Growing importance of cyber protection of Critical National Infrastructure

Following recent incidents across London, The Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) made strong recommendations to government and businesses to review security plans to make sure they are as robust as possible. With the evolving and ever more sophisticated threats to critical national infrastructure (CNI), businesses, public spaces and government, it’s not surprising that many are beginning to take a closer look at how they protect people and premises.

There’s no doubt that CNI organisations benefit significantly from installing high security gates, turnstiles, safe fences and barriers, because they both deter and protect. Yet, with increasing digitisation, IoT devices and networked systems, it is becoming more common for attackers to threaten not just physical assets, but also cyber for example by creating false alarms that affect security perimeter systems as a means of a diversion. So CNI organisations are beginning to implement smart, Internet based surveillance and detection technologies as part of their perimeter solutions. According to Research and Markets Global Perimeter Security Market Analysis and Forecasts 2014-2017 and 2025 report (1) (January 2018), “the demand for video surveillance systems is expected to grow over the forecast period due to the large-scale investments in smart infrastructure projects by various nations. The intrusion detection systems have been implemented by numerous large organisations and societies in order to protect people and valuable assets from intruders.”

Sometimes even the secure of perimeter fences and gates experience attacks by potential intruders who will attempt to climb over or cut through to gain entry to a secure area. A sophisticated combination of perimeter solutions and technology (both hardware and software) will better detect any attempted perimeter intrusions and immediately raise a warning so appropriate action can be taken. These end to end detections systems, which are installed around the perimeter of a site are known as Perimeter Intrusion Detection systems (PIDSs). They include sensor cables, analysers and software security management systems.

As described by the The Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI), perimeter intruder detection systems “act as a technology force multiplier, they keep a constant watch on a site’s perimeter and offer the opportunity for early detection of an attack.” Geoquip - owned by Heras - offers a reliable and highly effective PIDS system. Its bespoke cable, which can be installed onto any fence or gate, wall or even ceilings, acts as a microphone that “listens” and picks up sound along its whole length. These microphonic cables are then fed back into sophisticated analysers that understand when to ignore background noise and when to recognise potential risk of attack. These reliable outdoor PIDS systems are highly specialised products that need to be smart enough to ignore environmental factors such as wind, rain, snow, nearby traffic, small animals and so on, but still be able to create an alarm if there is an attempt to tamper, climb over or cut through. The sensors offer protection for single rooms and small perimeter sections of as little as 25 metres, up to national borders of hundreds of kilometres, making them suitable for IT areas, server rooms, data centres, public buildings, critical national infrastructure (CNI) and many more.

Organisations also need to guard against hacks to cyber protected detection systems. There are some simple techniques to stop basic physical intrusions such as firewalls and decent password protection, but todays hackers are becoming more adept at breaking and entering. Cyber Assurance for Physical Security Systems (CAPSS) look at the risks to the communication and electronic equipment within perimeter security systems to ensure they are secure. It helps prevent detection control equipment from being compromised so that false alarms or bogus information cannot be triggered by an attacker. And it can also prevent cameras from being compromised, which may otherwise allow attackers to alter video images displayed on screens in the control room.

Any effective security strategy should cover an entire organisation’s security requirements from physical assets, through to cyber, data as well as stakeholder awareness, behaviour and culture, including buy-in from the board. In order to have the best possible chance to deter, delay, and detect unwanted intrusion while simultaneously enabling controlled access for authorised parties, organisations need to take a holistic approach to physical perimeter protection. If organisation focuses on just one or two elements for example, access control, it potentially leaves a weak point in the strategy. To achieve complete security protection for physical assets, it is necessary to implement high security systems that have been designed to offer high deterrence and increase the amount of time and effort that is required to attack and get through, over or under them. Above all, protecting property, assets and data is about limiting the potential of disruption to business continuity and reducing risks for people. Lives and livelihoods depend on effective perimeter protection and safety and security cannot be left to chance.

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