Download PDF version Contact company
Airports are secured (or not) by techniques including conventional plain fencing
If airport perimeter fencing is vulnerable then covert detection methods should be used

Lack of airport perimeter security would be laughable, if it weren’t so serious. A recent farcical breach of security in London is drawing renewed attention to airport perimeter protection.

I want to focus on airport perimeter security, but we’ll start with critical infrastructure in general: A nun, a housepainter and a gardener break into a nuclear facility. This sounds like the beginning of a joke except it was a disturbing reality when the trio (the nun proving to be exceptionally limber at the age of 82) defeated perimeter fencing at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, a facility that houses the United States’ stocks of bomb-grade uranium and missiles confiscated from Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi.

Perimeter Breach At JFK Airport

This incident occurred in July 2012, and only a month later, a man on a jet ski clambered out of the water on the edge of John F. Kennedy International Airport, scaled a perimeter fence and walked along a runway apron. Reading a news item about this at the time, I missed a fundamental point. It should be noted that Daniel Casillo’s craft had broken down and he was neither an activist nor a deliberate trespasser. He had swum for three miles, was scared, tired and on the verge of hypothermia. His first action on nearing a terminal building was to make his presence known to a cargo worker.

But it gets worse. JFK was exposed twice on consecutive days in June of this year when a would-be fisherman went over a fence, and an uncle and nephew duo deliberately tried to summon help by shaking another fence violently after the engine of their boat had failed. Consider what a group of determined jihadists equipped with bolt-cutters and weapons could do amid such lax perimeter protection. It’s enough to give me sleepless nights, and I don’t even work in airport security.

Negligent Security At Heathrow Airport

I thought I’d seen it all until I switched on the news earlier this month to see activists dressed as polar bears on the northern runway of London’s Heathrow International Airport after they had cut away a sizable section of chain link fence. Am I alone in thinking that terror groups might look at mainstream news sources and get ideas?

The activists are from the environmental group Plane Stupid and were protesting plans for expansion at Heathrow. They assembled a tripod device themselves out of poles, and news channels chose to go with an extraordinary photograph of a polar bear (who has tactfully raised part of his headgear) being coaxed down by firemen on a cherry picker.

Glasgow International’s Breach Incident

It would be amusing if the security risks exposed were not so grave. Again, am I in a minority as I remember how Glasgow International, an airport I’ll fly into next month for my annual vacation, was attacked during 7/7 week in the UK when a radicalised British-born doctor drove a flaming Jeep Cherokee into its perimeter?

Airport security options are comprehensive; there’s a robot that travels on a fence-mounted monorail checking for unusual situations

Airport Perimeter Security Solutions

Airports are secured (or not) by techniques including conventional plain fencing (typically a minimum of 6 feet high and topped with razor wire), microphonic fencing, terrain-following volumetric sensors, fiber optic sensors, digital microwave, infrared sensors, ground radar (often used in a sterilized zone between two fences), conventional “white light” CCTV with motion detection and thermal imaging cameras. The options are comprehensive, and one manufacturer even has a robot that travels on a fence-mounted monorail checking for unusual situations that may indicate an intrusion. The robot uses laser detection to alert against possible fence damage and suspicious objects.

My own hope is that tumbling prices of thermal cameras (as manufacturers who have recouped their initial R&D costs allow the products to be more commercially viable) will see the units become more widespread. By definition they excel in low light and are effective at large perimeters. The “thermograms” they produce are high-contrast and therefore well suited to video analytics.

I also believe that if fencing is going to prove consistently vulnerable then the airport community should bolster it with more use of covert detection methods. On a visit to a testing field run by one of the world’s largest (and most technically agile) manufacturers, I observed buried volumetric sensors being calibrated to fine tolerances so that they could reliably distinguish between human intruders and wildlife based not just on weight but pattern of movement.

Unaccounted Intrusion Incidents

In the United States, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is responsible on a nation-wide basis for screening passengers and baggage, but individual airports are tasked with securing their perimeters, a distinction that suggests the government thinks threats are more likely to come from within. Concerns have been voiced over the fact that, frequently, manned guarding is not even performed by airport staff but by poorly motivated casual workers from third-party contracting companies. If a trespass incident does not result in a police log then contractors will be showing exceptional integrity if they report each and every event to the airport. In turn, it’s naïve to expect airports to behave with complete transparency towards the TSA. They certainly don’t co-operate with the media, and earlier this year, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey (responsible for Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark airports) refused to give full accounts of intrusion incidents to the Associated Press.

Threat And Risk Assessment

Airports need to work with specialist consultants who can conduct penetrative threat assessments, and equipment specifiers in the US may wish to consult the National Safe Skies Alliance. Tennessee-based Safe Skies not only assesses the functionality of airport security equipment but exploits field conditions that are so realistic they can make predictions about whole life cycles. I don’t subscribe to the passive acceptance that only a terrorist atrocity resulting from a perimeter breach will finally spur the aviation community to put its house in order. Israel is of course a special case but the sector as a whole might like to note that a spokesperson for Ben Gurion in Tel Aviv announced earlier this year that the airport spends $200 million annually on perimeter protection alone.

