How is the rise in terrorism impacting the physical security market?
9 Mar 2017
Terrorism is in the headlines all over the world. After any such incident, many of us in the physical security market find ourselves asking: What could we have done to prevent it? Assessing risk and preventing catastrophes before the fact are part of our market’s DNA; and yet, too often the random nature of terrorist attacks and their targeting of public places leave us unsure of anything anyone could have done. How can we translate the benefits of our industry’s products into real-world solutions that can prevent terrorist attacks? We presented the question to this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable, and received a variety of interesting responses. Specifically, we asked: How is the recent rise in terrorism impacting the physical security market (e.g., higher demand, different mix of products, etc.)? How should the physical security market respond? What solutions are needed?
Terrorists more often attack systems for financial gain than for theft or destruction of property, although the last two are on the rise. Additionally, as terrorists’ aims become more sophisticated, attacks to disable critical infrastructure will also become more prevalent. Multiple studies on breaches and attacks on infrastructure show most could be deflected by using simple, well-known security measures. They are just not followed. Whether it is limiting physical access to critical equipment or rotating passwords on a regular basis, security best practices should be deployed. Solutions that converge, exploit and analyse information from both IT and physical security environments are critical to mitigating risks. These solutions become the foundation for behavior analysis, for identifying small intrusions that become full blown attacks, or importantly, identifying the location and identity of the people mounting an attack (attribution). Coordination between physical and IT security systems is critical to improving our security posture.
The rise in terrorism has heightened everyone’s awareness that you need security anywhere you have people or other assets. In access control, this heightened awareness is floating two issues to the surface that were previously not a major concern. The first is user interface devices such as keypads or card readers that are mounted on the outside of the building. These devices advertise what type of system you have. If they use antiquated protocols like Wiegand, they can easily be hacked; and if they use a PoE or Wi-Fi connection, they may represent a network vulnerability. The second issue is compliance. We are all aware that you shouldn’t hold the door open for anyone. Also, sharing a keypad PIN number or loaning someone your card or keyfob so they can “get back in” are common practices at most facilities and present a serious security threat.
The increasing number of recent attacks in the United States has prompted a closer look at the benefits of mass notification systems (MNS) for schools, hospitals and other public locations. While many people associate MNS with fire alarms and text message alerts, today’s systems incorporate numerous modes of communication from email notification to strobe lights to automated phone calls, similar to a reverse 911 call. For larger open areas, an MNS could include a loud speaker, which can sound a siren notification or even an automated message. Through distributed messaging systems, MNS can broadcast alert notifications and evacuation route directions to targeted areas in the event of an emergency, such as an active shooter situation. The key is to develop layers that help protect and enable response during an event. The ability to support communication across multiple platforms for multiple scenarios positions MNS as a comprehensive solution.
Recent events in San Bernardino, Paris, Jakarta, Somalia and other locations show terrorism is truly an international problem. Stopping it requires a dedicated worldwide intelligence network in which the security industry can play a vital role. It’s important that we meet the needs of those protecting us. Surveillance cameras and access control systems are often used to track terrorists and keep them from potential targets. And biometric identification systems are being used to protect borders, critical infrastructure and airports/ports. A project underway at a busy Southern California port of entry from Mexico is a good example. This pilot project uses iris biometric technology to record and match entry/exit records of foreigners using U.S. visas and other travel documents as they pass through pedestrian gates. The project is designed to meet the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission and Congressional mandates. If it succeeds, it may be expanded to other border crossings.
We are seeing an impact on specific verticals, including the electrical utility market, and this is creating a layered real-time approach that is much more proactive in nature. It is no longer enough to be reactive with security threats. This layered approach includes perimeter security like microwave barriers, Doppler barriers, smart fence sensors and video-based area analytics. The key is using a system that can centralise all of this event information so that security teams can make immediate and effective decisions about potential threats. In addition to what we are seeing in the electrical utility industry, there is an increase in real-time sensors that can help detect incidents like the Paris and San Bernardino attacks. For example, gun-shot detection can trigger real-time geo-spatial location for first responders, which can be used along with integrated video event detection devices for visual verification.
Terrorism has undoubtedly had a major impact on the physical security market in terms of demand for products, as well as the types of products required. Protection of U.S. facilities abroad, such as embassies and military bases, has been greatly enhanced with newer video surveillance systems, more sophisticated access control and a more streamlined approach to processing alarms – sometimes even from across the globe. Surveillance systems in public venues, city centres, ports, airports and other critical sites have all seen growth. Another development is enhanced security at public events such as concerts, sporting events and during protests, as well as at infrastructure facilities such as power plants and water reservoirs. The need for improved emergency management has led to the integration of various security systems and to coordination among agencies responsible for security. Newer technologies, such as drones, are starting to be used for surveillance of events in larger cities.
Naturally, the threat of terrorism is shaping the physical security market and the solutions we provide to address it. At TDSi we are aware that we are having more discussions with end users in respect to systems and technologies that can be used to verify a person’s ID document (such as passports, identity card, etc.) and ensure that they are legitimate documents. With increasingly convincing forgeries appearing, it’s vital that security operators and services can be sure of the identity of individuals, only allowing access once the credentials have been fully verified. In addition to countering terrorism, there are implications for insurance and workplace health and safety as well. Unfortunately, ID documents cannot always be taken at face value, so it is vital that the security industry provide the tools to overcome this issue.
Overall, we're seeing the need for organisations – from smaller businesses to large enterprise organisations – to make efforts to improve their security roadmap as a result of terrorism and other threats. These organisations are looking at the investments they already have in place, and looking at ways they can work with integrators to identify holes and fill those holes in a cost-effective and efficient manner. Purchasing can include, but is not limited to, emergency communications software, access control panels and software, and video surveillance, as well as investing in more security guards on site. The security industry is in the unique position to answer the questions end users have about how best to protect their assets, as well as provide products that integrate well with existing infrastructure, provide peace-of-mind for security departments and help give emergency responders the most accurate and up-to-date information possible in the event of an attack.
Physical security domains are more mature in understanding terrorist types of threats. The IT/cyber security industry is working to better understand the threats, likelihood and resulting impacts of how terrorist organisations may exploit technology. The tech field changes much faster than the physical side, so it is a moving target. Both physical and cyber/IT security have the same goal – to prevent or reduce the risk of loss. As terrorists evaluate opportunities, both physical and cyber, security teams must work together to evaluate the combined threat and coordinate to manage the overall risks. Solutions will vary but the first step is communication and cooperation across physical and cyber security teams.
There is no shortage of technology solutions that can help the world fight terrorism, but unfortunately no “magic bullet.” The random nature of terrorism and the economic and logistical challenges of protecting every possible target, ensure that such violent acts will continue in some form and at some level. As our Expert Panelists point out, however, there are ways technology can have a positive impact to prevent or mitigate the threat of terrorism. Unfortunately, there are seldom headlines when terrorism is prevented, only when it succeeds. Still no reason we shouldn’t work to make the world a safer place, even if total safety eludes our grasp.
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