Access control systems & kits - Expert commentary

Protect physical assets from cyber-attacks
Protect physical assets from cyber-attacks

Recent cyber-attacks have disabled and even shut down physical assets. Robust foundational security and training staff, able to recognise an attack can help mitigate the threat, as ABB’s Rob Putman explains. Edge devices and data analytics As cyber security specialists, we must navigate an ever-changing threat landscape, one that is made even more complex by the increased interconnectivity between Operational Technology (OT) and Information Technology (IT), as companies look to leverage edge devices and data analytics, as well as remote connectivity, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the threat surface evolves, the industry must guard against attacks on key physical infrastructure, carried out by a range of malicious actors, including nation states and criminals intent on blackmail. The chemicals sector, a high-value target for cyber-criminals Cyber-criminals view the chemicals sector, as a high-value target, because of the potential cost In 2017, not long after a ransomware attack that targeted Maersk, the world’s largest shipping firm, made the news around the world. Another cyber-attack, this time targeting physical industrial assets, generated fewer headlines, and yet could have resulted in both real, as well as financial, damage. Cyber-criminals view the chemicals sector, as a high-value target, because of the potential cost, both financial and reputational, to the operator, should production be interrupted or stopped entirely. Cyber security vulnerabilities put physical assets at risk The attack in question, a ‘Triton’ custom malware attack on a petro-chemical facility in Saudi Arabia, targeted a safety system, taking over system controllers. Bugs in the code triggered an emergency shutdown, but could have led to the release of toxic and explosive gases. It was a vivid reminder of how cyber security vulnerabilities are increasingly putting companies’ key physical assets at risk. Two more-recent high-profile incidents illustrate my point. In February, a Florida water treatment plant was hacked. The malicious actor remotely accessed the system for three to five minutes, during which time they opened various functions on the screen, including one that controls the amount of sodium hydroxide (NaOH) in the water. The hacker changed the NaOH from about 100 parts per million to 11,100 parts per million, which could have resulted in a mass poisoning event. Colonial Pipeline cyber-attack incident Then, in May, the Colonial Pipeline system that originates in Houston, Texas and carries gasoline, and jet fuel, suffered a ransomware attack. Using a VPN, hackers targeted back-office IT systems, forcing Colonial to shut down IT hosts and network infrastructure, severing communication with those OT systems that are responsible for communicating ‘transactional data’ associated with fuel delivery. In this instance, a single compromised password disrupted Colonial’s ability to invoice its customers. This dependency on OT data stopped pipeline and business operations, and the company was elected to pay the hackers an initial ransom of US$ 4.4 million, in order to restore operations. The Colonial attack was multi-dimensional, in that it not only impacted Colonial’s business, but also the wider US economy and national security, since the pipeline transports nearly half of the east coast's fuel supplies. Outdated IT system elevates physical risk The increased interconnectivity between IT and OT can also create vulnerabilit Attacks such as these prove that, armed with little more than a laptop, an email account and access to the dark web, determined hackers can cause disproportionate damage to physical infrastructure. As mentioned at the outset, the increased interconnectivity between IT and OT can also create vulnerability. Producers often want to know: Is it risky to connect a production asset or their operational environment to the Cloud? My answer is, if you do so without having done any risk audits around people, processes and technology, or without enhancing and maintaining that environment, then yes, that is risky. For example, we often observe that the life cycle of a production asset far outlasts the IT systems that are used to run it. Take a cement kiln. Several generations of plant operators may have come and gone, but that asset may still run, using legacy software, such as Windows XP and why not? Need to replace aging distributed control systems Well, that’s fine, if you are not concerned about having that asset compromised, and all that entails. A ‘flat’ IT network, an aging distributed control system, and machines with legacy versions of Microsoft Windows, all these elements, which are still commonplace in many industries, make it much easier for attackers to find and infiltrate a company, without needing sophisticated tools. The age-old mantra of not interfering with a piece of equipment or software that appears to be working, often applies to the individual assets. For example that cement kiln that are still controlled by the same Windows XP-based control software. However, if we’re honest, things have changed quite a bit, not because something was broken, but because innovation came in. That same kiln control system is most likely connected to other systems, than when first commissioned and that opens it to exposure to threats that it was never designed for. The human element There is a misconception that IoT-connected devices can open companies to risk There is a misconception that IoT-connected devices can open companies to risk, but many recent, high-profile cyber-attacks have been conducted from a laptop, by hacking someone’s VPN, or are a simple phishing/malware attack. In all these cases, the human element is partly to blame. Take the Florida attack. The compromised computer at the water treatment facility was reportedly running an outdated Windows 7 operating system and staff all used the same password, in order to gain remote access via the Teamviewer app, which the hacker was then able to use. Physical and human assets, key to robust cyber security Discussion on the best way to mitigate the threat is often framed solely around specific technical solutions and ignores the fact that robust foundational cyber security is really driven by two very different, but equally important, types of capital: physical assets (e.g. production machinery), and human assets. The truth is that smart digital software and industry-renowned cyber security applications, while critical, are in many cases, only as good as the weakest human link in the chain. Industry would, therefore, do well to ask itself the following question: Do we have a security problem, or a complacency problem? At this juncture, it is important to point out that the majority of companies that ABB works with, are at least aware of the threat posed by cyber attackers, and the potential impact of an attack, on their revenues, reputation and bottom line. User error and human-generated exposures Making sure staff are aware of the threat and training them to respond properly, if they are targeted, is vital However, user error and human-generated exposures are where most of these attacks occur. Those human failures are mostly not due to malicious intent from employees, but to the lack of training of the employees on secure behavior. Making sure staff are aware of the threat and training them to respond properly, if they are targeted, is vital. However, there are also age demographics at play here. Much of the operations employee base is heading towards retirement and often, there is no plan or ability to backfill these people. Need to invest in new digital and automated technologies If you think you don't have enough people now, in order to stay on top of basic care and feeding of the OT environment, with regards to security, what is that going to be like in 20 years? For this reason, there must be a major industry reset, when it comes to its workforce. Companies must invest in new digital and automated technologies, not only to ensure that they stay ahead of the curve and mitigate risk, but also to attract the next generation of digitally literate talent. Robust cyber security is built on solid foundations When we talk about foundational cyber security, we mean fundamentals, such as patching, malware protection, high-fidelity system backups, an up-to-date anti-virus system, and other options, such as application allow-listing and asset inventory. These basic controls can help companies understand their system setup and the potential threats, identify vulnerabilities, and assess their risk exposure. The Pareto principle states that around 80% of consequences come from 20% of the causes. In the context of cyber security, that means 80% of exposure to risk comes from 20% of the lack of security. If companies do the foundational things right, they can manage out a significant amount of this risk. Importance of maintaining and upgrading security controls However, having basic security controls, such as anti-virus software in place, is just the first step on that journey. Equally important is having someone within the organisation, with the requisite skill set, or the extra labour bandwidth, to operate, maintain and update those security controls, as they evolve. Educating, training and recruiting existing employees, and the next generation of talent, along with forging partnerships with trusted technology providers, will ensure that industry can leverage the latest digital technologies, in order to drive business value, and secure physical assets against cyber-attacks.

