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Threats in Airport Security

Threats in Airport Security
As airports are vast complexes filled with people, timely identification of threats is crucial to ensuring everyone's safety. A&S examines how various security systems from central management platforms to alarms.
As airports are vast complexes filled with people, timely identification of threats is crucial to ensuring everyone's safety. A&S examines how various security systems from central management platforms to alarms.

Imagine being aboard an airplane, when a voice announces that the flight has been hijacked. This type of threat is exactly what aviation security aims to prevent. A complete threat assessment starts long before takeoff. Sabotage on the ground has potential to be deadly, but an airborne attack would almost certainly kill all.

While densely populated airports are also targets, their size and easy access make speedy evacuation possible and lower the risk of casualties. This accessibility also makes airports open to attack, requiring checkpoints to identify potential threats.Controlling access to airport facilities is a crucial step in screening passengers with malicious intent. No single piece of equipment, however, can serve as a magic bullet.

Airports are an undeniably big market for security, with some estimates putting worldwide air protection costs at US$5.6 billion each year. The amount of hardware required is significant. Cameras and explosive detection scanners are the most noticeable, but a host of other products form a total solution.

"We observe globally that there is a trend for ID biometrics and whole-body imagers," said Marie-France Mann, Consultant, Frost & Sullivan.

Other experts also see increasing deployment of biometrics. "Airports appreciate fingerprint and iris, as the technologies are more precise and established for one-to-one or one-to-many identification," said Victor Lee, Senior Consultant for the International Biometric Group. "Facial recognition has improved tremendously but has challenges that are out of its control, such as environmental conditions."

As airports require established solutions for a wide range of needs, major U.S. and European providers dominate the market. Frost & Sullivan named, without order, GE Security, Smiths, L-3, Rapiscan and Lockheed Martin as the main players for airports worldwide.

Terrorist Threat

One of the biggest threats facing airports is terrorism. With the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and the attempted 2005 London liquid-bomb plot, nearly all interviewees named deliberate acts of violence as threats that they hoped to eliminate. While the targets could be crowds in the airport terminal, mission-critical facilities like control towers or onboard planes, the possibility of suicide bombs is an undeniable fact.

"A successful suicide bomb attempt would devastate the airline industry," said Gary Tryon, Sales Manager for Europe, Middle East, Africa (EMEA) at Brijot Imaging Systems. "Among the latest terrorist threats is use of triacetone triperoxide (TATP) in the manufacturing of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), primarily comprised of hydrogen peroxide and acetone."

As hydrogen peroxide and acetone are widely available the first a common household antiseptic and the other found in nail polish remover they arouse no suspicion, Gary Tryon, Sales Manager for Europe, Middle East, Africa (EMEA) at Brijot Imaging System said. "TATP is the underlying issue behind the recent focus on the carrying of liquids aboard commercial airliners, and was used in the 2005 London bombings and other terrorist attacks." While material s for bomb making are widely available, they are difficult to prepare. "TATP bomb materials are readily available, but the process of converting them into an explosive can be delicate and often results in injury to the bomb maker," Tryon said. "But with all the disadvantages of a dangerous (for the terrorist) preparation, acetone peroxide has one definite advantage over other types of explosives it cannot be discovered by dogs or metal detectors."

To combat terrorism or other acts of violence, access control is deployed. This includes managing access to sensitive areas, such as the tarmac, control room or hangars, to reduce safety threats.

"One of the major applications that we see is border control," Lee said. "Many people are concerned about someone going to the tarmac or other sensitive areas. Airports use biometrics to discourage this."

Another access control threat is theft of valuable equipment or resources. "With fuel prices increasing rapidly throughout the world, there is increasing need for airports to secure fuel storage facilities to reduce risk of theft," said Daniel McVeagh, Cardax Product Manager for Gallagher Security Management Systems.

Integrated Solution

The advent of networking has heralded the age of integration, helping achieve situational awareness. Integration allows operators to instantly understand what incidents are happening and decide what action needs to be taken, uniting disparate systems as a complementary whole.

"Uncoordinated response to security-relevant incidents has led to wrong and excessive reactions, up to complete shutdown of terminals or the whole airport," said Uwe Karl, Vertical Market Manager of Airports, Siemens Building Technologies. "An integrated security solution combines security operations with access control, perimeter security systems and a local area network; it also integrates intelligence support, digital trunk radio system, multiple command centers and software applications for information dissemination, incident and resource management."

Ideally, this reduces costs with a general - purpose network infrastructure, said James Mihaychuk, Product Manager and Applications Engineer at Lumenera. Other benefits for greatly enhanced performance are improved response times, remote monitoring of airport buildings, interoperability and scalability to more locations and to new functions.

"While integrated safety solutions can be efficient, we may remain skeptical about centralized security as it encompasses passenger behavior and sensitive issues," Kenneth Chan, Research Analyst, Frost & Sullivan said. "Once again, privacy concerns play a pivotal role in influencing any policies, consequently affecting employment of converged solutions products and services."

The complexity of converging large projects makes integration tough to deploy in existing airports. "Due to slow adoption of IP cameras, coupled with the fact that most airports are just beginning to integrate converged solutions into their security programs, we do not see any dramatic change at this time," said Melchior Baltazar, Vice President of Critical Infrastructure Protection, ObjectVideo. "We do, however, see opportunity for business intelligence solutions in addition to traditional security solutions. Queue length monitoring and people counting solutions are being used more and are becoming well-positioned in a variety of airport scenarios, including ticketing and security lines."

to be continued...

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