As anyone who has ever flown on a commercial airline since 2001 knows, security measures at airports are well enforced and the emphasis on traveller safety is all around the airport and its grounds.

Mass transportation, meanwhile, presents a special but not any less significant challenge when it comes to determining security issues. These facilities need to develop the means to protect a constantly changing and large population of passengers. And unlike airports these facilities often have hundreds of points of entry and exit on multiple modes—buses, subways, light rail, commuter trains, even ferries.

About 2 million Americans will use the nation’s airways on a given work day, while 35 million people will board some form of public transportation. In fact, statistics have shown that nearly 11 billion trips are taken on public transportation every year. In some large metropolitan areas in North America where mass transit is well established, more than 20 percent of the area’s inhabitants get around via public transportation.About 2 million Americans will use the nation’s airways on a given work day, while 35 million people will board some form of public transportation

Solving mass transit security

For transportation officials and their security providers, solving the mass transit security issue begins with determining the key concerns and then creating the proper responses via security systems, policies and procedures to mitigate the risks.

Although vandalism and graffiti are very visible signs of criminal behaviour in mass transit settings such as bus stops and subway stations, this is not where transportation officials typically focus their energy. Fences and gates can secure out-of-service buses and train cars, as can remote surveillance methods to keep such vandalism at a minimum.

Instead, it is the day-to-day safety and security of transit riders and employees that should become the highest priority. This begins with creating the safest environment possible that is highlighted with appropriate signage and, when necessary, audible warnings, and supporting that with technology, such as surveillance cameras, that will document what has happened if an incident occurs.Analytics can also be useful in alerting security about other suspicious behaviours at a transit stop, such as an untended bag or package

Crime prevention in transportation

Analytics can also be useful in alerting security about other suspicious behaviours at a transit stop, such as an untended bag or package Incidents of concern within a transit setting can take several forms, ranging from legitimate accidents or crimes to false claims such as faked fall down the stairs to potential and actual suicides. Bus and subway stations also have become magnets for homeless people who may put themselves and others in harm’s way by trying to access less secure public areas within a station as temporary shelters.

If someone is injured on a subway platform and the transit provider is held liable, it could be on the hook for hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars. Suicides are a major concern for operators, with personnel now being trained to look for individuals who seem distressed, are loitering in the area or are intentionally putting themselves in a dangerous situation, such as standing too close to the edge of a platform.

The deployment of video analytics, which can be programmed to send alerts when certain pre-set actions occur, can help determine when such dangerous behaviours come into play. Analytics can also be useful in alerting security about other suspicious behaviours at a transit stop, such as an untended bag or package or a person going into a restricted area.

Whether it is on the bus, train or ferry or at the stops themselves, cameras and intuitive video management systems are the key to both active and forensic transit security.

 typical 30-foot bus often has six cameras—one each at the front and middle doors, two more within the bus and then one looking forward and another looking behind the bus
Some cities use buses that are up to 60 feet long and those can be equipped with up to a dozen cameras

Train security and safety

By using the proper cameras and recording systems in a transit environment, quick-acting personnel can locate a person of interest who boarded a train at one station, follow him during his trip and produce a crisp, clear identifiable image at the end. Those setting up the system thus should keep in mind proper camera positioning, resolution and motion-based changes to framerates or other compression settings.

A typical 30-foot bus often has six cameras—one each at the front and middle doors, two more within the bus and then one looking forward and another looking behind the bus. The latter two are important in the event of accidents to verify liability. Some cities use buses that are up to 60 feet long and those can be equipped with up to a dozen cameras.Train stations often deploy high-definition cameras to better support facial recognition software to get that actionable image

Train cars are similarly equipped with two to four cameras to view activity down the centre aisle. Within the stations themselves, there can be from 15 to 30 or more cameras capturing wide-angle shots. Train stations, which have a restricted point of egress, often deploy high-definition cameras to better support facial recognition software to get that actionable image.

Installing the right technology for the solution

Although bandwidth and storage can be a concern, with motion-based recording, the resolution can be bumped up during event, resulting in a 1-megapixel stream jumping to 4 or even 8mbps when needed. By changing the resolution on demand, end users can cut their storage needs significantly.

