Utility Security Upholds Uncompromising Standards

Utility Security Upholds Uncompromising Standards

Utilities are like a country's nerve system any harm could result in serious consequences. After Sept. 11, utility sites have focused on defending vulnerabilities against threats.

The protection of critical infrastructure, such as water systems, became a high priority after Sept. 11 for U.S. federal agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security and the Environmental Protection Agency. Both agencies developed guidelines for the security of water and wastewater facilities. In June 2002, Congress passed the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act, which requires vulnerability assessments and emergency response plans for community drinking water systems serving more than 3,000 people. Electric utilities follow the North American Electric Reliability Corporation's guidelines, starting a program for self-reporting and certification in 2008.

Security providers agreed the security market for utilities will increase. Ariel Frischoff, VP of Sales for EMEA and APAC, Agent Video Intelligence, said the market is roughly US$300 to 500 million. Rajeev Kaushal, Division Head of einfochips, estimated the global market size to be billions of dollars. Other interviewees felt it was difficult to put a figure on utilities, since threats differ from region to region.

Utilities face several threats. One threat is physical attacks that would inflict damage or destruction to vital infrastructure. "These attacks can include terrorism, sabotage or vandalism," said Tom Wallace, Sales Manager for Utilities, Security Systems Division, Southwest Microwave. "For water utilities, these acts can threaten raw water supply, water treatment plants and storage or distribution facilities. This could potentially affect water and power delivery, or public and environmental health and safety."

Other threats include planting of explosive devices and arson. Dumping of flammable or toxic substances into water, treatment facilities or distribution systems could be a potential risk. Theft of material such as copper or destruction of assets is also a big concern.

Utilities also have to assume the risk of hacking into a facility's supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system or deletion of critical files and databases. In addition, liability risks are real, such as injury or death to individuals by drowning or electrocution from high-voltage equipment.

Internal threats cannot be ignored, such as employees stealing information, materials or equipment. "Employees of critical utilities site are exposed to sensitive information about the site," Frischoff said. "For example, a nuclear plant contains information on nuclear energy processes that are confidential. Employees may have access to it and try to steal it to sell it on the market."

Perimeter systems are the first crucial layer of security for utility sites. It has to both deter and detect, often with barriers, cameras and monitoring systems.

"Perimeter sensors allow security personnel to detect an intrusion attempt to the outer perimeter," Wallace said. For example, fences topped with razor wire, are an effective delay to unauthorized entry. Monitoring equipment provides visual assessment of the disturbance, allowing security personnel to respond quickly.

Environmental conditions have to be considered when implementing perimeter systems. "Usually utility sites are very big in size, and are located in areas where environmental elements are very strong, like wind, snow or hot deserts," said Frischoff. "This makes them very difficult to safeguard."

"To overcome harsh weather conditions, Magal's taut wire is designed for installation near the sea in humid conditions, snow or strong winds. It offers high probability of detection and a low false-alarm rate." said Adam Rosenberg, VP of Marketing for Magal Security Systems.

False-Alarm Control
Several types of sensors can be used for perimeter security. The most important criteria for perimeter intrusion are the number of false alarms and the associated technologies to reduce them.

"It has to be considerably low," Philbin said. "Otherwise, sites will pay unbelievable prices, having security guards even police running back and forth to remote and expansive sites." Electrified fences have fewer false alarms because a physical action is required to initiate an alarm. Magal Security Systems said its false-alarm rate for its taut wire system is one false alarm per kilometer in three months.

Access Control
At many utility sites, employees enter through a detection gate and have their belongings searched. Between gates, there are different levels of security for employees, with different authorization granting access to different areas.

Oren Feldmann, VP of Marketing and Sales at EVT, said access control for utilities is usually combined with other systems, such as alarm-triggered video or video analytics. "If someone has gone through a gate, a video will pop up and be viewed live from the control room," he said. "Or if someone has stayed in a gateway where everybody is supposed to pass in a few seconds, then the video analytics will tell the operator what the person is doing."

Access control can play a larger role in an integrated system. "In a hazardous environment, access control can track who is in a facility, their real-time location and in the event of an emergency, direct first responders to that exact point," said Susan Alderman, Project Marketing Director for EMEA and India, Honeywell Building Solutions.

It can be governed down to the smallest details, such as working with ID card management, authenticating contractors and visitors on prespecified locations, times and training credentials, Alderman continued. Access control can also be used to protect intellectual property, along with tracking valuable portable assets to predetermined boundaries.

Product Trends
Perimeter security will always be the first protection for utility sites. "Utility companies are still perimeteroriented and typically spend more on perimeter protection than for internal security," said Andrew Minnikin, President of Pacom Systems U.K. and Northern Europe.

System integration is another trend for utilities, owing to a need for operational efficiency as well as security. Frischoff estimated this market to grow at 25 to 40 percent annually.

Integration will offer financial gains to utilities. "In our experience, this equates to at least a 20-percent saving on operational costs more if a fully integrated design process is applied at the initial design stage," Alderman said.

Integration will lead to improved situational awareness and real-time responses. For example, Chitayat said, the Orsus Situator can automatically notify the relevant agencies and personnel when certain events occur, such as water pollution, resulting in faster responses.

Future Outlook
Increased situational awareness is a goal that security providers strive for. "All sensors, all systems and all information will drop a conclusion through one procedure to the security person of what is happening and what they need to do," Feldmann said. "An operator goes to site one to site 20, and all sites will need to look the same and feel the same."

Video analytics are getting smarter, with demand growing to detect more unauthorized intrusion and eliminate false alarms. "The money will be spent much more smartly in the future," said Eli Gorovici, President and CEO for DVTel.


Product Adopted:

Share to:
Comments ( 0 )