Fundamental Facilities

Effective system integration ensures seamless operation of critical infrastructure.

Technology from the security industry fulfills an essential role in protecting the nation's critical infrastructure. This is defined by a Homeland Security Presidential Directive as physical and virtual systems that are "so vital to the United States that [their] incapacity or destruction would have a debilitating impact on security, national economic security, national public health or safety." The age of networked solutions and convergence of applications enables technology to provide broad-ranging capabilities to secure these essential systems.

The country's infrastructure includes power plants, water supply, telecommunications systems, transportation systems, emergency services, government services, banks and financial systems. Because these assets are so closely interconnected and interdependent, the failure of one could have a wide-ranging, catastrophic effect that would put the whole nation at risk.

In the same way that protecting each facility serves to protect the whole nation, each security component is critical to the overall success of security systems. Each video camera, card reader and infrared sensor plays an important role of protection—and each could conceivably be the point of failure that would undermine the whole system.

A Federal Plan

The nation's critical infrastructure faces a combination of public and private threats, suggesting a need for a shared public and private response. An estimated 85 percent of the nation's critical infrastructure and critical assets are owned by private industry.

However, an attack on any part of the interconnected whole is broadly a concern to everyone—and certainly to the federal government and the Department of Homeland Security. Therefore, a shared public-private response involves not only facility owners but also federal, state and local governments working together. DHS' role is to facilitate that cooperation, to enable sharing of information across the various industries and to establish best practices for infrastructure protection.

Industry-specific information sharing and analysis centers have evolved to facilitate the flow of information on threats, vulnerabilities, countermeasures and best practices in the private sector. In recent years, DHS has created a grant program ($3 billion to date) to finance security improvements to facilities ranging from chemical plants to mass transit systems and seaports. Among the projects is a Buffer Zone Protection Program to protect chemical facilities, financial institutions, power plants, dams, stadiums and other highrisk/ high-consequence facilities.

Insider Threats

The threat to the nation's essential systems from insiders is a particular concern, as evidenced by a 2008 report titled "The Insider Threat to Critical Infrastructures" from the National Infrastructure Advisory Council. Among the recommendations is the use of stronger identity management tools and increased employee screening by owners and operators of critical infrastructure facilities.

"Government should create a clearinghouse resource for owner-operators to assist in the assessment and mitigation of their insider threat risks," suggests the report. Possible technological solutions to the insider threat are "improved identity management technologies and tools to create a strong, persistent, portable and platform-independent secure network and physical access identify for workers. Improved cross-platform insider threat data correlating tools [can identify] anomalies and insider threat-related behavior patterns across heterogeneous IT systems and physical access systems." The report reiterates the need for partnership and information sharing in the success of critical infrastructure protection.

Tools for Critical Applications

The technical capabilities of the security industry are playing a significant role in protecting the nation. Central to their effectiveness is the importance of system integration to ensure all the components of a system work together. The role of a system integration company, such as North American Video, is to provide consultation, design, installation and support services that employ the latest developments in system technology, all fully integrated to deliver advanced security solutions on a system scale. Among the many benefits of these advanced solutions deployed by NAV are the following:

Video that is everywhere you need it. IP video isn't just the latest industry buzzword; it also is a total transformation of surveillance capabilities.

Wireless networks send video across a campus setting or along city streets from remote cameras. Video analytics draws attention to events and incidents that need to be addressed and saves operators from having to stare for hours at displays. Megapixel, high-definition cameras are improving image resolution and enabling fewer cameras to view broader areas while maintaining critical detail when there is a need to zoom in on the action. Digital recording facilitates the ability to locate video fast, and digital storage preserves the images to enable forensic investigation.

The ability to track who comes and goes. We have seen the importance of identity management as it relates to insider threats, and the industry's access control systems are increasingly combining physical and logical applications in an enterprise-wide system to manage not only who can open what door, but who can log into which computer. Networking enables access control to be tied into video systems, for example, to provide an image of someone trying to get through a door. Visitor management systems also are becoming more sophisticated and more automated, and they are often tied into the access control system. The systems can be integrated with lists of terrorists, predators and other threatening individuals.

Integration at the highest levels of the enterprise. Managers of critical infrastructure need broad-based, high-level information when they are managing a complex operation, and modern networked systems set the standard for collecting volumes of data and turning it into usable information at the enterprise level. Not only are the security industry's products networked across physical security applications, they tie into other enterprise systems to enable even broader utility across multiple business operations. Sharing information within an enterprise can ensure efficient and safe operation while monitoring the status of multiple variables that are critical to success.

Port Security

Protecting the nation's ports has been a top priority since Sept. 11, 2001, and technology's role is an illustration of both the industry's expanding capabilities to protect critical infrastructure and the enormity of the job at hand. The ports handle millions of tons of cargo that flow through the container shipping industry. Disrupting one of the ports could have a devastating effect on the nation's economy.

Government funding reflects its level of concern: millions have been spent to date, and an additional $388 million is available in 2009 to pay for improvements in port security. These include enhancing maritime domain awareness; enhancing risk management capabilities to prevent, detect, respond to and recover from attacks involving improvised explosive devices, weapons of mass destruction and other non-conventional weapons; training and exercises; and Transportation Worker Identification Credential implementation.

Federal grants have so far enabled many of the ports to install the latest security and surveillance systems, from video analytics to RFID systems that track containers. The ports have led the way in the application of video analytics to provide intelligence that gives an alarm, for example, if someone crosses a virtual tripwire at the perimeter. Access control systems perform well in the environment where there is a combination of public and private entities and complex scenarios of who is allowed where.

The Sum of the Parts

Each component is critical to the success of the integrated whole. This is true in both the various facilities in the nation's critical infrastructure and the components that make up the security systems that protect those facilities. Also critical is the way in which those components are joined together into an integrated whole. Innovative system integration enables the various components of modern security systems to work together to protect the nation's critical infrastructure. Fortunately, the industry is up to the task.

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Digital Edition

  • Security Today Magazine - November December 2021

    November / December 2021


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