Transportation settings often rely on the same technology used in other security installations, primarily mini dome cameras, although there are some mini transit domes built specifically for the environment with the proper aesthetics. Because of vandalism threats, transit typically avoids pendant mounts, which can be more easily grabbed and damaged. Temperature ratings for cameras also come into play in cold climates with cameras often getting outdoor exposure.Today’s new buses and trains are constructed with the cameras onboard and newer stations also take security into consideration at the earliest design stage

As trains and buses move along their routes, especially those that service outlying areas, Internet connectivity becomes an issue as well. Because it may be difficult for video to be sent in transit, security bus barns are equipped with Wi-Fi so video from onboard cameras can be downloaded at the end of the day. And the use of hardened recorders at the stations allows security personnel to retrieve recorded video.

Transit security with modern technology

Today’s new buses and trains are constructed with the cameras onboard and newer stations also take security into consideration at the earliest design stage. Older infrastructure from long-standing subway and bus terminals can prove to be a challenge when adding security, but these issues aren’t insurmountable.

Often the solution is to add more cameras to cover the same square footage because of less-than-ideal sight lines and to place conduit wherever it works best, which may mean positioning it under platforms or in other out-of-the-way places within older stations.

Looking ahead, transit security will continue to evolve, not only as new stations and modes of transportation are added to the system, but in terms of communicating with commuters. People can expect to get mass notification alerts on their mobile devices, and those same devices can provide vital data to transportation entities to better develop their overall systems.

Download PDF version

Author profile

J. Matthew Ladd President & COO, The Protection Bureau

J. Matthew Ladd is a member of Security-Net, a network of independent security systems integrators providing global support to customers.

In case you missed it

Enhance traditional security systems within your smart home
Enhance traditional security systems within your smart home

Market dynamics are changing the U.S. residential security market, creating new business models that better appeal to the approximately 70% of households without a security system. Smart home adjacencies have helped revitalise the traditional security industry, and alternative approaches to systems and monitoring for the security industry are emerging, including a new batch of DIY systems. Growth in the residential security market and its position as the channel for smart home solutions have attracted numerous new entrants. Telecoms, cable operators, and CE (consumer electronics) manufacturers are joining traditional security players as they compete to fulfill consumer demand for safety and security. Connected products also provide a layer of competition as consumers must decide whether having category devices such as doorbell video cameras, networked cameras, and other products suffice for their security. Increasingly competitive landscape Smart home services can provide additional revenue streams for the security industry For instance, IP cameras are a highly popular smart home device rooted in security, and Parks Associates estimates 7.7 million standalone and all-in-one networked/IP cameras will be sold in the U.S. in 2018, with $889M in revenues. Product owners may feel their security needs are fulfilled with this single purchase, as such dealers and service providers are under increasing pressure to communicate their value proposition to consumers. Categorically, each type of player is facing competition uniquely—national, regional, and local dealers all have a different strategy for overcoming the increasingly competitive landscape. Smart home services can provide additional revenue streams for the security industry. In Parks Associates’ 2017 survey of U.S. security dealers, 58% report that smart home service capabilities enable extra monthly revenue. Almost half of dealers also note they have to offer smart home devices and services in order to keep up with their competition. While white-label devices are acceptable in some instances, dealers need to integrate with hero products whenever possible when those exist for a category. For dealers who have added smart home devices and services are all potential benefits and good for