Mitigating Risk

Airports adopt new technologies for advanced security

IN recent years, airports have been pushed to invest an unprecedented amount of money and time into security. These facilities can take numerous technological measures to combat security risks. This includes card readers with highly accurate credentials for ensuring the identity of employees, video analytics for early detection of suspicious behavior and digital video recording for visual evidence of suspects in question.

To that end, the Transportation Security Administration is issuing a uniform credential for transportation workers to tighten security and eliminate the need for multiple, redundant background checks. The TWIC program is designed to improve identity management—through end-to-end credentialing—identity proofing and identity vetting. This will apply to all personnel whose duties require unescorted physical and/or computer access to secure areas of a transportation system.

Under TWIC guidelines, employees are only issued a key card after a face-to-face meeting with an authorized airline agent, who collects biographical data, such as I9 documentation, as well as biometric data— such as fingerprints and photographs. Users select an eight-digit PIN at that time. The card tightly binds the cardholder through three-factor authentication—who they are (photo identification and fingerprint identification), what they have (key card) and what they know (PIN).

To that end, some airports have already implemented similar measures. For example, Little Rock, Ark., National Airport was among the first to deploy a combined smart card and biometric fingerprint reader solution to ensure tight control of employee movement within the facility.

Smart Card/Biometric Solution
The Little Rock airport deployed Software House® C•CURE® 800/8000 and iSTAR controllers, a scalable security management solution encompassing complete access control, along with HID iCLASS® smart card and biometric fingerprint readers from BioScrypt Inc. The systems integrator, Advent Systems Inc., installed 110 readers controlling access to airport doors and vehicle gates.

The company also installed a dedicated security backbone in the terminal, which includes redundant servers to prevent loss of information in case of a hardware failure. System redundancy is transparent to users; if the main server fails, service is restored instantly via the backup server. Using separate standalone servers prevents any unauthorized entry into the security system through the airport LAN.

Today, all new airport tenants, contractors and employees who require access to restricted areas provide a fingerprint and undergo a background investigation to receive a badge. The fingerprint is stored on the smart card, which also contains a specific security level that defines which doors and gates each person can access.

Whenever entering a secure area, the user presents a proximity smart card to the card reader, which flashes a green light, indicating that the card contains authorized clearances and that the user should proceed with the biometric verification. The user then places a finger on the fingerprint reader, which connects to the database to verify authenticity. If authenticity is confirmed, the door automatically opens. If the system identifies an unauthorized person seeking access, it automatically alerts the police and sends a report to the communications center, along with a photo of the person whose card is being used, key information about the user, and the reason for access denial, such as a lost or stolen card. With the pertinent data and photo in hand, communications center dispatchers can instantly provide police with a description of the person.

Increased Security
“Our users love the new system because they feel more secure,” said Tim Doll, director of operations for Little Rock National Airport. “It’s made our dispatchers’ lives easier.

“Our previous system displayed coded text on the monitors, so dispatchers would have to know what each code meant for each alarm. C•CURE simply displays a map of the terminal building with a flashing light, indicating the location of the door in alarm mode on the map. It tells the dispatcher the reason for the alarm, such as ‘door forced open,’ and it shows a picture of the person using the door, along with pertinent information about them.”

The airport has issued approximately 1,900 cards to date. Airport tenants are required to notify badging personnel immediately if someone is no longer in the employee database so they can automatically disable the badge.

“Today, the airport is more secure,” Doll said. “We have better reporting capabilities. We have more control over monitoring and changing things on the system than we did before. I can sit at my desk and change parameters on any door in the airport, pull up a report if someone left a door open and have information within seconds on who went through the door last. It’s worked out great. I get four to five calls a month from other airports looking to do the same thing.”

During the specification process, Doll kept TSA apprised of the new security system. The agency is pleased the airport has eliminated the chance of someone using a lost badge to gain access. TSA is considering making this type of system mandatory for all airports.

Cutting-Edge Surveillance
State-of-the-art video surveillance systems also are becoming more common in airports around the world. Avianca Airlines in Colombia, for example, uses digital video management systems to fight drug trafficking. With American Dynamics™ CCTV surveillance cameras and digital video management systems from Tyco International, airline authorities can stop illegal activities and provide visual evidence to prosecute drug smugglers.

