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How They (And You) Make Money Off Disasters

Beyond the loss of life, limb and property caused by terrorism, ongoing fear and prevention efforts have proven a profitable sideline for many companies.

Beyond military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is "The War on Terrorism."

That has meant new markets and increased competition among companies developing technology used in surveillance, as well as tools to detect and counter the effects of bioterrorism agents such as smallpox, anthrax and radiation.

Armor Holdings (AH) makes armor and bulletproof vests for security personnel, and CompuDyne develops and makes reinforced, explosion-resistant windows used in high-security government buildings.

Electronic surveillance and detection efforts have provided profitable sidelines for such companies as Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Goodrich (GR), Visage Technologies (which develops facial recognition technology) and Identix (IDX) (which markets fingerprinting technology).

Homeland Security has also established websites to educate small businesses in ways to do business with them and offer larger companies bidding opportunities.

Perhaps the best known -- and most reviled -- moneymaker in post-9/11 measures is Rapiscan, the primary provider of so-called backscatter X-ray scanners in place at airports. As anyone who flies knows by now, these machines "see" through clothes and use a rather abstract portrait of the naked traveler to detect smuggled weapons and other contraband.

The primary beneficiary of the machines is Rapiscan's owner, OSI Systems (OSIS - Get Report). Among the notable investors in OSI was billionaire George Soros, who has since sold his shares.
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