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Amid greater safety risks, CES 2018 amps up its security

Partly in response to a mass shooting three months ago, CES organizers added vehicle blockades, more armed security and other safety measures.

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Outside the Las Vegas Convention Center on Saturday, where a snaking row of concrete vehicle blockades was added to protect conference attendees. 

Josh Miller/CNET

CES is hectic every year. But the 2018 edition presented more challenges than normal.

Organizers work year-round to maintain the security of the biggest tech conference in the world, a fixture of early January. This year, those efforts gained greater urgency, after the show's longtime home of Las Vegas suffered the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history just three months ago.

In response to that tragedy and new potential threats, CES this year includes noticeably ramped-up security, including vehicle blockades and highly visible armed law enforcement.

"We were devastated and shocked, and it did prompt more security meetings," Allison Fried, a spokeswoman for the Consumer Technology Association, which runs CES, said about the shooting, "and we enhanced the security efforts already set up."

The increased safety measures at CES underscore the new challenges the show faces as a potential target for attacks. In one example, Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, canceled his appearance at this year's CES, reportedly because of death threats. The CTA's work also points to a new routine, following the shooting, of tightened security for major events at Las Vegas, with the city also having boosted security for its New Year's celebrations.

"Nothing is too small to say something," Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said at a news conference ahead of the new year.

In October, Stephen Paddock opened fire from his hotel room on the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay -- a major venue for CES events -- into a crowd at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival. He killed 58 people and wounded hundreds more, then killed himself.

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Despite the incident, attendance at this year's CES shouldn't drop significantly from last year, with over 170,000 people expected to take part in the show, down from more than 184,000 last year. Additionally, Fried said there are "no known credible threats against CES" and CTA is constantly in touch with officials.

To reassure convention goers and improve safety, the CTA worked with local law enforcement and security to add new concrete vehicle blockades along the outside of the Las Vegas Convention Center and Sands Expo Convention Center, where most CES exhibits are located. Also, there will be more armed law enforcement at venue entrances and exhibit floors.

"We added more visible deterrence at the event. That's been increased this year," Fried said. "Security is obviously a huge, huge priority for us, the No. 1 concern."

As a new policy, the CTA is requiring attendees to provide photo identification as part of their registration, and attendees' photos will be included on their event badges. That change should help ensure only registered attendees can visit CES locations.

CTA also contracted with LiveSafe to offer the company's safety app, which will let people report suspicious activity and get safety information.

Fried said all these security enhancements were already being added before the October shooting, but CTA bolstered them following the shooting. CTA also said it will donate $100,000 to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Foundation and Trauma Intervention Program of Southern Nevada to support recovery efforts.

Following the shooting, local resorts have also worked on increasing their security, with some looking to technology to make improvements. For instance, Westgate started testing new radar sensors made by Patriot One that can scan guests for guns, knives or bombs, Wired reported last month.

Mandalay Bay will continue to serve as a major site for CES events, with Fried expressing confidence in the resort's security efforts.

"Security remains a top priority at all MGM Resorts properties, facilities and entertainment venues," a spokesperson for MGM Resorts International, which owns Mandalay Bay, said. "We ... work continuously with law enforcement and security experts to ensure major events like CES remain safe and enjoyable for our guests and visitors."

CES 2018: CNET's complete coverage of tech's biggest show.

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