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Do you know who’s lurking beyond your cameras?

The last major advancement in commercial perimeter security was the introduction of CCTV cameras. While this technology addressed some of the surveillance needs associated with facility protection, it failed to fully address the challenges posed by threats outside of your immediate view.

Today, we continue to guard our facilities with fences, cameras, and access control systems, a growing market anticipated to be valued at $37.43 billion by the year 2021. But does this anticipated investment make sense, and does it really equate to better security than we currently have today?

The answer is no because current protection strategies focus too heavily on protecting a facility’s physical perimeter rather than protecting the facility itself. Until the industry alters course, money will continue to be wasted and vulnerabilities will continue to be exploited.

Securing a perimeter is about more than just the physical boundaries of your facility or asset. It means effectively being able to detect threat activity early enough to allow an effective response before you are at risk of suffering loss.

Traditional perimeter security measures are reactive, not proactive, which results in a rushed and ineffective threat response. While these solutions play an important role in defense, they are insufficient and must be augmented with other systems to improve their overall efficiency and effectiveness.

Thinking Ahead

A select number of organizations are beginning to think ahead and implement these proactive solutions. Less attention is being given to the latest and greatest technology, and more energy is being spent developing a security plan that provides an advance warning of threat activity.

The perimeter intrusion detection systems market, a subset of the larger physical security industry, is seeing continued growth as a result. It’s forecasted to reach $5.82 billion by 2021 with a compound annual growth rate of 7.1 percent over the 5 year period following 2016.

Driving factors for this transition include a growing risk of terrorism, continued problems with immigration, increased government regulation, advancements in video surveillance technology, and a desire to reduce the amount of man-hours needed for security. Traditionally, false alarm rates have been a limitation to the adoption of these intrusion detection systems but new technology is emerging to counter these perceptions.

While many security professionals are looking to adopt a more proactive security plan, there are countless organizations still caught in the past who should be rethinking their perimeter protection. Security strategies are not something that can be changed overnight. For these lagging organizations to truly be effective in providing security, they must understand threats better and do everything to get out in front, anticipate, and defend against their next move rather than the previous one.

Instead of adding more cameras or investing in traditional security solutions that provide a limited threat response, the goal should be to develop a new strategy and increase awareness of activity beyond the view of your fence or cameras.

Implementing an Approach

The major hurdle for organizations is implementing an approach that focuses on realistic, rather than hypothetical, threat behavior. Real-world threats today operate in ways designed to specifically counter most of the modern, overt security technologies available in the market.

To better understand the behavior and activities of real-world threats, it’s imperative to understand many of the misconceptions associated with protection of many of our protected facilities and assets.

Low level, insurgent-like behaviors, previously confined to United States’ conflicts in the Middle East, are now becoming more and more prevalent in countries and regions like the United States and Europe. Realworld threats employ creative and unconventional tactics that can only be understood by studying their specific tactics, techniques, and procedures. You cannot adequately protect your assets against such threats by using traditional red-teaming exercises and staff.

During recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, we have seen conclusive evidence that those seeking to do us harm will go to great lengths to learn what and where existing security measures have been put in place. With that information, threats can understand how to avoid and/or sabotage them with little to no chance of recourse.

Even though these are concepts understood by militaries and some security professionals, most organizations are still planning their protection around past attacks even if it’s not representative of what could happen today.

The 2013 sniper attack on the Metcalf transmission substation is a constant reminder of the type of attacks we are constantly up against. With some early reconnaissance, the attackers were able to quickly cause $50 million in damages and escape apprehension. Even with the amount of attention this received in the security world, utility providers and other organizations with highvalue facilities have done little to improve their protection.

Traditional perimeter security protection tends to follow the same methodology no matter what facility or asset you’re protecting. A fence surrounds your protected area, with cameras mounted at numerous positions. These cameras are deployed to focus on known routes and to reduce the amount of surrounding blind spots. Security personnel and sophisticated software monitor these cameras for movement and then react when necessary.

The key is that they detect and react too late. The detection and reaction sequence begins at the point where the threat is already in position to cause the most significant damage or harm.

The result, most of the time, is that facility security personnel end up watching the camera feeds showing the damage as it occurs rather than intervening early enough in the process to prevent it from ever occurring in the first place. To effectively secure and protect physical assets from attack and/ or sabotage, you must incorporate standoff capability into your protection plan. For a security solution to be effective, you cannot, knowingly or unknowingly, disregard the threat activities and behaviors that occur ‘before the bad’.

In the majority of perimeter security applications, cameras and other security solutions are often mounted on or in the vicinity of the ‘wall’ itself due to terrain and access limitations. This is especially true in urban areas with surrounding infrastructure or places with blind spots caused by vegetation and undulating terrain. Unfortunately, this limited protection that some facilities are constrained to adopt, has now become universal throughout the industry, no matter what the surrounding geography looks like.

The Protection Plan

This type of protection plan, relying on fences and cameras, also necessitates a certain amount of staff available at all times who can monitor cameras and respond to activity.

Security staff and expensive cameras are two of the most common assets you have in your facility’s protection architecture. Neither of these options will prove to be cost effective unless organizations learn to complement them with low-cost solutions designed specifically to make them more effective.

While this type of emphasis on “local” protection along your physical perimeter and last line of defense can create the perception of comfort and security in your solution, the reality is that it often creates a false sense of security that ultimately translates into less effective monitoring and response times by security staff.

Lessons learned during recent insurgent conflicts and counter-insurgency efforts have only magnified these flaws and misconceptions associated with the belief that bigger fences and more cameras somehow equates to more effective preventative security measures. There’s a reason why we no longer fight in castles surrounded by moats. It’s because points of vulnerability not only exist along your perimeter but also well beyond what many today consider protected areas.

Regardless of your efforts to heighten walls or construct barriers associated with your physical perimeter, there will always be vantage points or locations where you remain vulnerable. A more effective and proactive solution is one that allows you to monitor well beyond that perimeter and makes you aware of any threat-related activities long before the threat ever reaches the point where they are prepared to attack.

Advanced intrusion detection systems are emerging alongside the industry’s pivot towards more proactive security protection. With a reduced false alarm rate and other advancements, the issues associated with these systems are becoming a thing of the past.

Organizational Solutions

Footstep detection, at extended ranges, is a growing solution for many organizations looking to get an advanced warning of threats beyond their initial perimeter and protected areas. Ground sensors, employed in conjunction with traditional perimeter security approaches, provide a cost-effective way to implement a proactive strategy that ensures you remain one step ahead of your threat.

Many of the ground sensor systems today require cabling that inherently requires trenches to be dug in order to conceal the cables. The disturbed earth associated with the buried footprint of such sensor systems and associated cabling reveal a clear sign to your threat of how and with what, you are attempting to protect your assets.

Covert sensor systems exist today that employs no cabling at all, that when buried just below the surface of the ground, make it nearly impossible for threats to conduct surveillance on your facilities and assets. Deployed asymmetrically, these sensors not only transition your defensive posture from reactive to proactive, but also easily integrate with your existing security infrastructure cameras, radars, and other technology to make them more effective in their employment.

Securing one’s facility and/or assets against the ever-changing nature of threats requires that the security industry collectively begins to challenge the status quo and look outside the box in order to be more proactive in their efforts to reduce risk and prevent the infliction of any damage or harm.

This article originally appeared in the August 2017 issue of Security Today.

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