Perimeter Security: Changing Needs of Critical Infrastructures

Sept. 10, 2012

This article originally appeared in the September 2012 issue of SD&I magazine

The critical infrastructure remains in the spotlight, even more than 10 years after 9/11. While the focus is not as keen as in previous years, end users want to make sure they shore up every asset on the premises—whether it’s industrial, manufacturing, water treatment, oil and gas pipelines, transportation hubs, electric grid, or even other outdoor sites such as telecommunications facilities which require perimeter security and other safeguards.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, the goal is to build a “safer, more secure and more resilient America.” And that’s where the savvy systems integrator can step in big time with the right training and armed with information on what to deliver, how and when.

According to Frank Koren, business development manager at ARINC Inc., Annapolis, Md., the government, on both a state and federal level, has changed its security expectations for critical infrastructure sites.

Koren said critical infrastructure facilities requiring increased on-site security include airports, nuclear power and other utilities; water treatment and waste manage­ment facilities; rail and public transportation; chemical manufacturing and oil storage locations; education campuses; and a wide range of other mainstay government buildings.

The information security side of the coin

Although security has been growing increasingly high-tech,
at the same time, Koren said: "hackers have become smarter so
critical infrastructures are requiring more security measures than ever before."

But the trend, Koren continued, represents not so much the creation of new technologies as the integration of existing ones to form a more complete and proactive defense. "Many security man­ufacturers want their products to be everything to everybody," said Koren. "But in reality, end-users tend to focus on specific things that will result in comprehensive security for their site. ARINC's security system is engineered to use commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technology to offer maximum compatibility with yesterday's proprietary systems or today's open-architecture." Koren added that certain facilities require custom software accessible to no one else.

The full range of intrusion detection, video surveillance, identification, access control and other security functions con­tinue to be used, but the trend now, Koren continued, is towards mutually supportive capabilities. "For instance," said Koren,"a program designed to prevent access until you prove you are who you say you are is now being integrated with external databases so there is a much higher probability that you are who you say you are."

All this means the integrator plays an increasingly important role in this arena, Koren said. "The integrator is expected to have a comprehensive knowledge of the facility's security, to make sure all of the different components no matter where they come from work together, that he be the single point of contact and that he maintains the lifetime security management."

Jeff Gaskin, operations manager for Allied Fire & Security in Spokane, Wash., also agreed that combining technologies also makes for more comprehensive security.

"The software for access control systems is becoming more and more robust," Gaskin said. "Now when a person shows his card at the reader, the process is integrated with a video camera for an added clarification, which in turn is connected to the video alarm with a person on the system watching."

Video rules the roost

The commercial side especially demands more video," Gaskin said. "At utility sites, there are substations all over the place, and managers want to see who's getting in, another example of access and video integration."

In the area of video, especially, Gaskin continued, "The technology is always getting better. Terabytes   now increase storage and handle more information.   Megapixel cameras provide better quality pictures, allow you to both watch a gate and zoom into a license plate and enable you to search by date and time."

In addition to terrorism concerns regarding facilities, Gaskin said that "many employers are increasingly looking out for the safety of their employees, such as having videos watching what is happening in the parking lot. For instance, we recently did a veteran's administration building in Spokane. But the majority of the product was used for perimeter protection and the parking lots."

Gaskin also said that recent incidents of violence on campus "have resulted in many mass notification systems. Not only does the fire alarm goes off, but announcements are generated over the public address system that covers the entire campus, along with the use of varying colors to signify different warnings. For some areas and some conditions, such as tornado warnings, the mass notifications go out to the entire community."

People connectivity adds a layer

The term "connectivity" is usually used in conjunction with high-tech. But Michael A. Novak, sales account manager, instructor and vice president of the personnel protection program at Spokane, Wash.-based Kodiak Security Services, believes the human factor is still critical in security and, in fact, enhances the technological aspect.

"We found that most security firms providing guards might train them with eight hours of video and eight hours of hands-on," Novak said. "But we also provide 422 hours of additional training. We provide practical and tactical handcuffing, baton, pepper spray and other procedures. But, on top of that, we teach aggressive management behavior, or how to understand people's body language. How is he standing, or folding his arms or walking? Is there something about him or her that bears watching?"

Much of Kodiak's work in this regard is done at the Spokane International Airport. One of its services is providing anonymous appearing guards for arriving and departing VIPs. Novak recalled one incident in which "a man displayed a certain body language. Actually, it was in the way he walked, which alerted us. He stood out a little, so we were able to stop something bad from happening."

Novak explained that these observational techniques, again from people who appear to be simply other passengers, are used to enhance established technology. For instance, the boarding screening is felt by many to be too intrusive. But, as the recent news has shown, a terrorist plot to get a man with a bomb implanted in his buttocks was foiled not by the screening procedure, but by a ‘mole’ who infiltrated the terrorist group. Therefore, Novak said, his company has guards who appear as other passengers observing those who go through the screening points, to try to spot any telltale body language.

This system also works in conjunction with a wireless camera

, a system which can be located a few miles away or up on top of

a building. "If we see something that just doesn't look right, our best officers are alerted."

Kodiak personnel work in a variety of venues, posing as ushers at political events, to parking lot attendants, to working

at federal hospitals where U.S. Marshalls deliver prisoners.

"We consider the typical security guard as a trained observer, Novak said."By the time he sees something and calls the police, the crime has been committed and the criminal likely escaped."

Novak teaches at the firm's academy, and said, "I also teach a history of terrorism. Many people think the war on terror began on 9/11 and has more or less ended. But it's still going on, and it started before 9/11. How many people realize that the man involved in taking over the U.S. embassy in 1979 is today the president of Iran?”

The critical infrastructure and perimeter security go hand in hand, and it takes a variety of techniques and tactics to get the comprehensive coverage the end user needs to protect people, places and assets.