The robotic transformation of the security industry
The robotic transformation of the security industry

The COVID-19 pandemic is only accelerating the expansion of Automation, Robotics, Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), and changing how people live their daily lives. This expansion leads the way with technologies that are developed to solve problems, improve operations, streamline processes and assist people, to focus on learning new skills, creativity, and imagination. Transformation of the physical security industry One of the latest industries to be permanently transformed is physical security. The era of utilising security cameras is slowly changing into more advanced and more efficient technological applications - security robotic solutions. SMP Robotics is a California-based company, which is a pioneer in developing robotic technologies, powered by AI, to assist, improve and deliver on new expectations in today’s world. One of their services is smart surveillance systems. This represents a proactive approach to security. The company, SMP Robotics’ Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Leo Ryzhenko, stated “Autonomous robotic technologies will become a driving force in future security solutions.” Robotics and AI in autonomous security solutions The robots can patrol 24/7, counteracting intrusion and communicating via voice message with guards The company uses robotics and AI technology to implement autonomous security solutions, which reduce liability and overhead, as well as improving the quality of services. Robotic guards are capable of patrolling all types of facilities, in both urban and rural contexts. The robots can patrol 24/7, counteracting intrusion and communicating via voice message with guards. The inspection robots, deployed by SMP Robotics, are easily integrated with many existing security technologies, armed with obstacle avoidance and anti-collision measures, automatically recharge, and can recognise faces up to 50 metres. As the world grows increasingly complex, technology like this is essential to ensure safety for all. AI-enabled autonomous video monitoring ground vehicles The advancements in technological breakthroughs of SMP Robotics position the company and its AI-powered, autonomous video monitoring ground vehicles, to be the most adaptable to any industry, cost-effective for clients’ business needs, in providing various types of services from public safety, crime prevention, to asset protection and physical security. SMP Robotics continues to implement new innovative solutions and groundbreaking technologies in its latest generation of autonomous models. Currently, many were already deployed or in a process to be delivered to a number of key clients, in various industries throughout the globe, from oil & gas, nuclear power plants to data centers, healthcare facilities, and amusement parks. Smart security robots Tal Turner, the Vice President (VP) of Business Development and Partnerships, SMP Robotics, said “We provide autonomous, artificial intelligence, all-weather, all-surface, smart security robots that are turnkey and operate independently on their own, using real-time obstacle avoidance, face recognition, and other cutting-edge technological advancements.” According to Coherent Market Insights, the Robots as a Service (RaaS) market direction will grow by 15.9% by 2028 and reach the threshold of 41.3 billion dollars. SMP Robotics stands at the forefront of the security robotic revolution, making an impactful change to make the world a safer place.