Returning to the recent intrusion at Heathrow; now well into middle age, I’m plagued with the usual incredulity as to what is going on around me. It hits everybody at my time of life. Have 13 people in polar bear costumes really just penetrated Europe’s busiest airport with seemingly little more effort than would have been required to break into a chicken coop?

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version Download PDF version

Author profile

Jeremy Malies European Correspondent,

Jeremy Malies is a veteran marketeer and writer specializing in the physical security sector which he has covered for 20 years. He has specific interests in video analytics, video management, perimeter intrusion and access control.

In case you missed it

How Have Security Solutions Failed Our Schools?
How Have Security Solutions Failed Our Schools?

School shootings are a high-profile reminder of the need for the highest levels of security at our schools and education facilities. Increasingly, a remedy to boost the security at schools is to use more technology. However, no technology is a panacea, and ongoing violence and other threats at our schools suggest some level of failure. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: How have security solutions failed our schools and what is the solution?

Why Visualization Platforms Are Vital For An Effective Security Operation Center (SOC)
Why Visualization Platforms Are Vital For An Effective Security Operation Center (SOC)

Display solutions play a key role in SOCs in providing the screens needed for individuals and teams to visualize and share the multiple data sources needed in an SOC today. Security Operation Center (SOC) Every SOC has multiple sources and inputs, both physical and virtual, all of which provide numerous data points to operators, in order to provide the highest levels of physical and cyber security, including surveillance camera feeds, access control and alarm systems for physical security, as well as dashboards and web apps for cyber security applications. Today’s advancements in technology and computing power not only have increasingly made security systems much more scalable, by adding hundreds, if not thousands, of more data points to an SOC, but the rate at which the data comes in has significantly increased as well. Accurate monitoring and surveillance This has made monitoring and surveillance much more accurate and effective, but also more challenging for operators, as they can’t realistically monitor the hundreds, even thousands of cameras, dashboards, calls, etc. in a reactive manner. Lacking situational awareness is often one of the primary factors in poor decision making In order for operators in SOC’s to be able to mitigate incidents in a less reactive way and take meaningful action, streamlined actionable data is needed. This is what will ensure operators in SOC truly have situational awareness. Situational awareness is a key foundation of effective decision making. In its simplest form, ‘It is knowing what is going on’. Lacking situational awareness is often one of the primary factors in poor decision making and in accidents attributed to human error. Achieving ‘true’ situational awareness Situational awareness isn’t just what has already happened, but what is likely to happen next and to achieve ‘true’ situational awareness, a combination of actionable data and the ability to deliver that information or data to the right people, at the right time. This is where visualization platforms (known as visual networking platforms) that provide both the situational real estate, as well as support for computer vision and AI, can help SOCs achieve true situational awareness Role of computer vision and AI technologies Proactive situational awareness is when the data coming into the SOC is analyzed in real time and then, brought forward to operators who are decision makers and key stakeholders in near real time for actionable visualization. Computer vision is a field of Artificial Intelligence that trains computers to interpret and understand digital images and videos. It is a way to automate tasks that the human visual system can also carry out, the automatic extraction, analysis and understanding of useful information from a single image or a sequence of images. There are numerous potential value adds that computer vision can provide to operation centers of different kinds. Here are some examples: Face Recognition: Face detection algorithms can be applied to filter and identify an individual. Biometric Systems: AI can be applied to biometric descriptions such as fingerprint, iris, and face matching. Surveillance: Computer vision supports IoT cameras used to monitor activities and movements of just about any kind that might be related to security and safety, whether that's on the job safety or physical security. Smart Cities: AI and computer vision can be used to improve mobility through quantitative, objective and automated management of resource use (car parks, roads, public squares, etc.) based on the analysis of CCTV data. Event Recognition: Improve the visualization and the decision-making process of human operators or existing video surveillance solutions, by integrating real-time video data analysis algorithms to understand the content of the filmed scene and to extract the relevant information from it. Monitoring: Responding to specific tasks in terms of continuous monitoring and surveillance in many different application frameworks: improved management of logistics in storage warehouses, counting of people during event gatherings, monitoring of subway stations, coastal areas, etc. Computer Vision applications When considering a Computer Vision application, it’s important to ensure that the rest of the infrastructure in the Operation Center, for example the solution that drives the displays and video walls, will connect and work well with the computer vision application. The best way to do this of course is to use a software-driven approach to displaying information and data, rather than a traditional AV hardware approach, which may present incompatibilities. Software-defined and open technology solutions Software-defined and open technology solutions provide a wider support for any type of application the SOC may need Software-defined and open technology solutions provide a wider support for any type of application the SOC may need, including computer vision. In the modern world, with everything going digital, all security services and applications have become networked, and as such, they belong to IT. AV applications and services have increasingly become an integral part of an organization’s IT infrastructure. Software-defined approach to AV IT teams responsible for data protection are more in favor of a software-defined approach to AV that allow virtualised, open technologies as opposed to traditional hardware-based solutions. Software’s flexibility allows for more efficient refreshment cycles, expansions and upgrades. The rise of AV-over-IP technologies have enabled IT teams in SOC’s to effectively integrate AV solutions into their existing stack, greatly reducing overhead costs, when it comes to technology investments, staff training, maintenance, and even physical infrastructure. AV-over-IP software platforms Moreover, with AV-over-IP, software-defined AV platforms, IT teams can more easily integrate AI and Computer Vision applications within the SOC, and have better control of the data coming in, while achieving true situational awareness. Situational awareness is all about actionable data delivered to the right people, at the right time, in order to address security incidents and challenges. Situational awareness is all about actionable data delivered to the right people Often, the people who need to know about security risks or breaches are not physically present in the operation centers, so having the data and information locked up within the four walls of the SOC does not provide true situational awareness. hyper-scalable visual platforms Instead there is a need to be able to deliver the video stream, the dashboard of the data and information to any screen anywhere, at any time — including desktops, tablets phones — for the right people to see, whether that is an executive in a different office or working from home, or security guards walking the halls or streets. New technologies are continuing to extend the reach and the benefits of security operation centers. However, interoperability plays a key role in bringing together AI, machine learning and computer vision technologies, in order to ensure data is turned into actionable data, which is delivered to the right people to provide ‘true’ situational awareness. Software-defined, AV-over-IP platforms are the perfect medium to facilitate this for any organizations with physical and cyber security needs.