business Improved customer engagement That 2017 survey also revealed 36% of security dealers that offer interactive services report security system sales with a networked camera and 16% report sales with a smart thermostat. For dealers who have added smart home devices and services, enhanced system utility, increased daily value, and improved customer engagement with the system are all potential benefits and good for business. Security has served as the most productive channel for smart home solutions, mainly because the products create natural extensions of a security system’s functions and benefits, but as smart home devices, subsystems, and controllers expand their functionality, availability, and DIY capabilities, many standalone devices constitute competition to classical security. Particularly viable substitute devices include IP cameras, smart door locks, smart garage doors, or a combination of these devices. Products that are self-installed offer both convenience and cost savings, and these drivers are significant among DIY consumers—among the 6% of broadband households that installed a security system themselves, 39% did it to save money. Enhance traditional security Self-installable smart home devices may resonate with a segment of the market who want security While many security dealers believe substitute offerings are a threat, some dealers do not find such devices an existential threat but instead view them as another path to consumer awareness. They argue that the difference between smart product substitutes and traditional security is that of a solution that provides knowledge versus a system that gives one the ability to act on that knowledge. A common theme among professional monitoring providers is that a homeowner who is aware of events happening in the home does not necessarily have a secure and protected household. For example, a Nest camera, a DIY product, notifies a consumer via smartphone about events in the home when it detects motion, but only when the notification is opened and identified will a consumer be able to act on the related event. Self-installable smart home devices may resonate with a segment of the market who want security but are unwilling to adopt professional monitoring; however, providers can leverage these devices to enhance traditional security features and communicate the value of professional monitoring. Smart home devices and features, while posing a threat to some security companies, are a potential way forward to increased market growth Increased market growth A key counterstrategy for security dealers and companies is to leverage their current, powerful role as the prime channel for smart home devices. Many security dealers now include smart home devices with their security systems to complement their offerings and increase system engagement. For example, as of Q4 2017, nearly 70% of U.S. broadband households that were very likely to purchase a security system in the next 12 months reported that they want a camera to be included as part of their security system purchase. In response, many security system providers now offer IP cameras as optional enhancements for their systems. Smart home devices and features, while posing a threat to some security companies, are a potential way forward to increased market growth. Security dealers have an opportunity to become more than a security provider but a smart home solutions provider rooted in safety. Provide status updates Comcast has entered both the professionally monitored security market and the market for smart home services The alternative is to position as a provider of basic security with low price as the key differentiator. Comcast has entered both the professionally monitored security market and the market for smart home services independent of security. It has discovered that monetising smart home value propositions through recurring revenue becomes increasingly challenging as the value extends further away from life safety. Since the security industry remains the main channel for smart home services, security dealers are in a unique position to leverage that strength. Value propositions must shift from the traditional arming and disarming of a system to peace-of-mind experiences that builds off the benefits of smart devices in the home to provide status updates (e.g., if the kids arrived home safely) and monitoring at will (e.g., checking home status at any time to see a pet or monitor a package delivery). These types of clear value propositions and compelling use cases, which resonate with consumer and motivate them to expand beyond standalone products, will help expand the home security market.