How schools can make outdoor learning safe and secure
How schools can make outdoor learning safe and secure

Schools were never designed and built with social distancing in mind. So it’s perhaps not surprising that as children returned to schools for the autumn term this year, the prospect of outdoor classes and assemblies was mooted in the media and by the Government. Many in the education sector are making the case that, should there be further COVID-19 outbreaks, in the coming months, it would be better to utilise outside space, rather than resort to closing schools. In the COVID-19 era, head teachers are considering taking learning and large gatherings, such as assemblies outdoors, when possible. Managing ‘class bubbles’, hygiene and ventilation While Dr. Yvonne Doyle, the Medical Director of Public Health England (PHE) has publicly reassured parents that schools are not the ‘drivers’ or ‘hubs’ of COVID-19-19 infection in communities, there is a lot of pressure on school leaders to manage ‘class bubbles’, extra cleaning and hygiene, ventilation, and COVID-19 testing, to protect families and staff. It’s a logical step to switch, in certain circumstances, to outdoor activities where fresh air is on tap, and social distancing is far easier to manage. Specially built outdoor classrooms Across the school and nursery sector, there’s ongoing investment in specially built outdoor classrooms Across the school and nursery sector, there’s ongoing investment in specially built outdoor classrooms, which had been growing in popularity, even before the pandemic. These facilities offer numerous benefits as an extension of existing learning spaces and provide children the opportunity for hands-on learning, beyond a stuffy classroom. However, if outdoor spaces are routinely called upon as part of COVID-19 contingency planning, how can schools ensure that their outdoor classrooms and wider areas are secure, robust, and fit for purpose? When specifying outdoor classrooms and learning spaces, it’s essential to take into account the well-being of the students and staff, who will use them, noise pollution and acoustics. Most importantly, education managers need to ensure the surrounding area is secured and adequately protected from threats, including terrorism. Perimeter security measures for schools How can schools and nurseries secure their perimeters, so that outdoor learning is totally safe for all? A starting point is to seek out architects and suppliers, who have a good understanding of security standards. Worryingly, Jacksons Fencing’s research recently found that only one-third of architects are seeing both LPS 1175 and the UK police initiative, Secured by Design (SBD) physical security standards, specified for schools. This highlights a lost opportunity for architects to propose solutions that are appropriate to the level of risk and needs of the school, without turning the site into an unwelcoming fortress. Helping schools identify specific security needs Head teachers would be wise to work with architects, who not only know the latest security standards inside and out, but are also are willing to play a more advisory role, helping the school identify exactly what is needed. Head teachers should prioritise solutions appropriate to their site’s specific risks It’s also vital that architects don’t simply replace existing fencing and gates, with the same security systems that have been in place for years. Instead, they will need to meet changing needs and risks. Our research finds that teachers often report issues, with the school perimeter and gates, from being climbed over (28%) and causing injury, to gates not locking properly (10%). Head teachers should prioritise solutions appropriate to their site’s specific risks, which sometimes require altering of existing measures. School fencing is an important aspect of any education site. As well as defining its boundary and making a visual distinction between public and private property, the fencing and gates that surround and secure a school, will typically meet a wide variety of other important criteria, including preventing unauthorised entry to the grounds, protecting pupils, staff, and visitors from accidents and injury, deterring theft and anti-social behaviour, and reducing the risk of malicious damage, and acts of terrorism. Welded mesh panels for perimeter fencing Popular options for schools include welded mesh panels for perimeter fencing or sports areas, and railing systems to act as demarcation, in order to control foot and car traffic. Within the outlying boundary, barriers, bollards and parking posts will keep pedestrians, and vehicles safe from each other, while timber fencing and gates can be designed to control the flow of people, around the grounds and reduce the areas, where students can be hidden from view. Automated gates and access control Perimeter fencing must be complemented with safe entrances and exits for vehicles and pedestrians. Every school has unique entry-control requirements, determined by factors, such as size, location and the local environment. These needs influence the decisions you make, when preparing technical specifications for school security gates. Do you require gates to be steel or timber, manual or automated, single or double leaf? Specialist suppliers will be in the best position to offer inputs on school gates, which typically need to offer solid security and durability, with a welcoming aesthetic. Specifying access control system When specifying a school access system, it’s important to consider the areas of the school When specifying a school access system, it’s important to consider the areas of the school, such as sports fields, car parks, and children’s play and learning areas, and whether it requires playground segregation. Selected gates should meet the design of the fencing, to create a secure perimeter with no weak points, with automated gates conforming to all current safety regulations. . Noise pollution can be a problem as well, including noise coming in or leaving the school in residential areas. If more teaching is to be carried out outside, it’s worth considering acoustic barriers to reduce noise in and around the school. Timber acoustic barriers for security and privacy Timber acoustic barriers offer security and privacy, and can reduce noise levels, by as much as 32 decibels (in laboratory conditions), so are ideal for city centre schools or those located close to busy highways. There are many ways to build an outdoor classroom. Timber products can help to create a welcoming environment, such as wooden shelters, pergolas, fencing, and decking. Always check that high quality timber, ideally guaranteed for 25 years against rot and insect attack, is being used to provide an attractive, cost-effective, safe and sustainable solution, for all weather conditions. DBS approved installers And of course, installers must be DBS approved, so that they can install outdoor classrooms, during school holidays, or within term time, with minimal disruption. The COVID-19 pandemic had a huge impact on schools and learning. While nobody wants to think of fresh outbreaks of the infection, or any other virus, installing an outdoor classroom made from high-quality, long-lasting materials is a great way to future-proof school learning and ensure safety, and preparedness. Putting extra thought and care into the security angle will provide schools with decades of protection against a host of unforeseen events.

