noted that al Qaeda manuals have mentioned football stadiums as potential targets.

Food security is an issue that needs to be addressed more consistently by stadiums, Roberts said. Reducing the threat of contamination could be as simple as putting condiments in packets rather than in large dispensers.

He also said stadiums need to be more vigilant in doing background checks on employees even after they’re hired, and making sure stadium emergency plans aren’t taken and disseminated by former employees.

Representatives from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the National Football League, the New Jersey state police and other agencies credited the Super Bowl’s success to advance planning that began in earnest more than a year ahead of the game and included regular contact between more than 100 law enforcement and civilian entities on both sides of the Hudson River.

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