What is the value of "free" video management systems?
What is the value of "free" video management systems?

They say that every choice has a cost. It's a basic principle that, economically speaking, nothing is free. If it doesn't cost actual money, it may be expensive in terms of time, attention and/or effort. These are interesting observations to keep in mind as one peruses the various "free" video management system (VMS) offerings available on the market. Some are provided by camera companies to unify their products into a "system", even if it's a small one. Other free VMS offerings are entry-level versions offered by software companies with the intent of the customer upgrading later to a paid version. For more insights, we asked this week's Expert Panel Roundtable: What is the value of “free” video management systems (VMSs) and how can a customer decide whether “free” is the right price for them?

The ongoing challenge of IT and data risk management
The ongoing challenge of IT and data risk management

Managing IT and data risk is a challenging job. When we outsource our IT, applications and data processing to third-parties more and more every day, managing that risk becomes almost impossible. No longer are our data and systems contained within an infrastructure that we have full control over. We now give vendors our data, and allow them to conduct operations on our behalf.  The problem is, we don’t control their infrastructure, and we can never fully look under the hood to understand and vet their ability to protect our data and operations. We have to fully understand how important this issue is, and ensure we have the right governance, processes and teams to identify and mitigate any risks found in our vendors. No longer are our data and systems contained within an infrastructure that we have full control over Today, everything is connected. Our own networks have Internet of Things (IoT) devices.  We have VPN connections coming in, and we aren’t always sure who is on the other end of that connection. It is a full-time job just to get a handle on our own risk. How much harder, and how much larger should our teams and budgets be, to truly know and trust that our vendors can secure those devices and external connections?  For every device and application we have internally, it is very difficult to even keep an accurate inventory. Do all of our vendors have some special sauce that allows them to overcome the traditional challenges of securing internal and vendor-connected networks? They are doing the same thing we are – doing our best with the limited human and financial resources allocated by our organisation. Risk stratification and control objectives  The benefits of outsourcing operations or using a vendor web application are clear. So how can we properly vet those vendors from an IT risk perspective?  The very first thing we need to put in place is Risk Stratification. Risk Stratification presents a few targeted questions in the purchasing process. These questions include – what type of data will be shared? How much of this data? Will the data be hosted by a vendor? Will this hosting be in the US or offshored? Has the vendor ever had a data breach? These questions allow you to quickly discern if a risk assessment is needed and if so, what depth and breadth.  Risk stratification allows you to make decisions that not only improve your team’s efficiency, but also ensure that you are not being a roadblock to the business Risk stratification allows you to make decisions that not only improve your team’s efficiency, but also ensure that you are not being a roadblock to the business. With risk stratification, you can justify the extra time needed to properly assess a vendor’s security.  And in the assessment of a vendor’s security, we have to consider what control objectives we will use. Control objectives are access controls, policies, encryption, etc. In healthcare, we often use the HITRUST set of control objectives. In assessing against those control objectives, we usually use a spreadsheet.  Today, there are many vendors who will sell us more automated ways to get that risk assessment completed, without passing spreadsheets back and forth. These solutions are great if you can get the additional budget approved.  Multi-factor authentication  Even if we are using old-fashioned spreadsheets, we can ensure that the questions asked of the vendor include a data flow and network/security architecture document.  We want to see the SOC2 report if they are hosting their solution in Amazon, etc. If they are hosting it within their own datacentre, we absolutely want to see a SOC2 Type II report. If they haven’t done that due diligence, should that be a risk for you?  Today, we really need to be requiring our vendors to have multi-factor authentication on both their Internet-facing access, as well as their privileged internal access to our sensitive data. I rate those vendors who do not have this control in place as a high risk. We’ve recently seen breaches that were able to happen because the company did not require administrators or DBAs to use a 2-factor authentication into sensitive customer data sources.  In the assessment of a vendor’s security, one has to consider what control objectives to use This situation brings up the issue of risk acceptance. Who in your organisation can accept a high risk? Are you simply doing qualitative risk assessment – high, medium and low risks? Or are you doing true quantitative risk analysis? The latter involves actually quantifying those risks in terms of likelihood and impact of a risk manifesting, and the dollar amount that could impact your organisation.   So is it a million dollars of risk? Who can accept that level of risk? Just the CEO? These are questions we need to entertain in our risk management programs, and socialised within your organisation.  This issue is so important – once we institute risk acceptance, our organisation suddenly starts caring about the vendors and applications we’re looking to engage.  If they are asked to accept a risk without some sort of mitigation, they suddenly care and think about that when they are vetting future outsourced solutions. Quantitative risk analysis involves quantifying risks in terms of likelihood and impact of a risk manifesting Risk management process  In this discussion, it is important to understand how we think of, and present, the gaps we identify in our risk management processes. A gap is not a risk. If I leave my front door unlocked, is that a control gap or a risk? It is a gap – an unlocked door. What is the risk?  The risk is the loss of property due to a burglary or the loss of life due to a violent criminal who got in because the door was unlocked. When we present risks, we can’t say the vendor doesn’t encrypt data. The risk of the lack of encryption is fines, loss of reputation, etc. due to the breach of data. A gap is not a risk.  Once we’ve conducted our risk analysis, we must then ensure that our contracts protect our organisation? If we’re in healthcare, we must determine if the vendor is, in fact, a true HIPAA Business Associate, and if so we get a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) in place. I also require my organisation to attach an IT Security Amendment to these contracts. The IT Security Amendment spells out those control objectives, and requires each vendor to sign off on those critical controls. We are responsible for protecting our organisation’s IT and data infrastructure – today that often means assessing a 3rd-party’s security controls One final note on risk assessments – we need to tier our vendors. We tier them in different ways – in healthcare a Tier 1 vendor is a vendor who will have our patient information on the Internet. Tiering allows us to subject our vendors to re-assessment. A tier 1 vendor should be re-assessed annually, and may require an actual onsite assessment vs. a desk audit. A tier 2 vendor is re-assessed every 2 years, etc. We are responsible for protecting our organisation’s IT and data infrastructure – today that often means assessing a 3rd-party’s security controls. We must be able to fully assess our vendors while not getting in the way of the business, which needs to ensure proper operations, financial productivity and customer satisfaction. If we truly understand our challenge of vendor risk management, we can tailor our operations to assess at the level needed, identify and report on risks, and follow-up on any risks that needed mitigated.