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Integrated Systems

Strategies for critical infrastructure

Ian Graham, pictured, SVP and General Manager EMEA, Video and Situation Intelligence Solutions, Verint Systems, writes of critical infrastructure.

The nation depends on the proper operation of its critical infrastructure. Airports and seaports, power plants and transportation networks as well as government and military facilities are all integral to the smooth running of the country. Multiple security systems and sensors safeguard these entities, including access control, building management, identity management and panic alarms, video surveillance and analytics. However, the problem is that these systems often operate independently, in proprietary environments, and can even be geographically dispersed which can lead to a fragmented approach to security. With natural disasters, human error and terror threats ever present in today’s society, it is imperative organisations unify their security approach to help keep one step ahead of the potential risks at all times.

Business risk

Critical infrastructure such as power, heat, our daily transportation, and communication structures are at the heart of our existence, however there are a number of threats to keeping businesses secure, and this means security must be watertight. Cybercrime, espionage and terrorism are the top three security threats highlighted by the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) and the latter is of particular concern, with terrorism related arrests rising by 60% according to latest figures from the Home Office. The recent security scare at Edinburgh Airport , when numerous outbound flights were cancelled after an unattended bag was found, shows us that the nation is on constant alert, and that there is always a new threat round the corner.

At this time of year, it’s common to hear about snow, heavy rain and strong winds causing all sorts of hazards for people and businesses around the country, and this winter is no exception. Floods have recently caused mayhem for transportation lines in the South East , meaning that security teams need to be on high alert and have appropriate drills in place, to monitor for any extra weather induced risk, in case of derailment or power failure.

Human error is also a common problem that needs to be accounted for. Recently, the London Underground’s Victoria Line was suddenly closed after a control room was flooded by cement, resulting in hundreds of passengers being evacuated and the damage of critical signalling equipment. In this unexpected scenario, CCTV, alarms and crowd management plans would have been essential in getting everyone quickly and safely out of the station.

Mitigating risk

With the above in mind, what steps should be taken to ensure the highest security levels across our critical infrastructure? Firstly, security professionals should rigorously plan for any of these eventualities. Sitting down with teams to run through emergency procedures should be a common occurrence to enable you to anticipate problems and have contingency in place. In terms of technology, organisations should optimise the placement of security devices, for instance identifying the prime location for security cameras at recognised railway station trouble spots, or biometric scanners at airport check points and customs. Such technology should be implemented to achieve a 360 degree view of any given area.

In a more traditional set up, technology tends to operate in silos. However systems are now more advanced and security professionals should be looking to unify processes to create a fully integrated security network that centrally manages all security data. For example, if a camera spots an unusual package at a railway station, it will automatically detect and send this information back to the relevant security manager or the control room. Similar alerts can be coming in from other various devices and locations. To help prioritise and action appropriate responses, a centralised analytics dashboard can be implemented.

The right technology can also help in the development of standard operating procedures, the evaluation of contingency plans, and to provide feedback on access and crisis management exercises. Security professionals can run virtual scenarios based on simulated factors, such as an unauthorised individual loitering around a controlled area or environmental problems such as gas leaks at power plants, to better map out escape routes and lock downs.

We can’t predict the future, and natural disasters and terrorist attacks are by nature going to take us by surprise. However, as security professionals within these industries, it’s your responsibility to plan for these hypothosised events as much as possible. From implementing basic alert systems to overarching strategy, having the right centralised technology in place to manage the entire process will ensure nothing slips through the cracks and ultimately, keep critical infrastructure and the invaluable services they provide, safe and secure.



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