Latest Pyronix Limited news

Pyronix announces the release of their wireless SPEAKER/SOUNDER-WE indoor siren
Pyronix announces the release of their wireless SPEAKER/SOUNDER-WE indoor siren

Pyronix is pleased to announce the release of its indoor siren with combined courtesy light, the mains-powered wireless SPEAKER/SOUNDER-WE. Replicating the tones of the control panel, the SPEAKER/SOUNDER-WE audibly alerts users to system activity, while the bright courtesy light on the front illuminates and flashes in conjunction with alarm events or mains fail. “We’re delighted to release the SPEAKER/SOUNDER-WE, our latest added-value option for the Enforcer V11 and other Pyronix hybrid systems using the EURO-ZEM32-WE. The product provides clear audible and visual indications of system activity across the property to keep the user completely aware of any changes,” Laurence Kenny, Pyronix Marketing Director, said. Providing visual indication Following the recent release of the Enforcer V11, the SPEAKER/SOUNDER-WE perfectly complements the system by replicating the chime, entry/exit, alarm, fire and even PA tones across the property to grab the user’s attention and keep them informed. The SPEAKER/SOUNDER-WE perfectly complements the system by replicating the chime Meanwhile, the in-built bright courtesy light provides a visual indication of system activity; strobing in the event of alarm activation, slow flashing for a chime and illuminating constantly as the user enters/exits the property or as a safety light in the event of a fire. This functionality can be particularly useful for hard-of-hearing users; keeping them up to date with any activity. The bright courtesy light will also illuminate constantly for up to 30 minutes in the event of a mains power fail. Audible and visual indication The SPEAKER/SOUNDER-WE is also compatible with the latest EURO-ZEM32-WE release with hub version 4.03.052. “We’re very pleased to add the SPEAKER/SOUNDER-WE to the range and we feel this really adds value to any installation,” Laurence said. He continued: “Quickly and easily set up and configured by the installer, things like volumes and the bright courtesy light can also be adjusted by the user, should their preferences change at a later date; they can enter the setup mode on the unit to adjust the volume by five increments, as well as activate or deactivate the light.” Learned in the new ‘Arming Station/Speaker’ slots, up to four SPEAKER/SOUNDER-WE’s can be added to the system for audible and visual indication of system activity. Only compatible with the Enforcer V11 or EURO-ZEM32-WE v4.03.052 onwards, the SPEAKER/SOUNDER-WE provides an easy upsell to keep users aware, grab their attention and light the way.