Avianca Airlines operates out of several international airports with daily flights to major U.S., European, and South and Central American cities. Today, Avianca protects its assigned gates and cargo warehouses with nearly 100 dome and fixed cameras positioned to record specified activity inside and around the perimeter of its facilities. CCTV footage is recorded, which provides easily accessible video. Intellex units are connected through a local area network.

Having replaced old VCRs with Intellex digital video management systems, Avianca security also can access footage of interest within minutes, instead of having to run through hours of video to find what they are seeking. In addition, the airline records footage directly from the dome cameras 24/7 in high-traffic areas. For lesstraveled areas, such as the baggage warehouse, officials have programmed the cameras to record footage only when they detect certain motion in the field of view. This system helps Avianca use valuable network bandwidth more efficiently by only recording footage of interest.

In Good Hands
Avianca also purchased a matrix switcher system, which makes it easy for operators to manage a complex CCTV system. Security personnel can control more cameras and easily switch between camera views and monitors in the control room. This provides greater situational awareness, helping to identify and address problematic activities more effectively.

“The systems help us to prevent illegal or dangerous incidents among passengers and employees,” said Edgar Cano, chief manager of national airports for Avianca.

For example, using cameras and DVMSs, Avianca security personnel work alongside authorities in Colombia to monitor for illegal activities and apprehend suspects. In several instances, the airline has caught drug smugglers by identifying illicit behavior via CCTV camera recordings.

An example presented itself on April 18, 2006, when an unaccompanied 5-yearold girl arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport aboard Avianca Airlines Flight #020 from Bogota, Colombia, with two hard-sided suitcases. An inspector conducting a routine exami-nation opened one of the girl’s suitcases and noticed an unusually thick side. The inspector probed the siding of the suitcase and discovered a white powdery substance that field-tested positive for heroin. The officer seized the heroin, which weighed approximately 1,042 grams. While customs contacted the Administration for Child Services, Avianca officials retrieved video to determine if the child’s mother acted suspiciously on tape when she dropped the child off.

The surveillance system gives airline authorities the means to provide visual evidence for criminal trials by burning footage onto CD to share with authorities. The airline is able to share surveillance footage with authorities within minutes, aiding law enforcement personnel in faster identification and apprehension of suspects. The visual evidence, in conjunction with the substance found in the girl’s possession, was enough evidence proof to prosecute the mother for illegal drug possession, illegal drug trading and child exploitation. She is now serving time in jail.

“We’ve had positive feedback from our passengers, as well as our employees, about the system,” Cano said. “It’s very easy to use, so our staff is able to get up to speed quickly and has already been a more recognizable force throughout the airports. Passengers also feel the difference. They know they are safer traveling with us because they know that they are in good hands.”

Video Analytics
Another powerful tool available to airports for fighting crime is video analytics software. Incorporating sophisticated video analytics functionality into digital video systems gives airports early insight into both unusual traffic patterns and behaviors and potential criminal activity. Today, many retail video management systems incorporate these new levels of intelligence. These systems analyze patterns and trends—enabling airports to quickly identify and stop potential threats. This is a powerful resource, particularly for remote areas such as airport runways.

The systems are configured to continually sift through live video, looking for events that the organization defines as unusual, such as a person leaving an object behind. The system automatically notifies security personnel of such an event occurring. Instead of relying exclusively on security guards to catch every suspicious activity via monitors, video analytics software is programmed to pick up on these activities.

This analysis can determine a wide range of behaviors, such as a person or object crossing a virtual tripwire, a person or vehicle entering an area of interest, people loitering near a restricted area or objects left behind or removed from secured areas. When an alert is triggered, the security officer on duty can instantly switch to the specific camera that captured the incident and examine the video more closely.

Common sense practices, strong vetting of employee credentials and innovative technology are being employed by airports worldwide to combat a variety of threats. When employed correctly, these measures will result in safer travel and a more secure environment for passengers and employees alike.

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