While most airports have advanced security measures that entail multiple screening layers, body scanners and explosion detection tools, the actual physical security of the airport has been relegated to the back seat. With constantly evolving regulations and ever-growing incidents of sophisticated security attacks and escalating overheads, airports require advance planning along with the necessary physical infrastructure to drive actionable intelligence. This whitepaper from Wipro addresses the key security challenges that the modern airport faces today along with the need for an integrated IP based security infrastructure. It also walks through the key elements of an connected security system that will enable airports meet the increasing call for safe and efficient airport security.
Airport security is a huge challenge with billions of passengers and baggage traversing through hundreds of airports and thousands of flights on a daily basis. According to the 2011 World Airport Traffic Report by ACI (Airport Council International), worldwide airport passenger numbers increased by 5.3% in 2011 to 5.44 billion and global passenger traffic is expected to top 12 billion by 2031.
The booming air travel industry and stringent regulatory requirements necessitates regular overhauls of airport runways and other infrastructure to keep up with current and future demand. Moreover, the continuously growing sophistication of threats are forcing airport to become highly vigilant and are dictating the need for smarter security solutions. These factors are driving investments to the tune of billions of dollars towards the development of identification and screening technologies such as radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, biometrics and prototype screening devices among others.
For instance, the Christmas Day bombing attempt of 2009 and the air cargo bombing attempt of 2010 have prompted the Department of Homeland Security to make critical investments to the tune of hundreds of million dollars in explosives detection systems, passenger screening technologies, and air cargo security for airports across the United States. In fact according to Global Industry Analysts, Inc., the worldwide airport security equipment market is expected to reach USD 288.7 billion by 2015. However, these investments are largely skewed towards internal screening measures while the actual physical security of the airport has been relegated to the back seat. The key question now is - are airports doing enough to safeguard the actual physical airport infrastructure?
The following sections discuss the various challenges associated with airport security and the need for an integrated physical security infrastructure for a truly effective security solution.
Airport Security Challenges
Airports pose a labyrinth of unique security challenges due to the sheer scale, volume and cost of infrastructure and people involved. Further, with restricted and sensitive areas within and around airport terminals, it is imperative for the authorities to constantly monitor and record all movements. However, there are significant challenges that span a gamut of factors such as:
- Protecting airport infrastructure
- Utilizing the right detection technologies and equipment for passenger, baggage and cargo screening
- Ensuring secure passenger authentication and identification
- Ensuring operational security with in-flight security as well as safe and efficient air traffic management
As discussed in the previous section, airports have largely focused their efforts on screening and detecting breaches inside the airport main premises. The harsh fact is that most airport grounds are protected by a basic layer of a perimeter intrusion detection system along with obsolete barriers such as analogue cameras, high walls and barbed wire fences. Moreover, considering the fact that there are huge and complex networks of disparate technologies dotting the airport landscape, airports typically face a huge challenge of interoperability of these legacy systems. In many cases, these systems are supplied by different vendors and function in silos, thereby providing a fragmented security picture, leading to slow decision making and inefficiencies – both of which can have serious consequences with millions of lives at stake.
These challenges coupled with the pressure from new airline alliances, low cost operators, and the increasing incidences of airport privatization and acquisition are resulting in a far more competitive environment. Operational efficiency has never been as important as it is today with the focus on driving a more advantageous cost base without compromising growth, quality, safety and security across a wide range of issues and potential threats. This requires increased automation and integration of airport systems to enable a clear, consistent and timely view of the entire airport operation.
More than 1,300 perimeter security incursions have been reported at US airports since 9/11, yet 87% of the nation’s airports have not been through a perimeter security assessment.
- US Rep. Bill Keating (MA-10)/GAO
The Need for an Integrated Airport Infrastructure
Let us consider a scenario where an alert related to a breach at a remote area away from the airport hub is triggered. The efforts of the airport authorities to track down this breach are typically stonewalled due to several reasons which make the process of finding the intruder much harder. Some of the key reasons are -
Traditional Analog CCTV System
- Traditional analog CCTV system used for monitoring located at a seperate on-site location
- No way of accessing live images and monitoring remotely
- Poor and degraded image quality due to far distance of camera location & bad weather
No visibility or update from deployed security forces other than intermittent radio communications
Basic Perimeter Protection
Authorities unable to pinpoint the exact location and movements of the intruder due to lack of sensors in the area
Assume there has been a significant lapse of time between the breach alert and the ensuing response. What if the team cannot find the intruder quickly? What if the intruder is a terrorist? Shouldn’t there be a better way of triggering off the alarm earlier and enabling real-time tracking along with a coordinated effort with multiple teams for an effective security incident resolution?
As the above example emphasizes - the traditional physical security protection tools are no longer enough to protect an airport even if its internal screening processes are highly advanced. A major airport in South Asia for instance spent billions of dollars on a new, modern terminal and to upgrade operations. As one of the largest infrastructure investments in recent times, this airport boasts a swanky premise with cutting-edge facilities, high-speed metro link connectivity and is expected to handle 100 million passengers by 2030. Considering the sheer size and scope of this airport, it would almost be impossible to envisage the disastrous consequences and potential losses that a perimeter security breach could entail.
With attacks becoming more and more sophisticated, there is a strong need for an intelligent and integrated airport security infrastructure. Airport security solutions are typically a multilayered surveillance approach with a combination of ‘smart’ fences and sensors in conjunction with IP CCTV cameras for intelligent surveillance, analytics and access control along with rapid response teams. However, each of these solutions if purchased separately can be a huge administrative burden on the airport’s IT staff. These disparate systems will require its own set of dedicated services, maintenance and training. By integrating these separate security systems under a single console, airport authorities can realize significant advantages of an considerably more powerful security solution at far lower costs.
At the core of this system integration is a cohesive and unified control center that seamlessly assimilates information from multiple systems to provide a single point of view of all operations. With an integrated control center solution, airport authorities benefit from situational awareness and can quickly assess and proactively respond to an intrusion before it escalates to a serious security incident.
5 Key Benefits of an Integrated Security System
1. Reduced incident vulnerability and increased incidence responsiveness
2. Holistic approach to control by multiple uses of component devices
3. Ease of installation of multiple systems on a single interface
4. Flexibility and ability to easily integrate new security components
5. Operational and maintenance costs
Key Elements of an Integrated Airport Security System
A truly integrated airport security system typically encompasses three main elements – Monitoring, Tracking & Detection and Mobility solutions. These aspects are linked together by the fourth element - a Command and Control Center to mitigate risk across the airport environment by providing actionable intelligence and enabling speedy security incident resolution.