Pyronix announces two Enforcer tablet kits to provide installers with convenient accessibility
Pyronix announces two Enforcer tablet kits to provide installers with convenient accessibility

Pyronix is pleased to announce the release of two Enforcer tablet kits; providing the easiest and most convenient way of purchasing the Enforcer V11 control panel with the brand-new 10-inch touchscreen control station, the AndroidTablet and HomeControlHUB app. Enforcer Tablet Kit 1 (Partcode: ENF-TAB/KIT1-UK) contains: 1 x Enforcer V11 all-in-one two-way wireless control panel with Wi-Fi built onboard the main PCB 1 x AndroidTablet (compatible with HomeControlHUB app) 2x KX10DP-WE - wireless KX pet immune PIR detector 10m range 1x MC1MINI-WE - two-way wireless mini magnetic contact 1x DELTA/MOD-WE - wireless Deltabell module Enforcer Tablet Kit 2 (Partcode: ENF-TAB/KIT2-UK) contains: 1 x Enforcer V11 all-in-one two-way wireless control panel with Wi-Fi built onboard the main PCB 1 x AndroidTablet (compatible with HomeControlHUB app) 2x KX10DP-WE - wireless KX pet immune PIR detector 10m range 1x MC1MINI-WE - two-way wireless mini magnetic contact Providing enhanced installation The Enforcer V11 is the most advanced Pyronix system released to date and delivers real added value “We’re very excited to release these two kits to the market, as they provide installers with convenient accessibility to the tablet interface and all the many benefits the system provides,” Pyronix Marketing Director, Laurence Kenny, said. The Enforcer V11 is the most advanced Pyronix system released to date and delivers real added value with every installation; security, automation and video that can be tailored, controlled and scheduled for any user preference. Featuring Wi-Fi communications built onboard the main PCB, the Enforcer V11 provides enhanced installation, selectable supervision per zone, occupancy timers on zones and much more, along with compatibility with the AndroidTablet, HomeControlHUB app and SmartPlug. Free support services The AndroidTablet with HomeControlHUB not only becomes the new local programming option for the installer for the initial install and maintenance visits, but also the touchscreen security hub where the user can control their system, their Pyronix or Hikvision cameras and also the new SmartPlug to control plug-in appliances around the home. The interface also doubles as a conventional tablet for the user to use day-to-day to surf the internet The interface also doubles as a conventional tablet for the user to use day-to-day to surf the internet, watch videos and play games, or open the HomeControlHUB app to access their security, automation and video. Installers can find out all about this brand-new solution and all advantages it provides to both them and their customers, along with the extensive free support services Pyronix offers by registering to attend an Enforcer on the tour date, where they can also claim a free £20 All4One voucher. Changing user requirements “With the security market constantly having to adapt and evolve to changing user requirements, the innovations of the Enforcer V11 in combination with the AndroidTablet and HomeControlHUB interface make this the most flexible and proactive solution we’ve ever released,” Laurence said. He continued: “The tablet kits enable our installers to easily offer a complete one-platform solution that protects not only the property but also its occupants, the perimeter, vans, caravans, elderly relatives and more, while also providing access to automation around the home and camera streams for video surveillance and direct action.”

Pyronix launches ZEM8/E+P-BOX, versatile 8-zone expansion
Pyronix launches ZEM8/E+P-BOX, versatile 8-zone expansion

Pyronix announces the release of its ZEM8/E+P-BOX; a sleek and modern RS485 expander that adds 8 zones to any expandable Pyronix wired or hybrid system. Suitable for either residential or commercial settings, the ZEM8/E+P-BOX is a neat solution for refined, adaptable, and convenient zone expansion. Pyronix Marketing Director, Laurence Kenny, said, “We’re pleased to introduce the ZEM8/E+P-BOX to the market; bringing a sleek and modern design to panel zone expansion with optimised installation.” Flexible installation The ZEM8/E+P-BOX expands the control panel by 8 zones to add flexibility to any installation. The PCB features a reset button to allow jumper header address changes while the system is powered on. This is useful for changing the address of an expander, whilst the system is powered on. Simply address the expander, and then press the reset button. The installation has also been optimised on the ZEM8/E+P-BOX, with keyhole and slotted mounting holes featured on the back for easier levelling, while 4 cable tie anchorage points allow for easier cable management and a neater finish. Tamper protection P-BOX is advantageous in new house builds or restorations, where the cables can be routed into a back box The P-BOX also has front and rear tamper protection. The standard back box mounting is also advantageous in new house builds or restorations, where the cables can be routed into a back box and protected while the room is plastered. Fixing these cables before plastering provides a neater installation and protection to cabling during the first fix stage. Laurence added, “We always strive to make our customers' lives easier and installations smooth. The ZEM8/E+P-BOX do just that – delivering a tidy installation that ticks all the boxes.” The ZEM8/E+P-BOX also features additional 12V terminals; allowing installers to distribute the AUX power cables and prevent overcrowding of the terminals. An all-rounded zone expander, providing additional zones with a modern finish.

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