Critical infrastructure aspires for comprehensive protection

Critical infrastructure aspires for comprehensive protection

The critical infrastructure sector has been regarded as one of the most important sectors in terms of national security around the world since it is highly vulnerable to terrorist threats. There were about 2,500 attacks on critical infrastructures around the world that can be linked to terrorist organizations from 1996 to 2006, according to a report by Electric Power Research Institute. To prevent possible disastrous consequences, governments usually adopt various high-tech security products that come with better risk management systems and also higher prices. It is forecast that the global infrastructure market will grow from US$63.7 billion in 2013 to $105.9 billion in 2018, at a CAGR of 10.7 percent, by MarketsandMarkets. North America will remain as the market with the most revenue, whereas the markets in Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa are expected to experience greater market traction.

Critical infrastructures have always been one of the most prominent security focuses of national security. Critical infrastructures refer to several essential and fundamental facilities, interdependent systems, and assets that support a country's politics, economy, transportation, security, energy, health, education, communication, etc. — to put it simply, it has a huge impact on the public's daily activities. For instance, if any power plant is damaged, it can jeopardize a country's security and lead to unimaginable public consequences and inconveniences, as it can take several weeks to months for total site functionality to be restored.

Critical infrastructures are mainly threatened by terrorism, vandalism, intrusion, and espionage, and are often considered a major target of anti-government actions. These critical sites should also be protected from industrial accidents and natural disasters which will instantly endanger the public once they occur. If a dam, for instance, is sabotaged, the damage may cause insufficient water resources, flood control failure, agriculture irrigation failure, and even disable electricity from being generated around that area, or worse, across the country. If a power grid is attacked, the damage may lead to chemical leaks and cause further destruction.

An example of this is the power grid attack in California last April, which has recently been disclosed as an act of domestic terrorism, in which 17 transformers were fired at by unknown snipers for 19 minutes. The attackers had cut the fiber optic telecommunication cables in an underground vault near the site before entering the site and shooting at the oil-filled cooling systems of the transformers, causing massive oil leaks and the transformers to overheat. Fortunately, the damage was controlled; however, it still took 27 days for the facility and the damaged transformers to be repaired — each transformer can cost millions of dollars to build, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.

A power grid is usually set up with multiple buildings, assets, and facilities, spread over a vast geographical area. Critical infrastructures generally invest in various technologies over time, resulting in the wide adoption of legacy and new devices, according to Darren Chalmers-Stevens, VP of EMEA at VidSys. Regarding overall size, number of buildings, and vast system deployments, managing a power grid in an organized manner is the primary challenge of protecting critical infrastructures. In order to efficiently and conveniently manage the entire energy station across multiple locations, it is crucial for critical infrastructures to centralize operations and increase situational awareness on both physical and logical threats through greater system integration.

Risk management of critical infrastructures could be a great challenge to a site operating manager, due to complex deployment of disparate systems, devices, and facilities within a vast area. Critical infrastructures tend to favor multi-layered perimeter systems, which are able to comprehensively prevent various threats, like vandalism, trespassing, terrorist acts, and etc.

It is forecast that the global market size for electronic perimeter security sensors and video in electrical utilities and oil refineries will top $160 million in 2014, despite the economic slowdown in 2011 and 2012. This strong growth is resulting from the trend of using remote video and networked sensors in order to remotely configure and conduct devices from a distant location, according to a report by IMS Research, an IHS company.

For energy grids, any security threat or attack might lead to catastrophic results, which is exactly why managers are prone to using multi-layered perimeter detection systems.

A nuclear site is the perfect candidate for a multi-layered perimeter system. “A common architecture for nuclear power stations and other high security sites is an initial layer of a volumetric-tall sensor (4m to 6m high) with very high possibility of detecion; once an alert is generated, the intruder has to penetrate a fence which would delay the intruder for a few minutes to move on, even if the intruder is well equipped,” suggested by Hagai Katz, Senior VP of Marketing and Business Development at Magal Security Systems.

"Behind the layer, there is typically a clear space of about 10-meters wide; it is an area always kept clear, facilitating ease of verification, be it by cameras or another detection layer, such as microwave sensors, buried volumetric cables, or even IR detectors. And finally there is a second fence for further delay, which may be equipped with a smart fence mounted sensor.”

Integration of Video Surveillance and Intrusion Systems
In perimeter security, it is crucial to properly integrate video surveillance with intrusion systems. If individuals or vehicles intend to breach a critical site, the intruder will trigger the perimeter sensors. The system will then immediately send out a security notification to the command center with a corresponding image from the camera at the particular site so operators will know how to respond.

“Without integration between video surveillance and intrusion systems, it would be difficult to maintain a high level of awareness when a sensor detects a break-in — it would be time consuming for a security operator to find the appropriate video footage of an event,” Joshua Phillips, Director of Marketing of Enterprise and Critical Infrastructure of Video Intelligence Solutions at Verint Systems stated.

There could be up to hundreds of surveillance cameras installed at the site of an energy grid to make sure that the entire area is completely covered. As the front line of a critical infrastructure site, a perimeter system especially requires constant monitoring with surveillance devices, in order to have the site comprehensively controlled.

However, for the security guard and operator, it is almost impossible to continuously concentrate on watching every camera during their shift, not to mention identifying the correct on-site camera and location right when the security alarm goes off. Adopting video analytics not only helps the operator to prevent an intrusion or attack, more importantly, it makes sure that the guards and operators will not miss any suspicious actions. “Upon motion detection or other abnormalities detected, security operators can get a geospatial location on the targeted suspect and immediately dispatch a response,” Phillips mentioned. Physical motion detection can help security operators spot threats effectively even in harsh external conditions and weather.

A common goal, when it comes to critical infrastructure protection, is the ability for security guards and operators to identify and respond to threats in the shortest time possible. In order to immediately and efficiently react to possible threats on site for large-scale operations, it is crucial to have a central management system with an open platform to allow for integration between different security measures and subsystems.

Besides, security systems like video surveillance, access control, and perimeter security, a total management integration platform should be able to connect effortlessly with other major systems. These systems include IT, fire and smoke detection, alarm, extinguishing, telephone, radio communication, and building automation that might be in the critical sites. These systems should be easily integrated through a single platform, regardless if they are new or legacy products and devices.

This total integration platform can make sure that any operator is able to manage all systems on site whenever a natural disaster, unexpected incident, or attack occurs. “The integration of video surveillance, access control, intrusion alarm, and fire detection is an ongoing and growing phenomenon which requires a tailor-made approach on behalf of the vendors and integrators, as some of the systems, such as access control, are quite old, but still operable,” said Aluisio Figueiredo, COO of Intelligent Security Systems.

Providing a safety and security solution that integrates different systems into a single, multi-modal, administrative solution is not just about merging equipment, devices, and systems — it is about putting into place a solution to support clearly defined working routines whilst ensuring rapid, compliant, and efficient response to emergency situations along with the mandatory, post-incident reporting analysis, according to Siemens Building Technologies.

Security deployment in a critical site is never an easy task, as there are many obstacles and concerns, such as environment, budget, and consensus among every department, which will affect the final security procurement in a critical infrastructure. Despite the challenges, the security market in the critical infrastructure sector is still full of opportunities for providers due to its importance in national security and safety.

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