Securing Mobile Vehicles: The Cloud and Solving Transportation Industry Challenges
Securing Mobile Vehicles: The Cloud and Solving Transportation Industry Challenges

Securing Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) in the transportation industry is multi-faceted for a multitude of reasons. Pressures build for transit industry players to modernise their security systems, while also mitigating the vulnerabilities, risks, and growth-restrictions associated with proprietary as well as integrated solutions. There are the usual physical security obstacles when it comes to increasingly integrated solutions and retrofitting updated technologies into legacy systems. Starting with edge devices like cameras and intelligent sensors acquiring video, analytics and beyond, these edge devices are now found in almost all public transportation like buses, trains, subways, airplanes, cruise lines, and so much more. You can even find them in the world’s last manually operated cable car systems in San Francisco. The next layer to consider is the infrastructure and networks that support these edge devices and connect them to centralized monitoring stations or a VMS. Without this layer, all efforts at the edge or stations are in vain as you lose the connection between the two. And the final layer to consider when building a comprehensive transit solution is the software, recording devices, or viewing stations themselves that capture and report the video. The challenge of mobility However, the transportation industry in particular has a very unique challenge that many others do not – mobility. As other industries become more connected and integrated, they don’t usually have to consider going in and out or bouncing between networks as edge devices physically move. Obviously in the nature of transportation, this is key. Have you ever had a bad experience with your cellular, broadband or Wi-Fi at your home or office? You are not alone. The transportation industry in particular has a very unique challenge that many others do not – mobility Can you trust these same environments to record your surveillance video to the Cloud without losing any frames, non-stop 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year? To add to the complexity – how do you not only provide a reliable and secure solution when it’s mobile, traveling at varying speeds, and can be in/out of coverage using various wireless technologies? Waiting to upload video from a transport vehicle when it comes into port, the station, or any centralized location is a reactive approach that simply will not do any longer. Transit operations require a more proactive approach today and the ability to constantly know what is going on at any given time on their mobile vehicles, and escalate that information to headquarters, authorities, or law enforcement if needed; which can only occur with real-time monitoring. This is the ultimate question when it comes to collecting, analyzing, and sharing data from mobile vehicles – how to get the video from public transportation vehicles alike to headquarters in real time! Managing video data In order to answer this question, let’s get back to basics. The management and nature of video data differs greatly from conventional (IT) data. Not only is video conducted of large frames, but there are specific and important relationships among the frames and the timing between them. This relationship can easily get lost in translation if not handled properly. This is why it’s critical to consider the proper way to transmit large frames while under unstable or variable networks. The Internet and its protocols were designed more than two decades ago and purposed for conventional data. Although the Internet itself has not changed, today’s network environments run a lot faster, expand to further ranges, and support a variety of different types of data. Because the internet is more reliable and affordable than in the past some might think it can handle anything. However, it is good for data, but not for video. This combination makes it the perfect time to convert video recording to the Cloud! Video transmission protocol One of the main issues with today’s technology is the degradation of video quality when transmitting video over the Internet. ITS are in dire need for reliable transmission of real-time video recording. To address this need a radical, yet proven, video transmission protocol has recently been introduced to the market. It uses AI technology and to adapt to different environments in order to always deliver high quality, complete video frames. This protocol, when equipped with encryption and authentication, enables video to be transmitted reliably and securely over the Internet in a cloud environment. One of the main issues with today’s technology is the degradation of video quality when transmitting video over the Internet Finally, transportation industry has a video recording Cloud solution that is designed for (massive) video that can handle networks that might be experiencing high error rate. Such a protocol will not only answer the current challenges of the transportation industry, but also make the previously risky Cloud environment safe for even the most reserved environments and entities. With revolutionary transmission protocols, the time is now to consider adopting private Cloud for your transportation operations.