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High-Tech Sector Facing Theft Issues

High-Tech Sector Facing Theft Issues
Technology is expensive. Portable, valuable assets are often in danger of being stolen both within production facilities and during transit and storage. ASMAG.COM delves into how various high-tech industries are protecting themselves.
Technology is expensive. Portable, valuable assets are often in danger of being stolen both within production facilities and during transit and storage. ASMAG.COM delves into how various high-tech industries are protecting themselves.

Theft of assets from manufacturing facilities in high-tech industries is often the result of insiders working with vendors or other employees, citing as an example the bribing of a microchip producerˇs employees to collect microprocessors that had been rejected during testing and divert them to outside criminals, according to Jeffrey Williams, President and Managing Director of consulting company Orion Support and former special agent. Development of counterfeit products that are hard to distinguish from the real thing is a growing challenge and, in the case of pharmaceuticals, dangerous.

Security assessments in this vertical begin with determining the nature of the assets and level of security required, said Dov Yoran, Partner at MetroSITE Group. Company policies and procedures are reviewed, architectural papers examined, and fire safety measures examined. Moreover, ingress and egress points are scrutinized; manned guard implementation is taken into account; and guard routines and schedules are given a thorough inspection.

Experts analyze camera location and angle of view, how images are monitored, and how and where security control rooms are operated. Secure communication must also be verified and protected to ensure authenticity of both incoming information and outbound commands. Other security equipment and policies, such as time-restricted access and rules for certain areas are also investigated and tested.

Directors of security (based at headquarters) and their teams are likely to be the decision-maker when it comes to procurement and specification decisions, explained Dave Love, Director, Industrial and Manufacturing Solutions, Johnson Controls. Equipment is then centrally procured and dispatched to each plant.

"This vertical is very much about reputation," Yoran stressed. Security vendors and consultants must develop good relationships with chief security officers. Doing so requires experience, a good track record, trust and word-of-mouth recommendations.

Daniel Brami, owner of Paris-based access control company Alternative Solution, agreed: "It takes time to build relationships with end users. A high degree of sensitivity regarding confidentiality is a must as well."

Facilities & Solutions

There are many types of high-tech facilities. Some of the most valuable in Silicon Valley are server farms places where Google, Cisco and eBay keep customer transaction information. These large sites house thousands of tremendously valuable hard drives, which store petabytes of data. Managers must ensure that they never run the risk of power outages, damage to assets or break-ins.

According to Yeong Wai Hon, General Manager, Security, China and Taiwan, Tyco Fire & Security, high-tech facilities have the following characteristics:

- A mix of office space, production and factory floors, and warehousing
- A large number of uniformed and non-uniformed employees performing different roles 
- Need to restrict access to important locations
- Presence of small, high-value items
- Valuable technology

The protection of proprietary technology is often the top priority. Notebook computers, for example, must not be taken out of the facility. In addition, the security system must be able to track who is using a specific computer or laptop and provide details of where and when the laptop is being used. The security system should set off an alarm if the notebook is not with specified personnel or it is entering or exiting an area that is outside approved locations.  

A production plant may add time restrictions, said Yeong. Production employees on duty may not be allowed to gain access to the plant within 24 hours after badging out with any exceptions needing to be cleared. Security can also be deployed to closely monitor production processes from manufacturing to storage of high-value products in warehouses.

Typically, high-tech facilities also have fully integrated, remotely accessible security systems that incorporate sophisticated perimeter intrusion, access control, high-resolution video surveillance, burglar alarms and fire detection. Server farms in facilities that include both offices and labs feature heightened access control, as does the uninterrupted power supply room, which houses backup power equipment, and the electronic security room. These types of facilities typically service fewer than 100 employees, and have one or two DVRs, with redundant hard drives, running up to 15 cameras each. Many have motion alarms, recording only when needed. Cameras are usually placed at the perimeter, office doors, the lobby and common areas. Generally, these facilities use the same camera for all security applications.

Security Solutions

Access control systems determine whether those entering visitors or suppliers have passed examinations regarding emergency procedures in the event of, say, chemical spills. It can also check whether certification has lapsed. Finally, the system can verify that visitors are being supervised. Two card swipes, for example, may be required one for the host, one for the visitor.

Meanwhile, alarms can trigger signals when there is a drop in pressure in a particular piece of equipment, a power surge or stoppage in a certain area of production. Then, analytics differentiate between false alarms and true dangers, Yeong continued. When a smoke alarm is triggered in the control room, analytics can be used to differentiate between smoke and flames and between high-level and low-level threats.

Increasingly, bigger production areas are being monitored, said Shah, with cameras on continuous recording cycles.

Video can also monitor manufacturing processes, said Yeong. On conveyor belts that move continuously in one direction, cameras detect stops and trigger alarms. This can be integrated into the processing device with the alarm signal notifying the person in charge via all possible means of communication (PDA, email, SMS) simultaneously. 

Plants prefer fixed cameras over PTZ cameras as the latter have blind spots, said A.H. Tan, Operations Manager of Empire Automation in Malaysia. "It is usually more cost-effective to install more fixed cameras that cover all corners than to have a few overlapping PTZ cameras," he said.

Factory automation (machine vision) cameras are highly specialized. Some have short shutter times; others are high-resolution and used to read labels or for marking points on wafers or chips. Analytics and wide-dynamic range can detect whether a label has been placed straight on a product or judge freshness of a medicine's ingredient based on color. It can also determine the thickness of one drop of clear fluid on a microscope's slide.

Among the best known vendors of machine vision systems are Cognex and JAI Pulnix. Machine vision cameras tend to be much more expensive (up to 10 times more) than conventional surveillance cameras, and are sold in much lower volumes. 

Finally, facilities in colder regions use heaters to keep surveillance cameras functioning. Camera housings can also have wipers or self-cleaning glass.


Major integrators in this vertical include ADT, SimplexGrinnell and Siemens Building Technologies. Pelco and American Dynamics are the top camera vendors with the closest relationships with the largest number of system integrators, while DVR supplies are broad and evenly distributed among a number of key players.

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