Security for Airports: Perimeter Security an Essential Component

07.06.2022 - Effective perimeter protection relies on a multi-layered approach that involves a variety of different technologies, including video surveillance, LiDAR, and trip-wire analytics

When physical security breaches happen at airports, airlines and their passengers can be
seriously impacted. Travel delays, damages to reputation and broken trust for passengers,
as well as costly financial losses, are just some of the impacts that security incidents can cause.

For example, in the UK, drones entering the airspace of London Gatwick forced the entire airport to shut down, costing the organisation over £1.4 million. On another occasion, flights at London City Airport were disrupted for 6 hours, as nine protesters gained access to the runway and chained themselves together. Similar events cannot be allowed to happen if organisations are to maintain a consistent service to air passengers.
Effective perimeter protection relies on a multi-layered approach that involves a variety of different technologies, including video surveillance, LiDAR, and trip-wire analytics, so that all is not lost should one method fail. It’s great if an alarm is triggered if someone should climb the fence, but there should be more layers of security that slow or stop unauthorised people from reaching the door of the terminal building, and/or restricted zones or floors inside.
To ensure that these systems work effectively and do not operate in siloes, it’s important to put in place a unified approach to cross qualify incidents and intrusions alerts. With the landscape rapidly evolving due to the introduction of the Internet of Things (IoT) and increased cyber risk, it is even more essential to have a more holistic view of your entire security infrastructure. This article explores the concept of unification in more detail.

Introducing a Unified Security System

An open-architecture, unified security platform provides greater situational awareness for security and operational personnel. With an open architecture security system, disparate systems such as video surveillance, access control, license plate recognition and perimeter intrusion detection systems can be unified under one system, giving a clearer view, and better protection of, the passenger terminal, tarmac and perimeter.
With a unified system, security personnel have the full, uninterrupted view of their site. It allows them to make critical decisions quickly with faster response times and minimise the time lost monitoring and switching between separate systems and devices.

Essential New Technology

Technological innovation is coming to the airport security market all the time and much of it is there to improve intrusion and perimeter protection. Security operators are investing in radar, fence detection sensors, buried cable detection sensors, LiDAR, and even video trip-wire analytics to get as much data as possible to inform their incident response.
But knowing that something is about to breach a perimeter doesn’t tell you whether a threat is real or how serious it is. The ability to see who or what is approaching a perimeter helps security personnel make the right decisions on what or if actions need to be taken.
To do this, security personnel need eyes on the ground. Being informed with relevant data from multiple systems will only take you so far. Often, potential threats need to be classified visually before action is taken to identify if immediate action is required. This is essential to avoid wasted time and minimise the blind spots created when operators are away from the control room.
Effective video surveillance, using high resolution cameras and infrared, can help operators better respond to events. With strategic configuration, the first line of perimeter detection at the fence will prompt alerts that trigger cameras to automatically pan-tilt-zoom into the target area for visual identification and even constantly track a target. Live and playback video surveillance can be displayed at multiple security monitoring centres, or even as a mobile alert to security personnels’ smart phones, for immediate verification and response.
Physical Identity and Access Management Systems add another layer to the process by connecting access control to business systems, including human resource directories. This interconnectivity allows organisations to automatically assign or remove access to restricted areas and systems based on corporate policies. As employees leave or change roles within an organisation, their access to sensitive areas can be adjusted to reflect changes in the HR directory, certification status, or other linked systems.

IoT and Cybersecurity

While greater connectivity of devices is revolutionising airport security, it cannot be ignored that IoT enabled devices can become a potential entry point for cyber intrusions. Poorly configured devices, or even devices that are deployed without changing factory pre-set passwords, are a prime target for hackers that want to destabalise your operations or hold your data to ransom.
It is the responsibility of the security operator to ensure that the vendors they buy their devices from can evidence that they are cybersecure, compliant with current regulations and are constantly being updated with the latest firmware. A unified system will also assist here, as it can provide a clear view of the health of security systems and devices and alert operators ahead of time when hardware is at risk or new firmware becomes available.

Managing a Wealth of Data

With the increase of sensors at the perimeter, airports will consequently have to deal with an increase of data coming in. This can become overwhelming for security personnel, especially when they must actively monitor all the inputs from these sensors to identify specific threats.
A unified security system can enhance best practice by supporting automated alerts and digitised standard operating procedures, providing a step-by-step guide for personnel outlining how to respond to events. This greatly benefits the consistency of response, so that incidents are dealt with the same way, no matter who is on shift at that time, and precedents are set for the future. And by following the set guidelines, threats can be identified, investigated and resolved faster than if decisions had to be remade for every event.
Often, data received from disparate systems is presented to operators in a way that feels like devices are competing with each other. Without that communication, an overwhelming amount of data can make potential security threats difficult to spot. For example, an operator might not be able to connect the dots between a contractor unexpectedly entering a restricted area and a device activating. By using a unified security system, events can be automatically correlated to spot patterns, giving a greater chance of accurately identifying threats that are real and require further investigation.
The ability to combine event data is also important for ensuring perimeter security. Operators must be presented with current events as they occur in order to make informed decisions based on threat levels. A unified security system provides greater situational awareness for operators by giving them the ability to create reports and alerts using information from all sources on the platform. This is critical as it allows an emerging situation to be seen from all parts of the system as a single event rather than a series of separate incidents.

Closing Thought

A multi-layered approach is the most effective and cost-efficient solution for protecting an airport perimeter. Extending security beyond the fence line and preparing multiple levels of protection from intruders is essential to keeping air travel safe and trustworthy. By selecting a unified system that can incorporate a wide variety of technologies, you can better secure your facilities today and in the future.

The Author: David Lenot, Critical Infrastructure practice lead at Genetec



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