Maintaining the security of the electrical grid is recognized as a top priority by most federal, state and local entities. There are 16 critical infrastructure sectors whose security is entrusted to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the electrical grid is what allows the other 15 to function. The financial resources to implement necessary mitigation solutions to deter, detect, protect, respond and recover from an event are limited.
Electricity started as a novelty for some. It’s gradually morphed into a convenience for most and has now become an absolutely essential part of the daily lives for all Americans. Over the past 150 years, electricity has become the essential lifeblood of our nation. We depend upon this electrical grid for the daily operation of all aspects of our lives and for the seamless functionality of all the major DHS sectors such as transportation, financial, military, government, telecommunications and medical. The preservation of the critical electric grid requires a comprehensive approach focusing on the risk assessment, the physical protection plan, and the recovery blueprint.
Start thinking of security proactively by leveraging your existing security solutions and moving towards an active listening platform.
A Theory for Proactively Protecting Critical Infrastructure
Sometimes, these resources are allocated to other less essential programs even after a significant event occurs, exposing vulnerabilities and weakness in the overall grid protection plan. This distraction adheres to the “Catastrophe-Reactionary” theory developed by WESCO’s Emmett McGrath and Jason Wolff.
The Catastrophe-Reactionary theory is made up of three parts:
- Reactive Planning: After a serious critical infrastructure attack or event occurs, a reactionary plan is created with little oversight of funding and the solutions implemented. Time is an enemy as the team rushes to demonstrate the ability to move with speed and determination.
- Unsatisfactory Solutions: This reactive response leads to the implementation of unacceptable solutions which have not been adequately installed, vetted or tested.
- Loss of Interest: Lastly, a general loss of interest sets in over time which collectively reduces the motivation to fix, upgrade, replace or repair the protection of the critical asset or resource. Public and private attention is directed to other more recent, and more immediate, anxieties.
Using the “Protection in Depth” philosophy, critical infrastructure managers can slow the momentum of an event (accidental or intentional), allowing security teams to gain time and respond with the appropriate level of safeguarding for the critical grid. Protection in Depth combines disparate solutions and unifies them into a superior security program and avoids depending upon one or two dissimilar defensive measures.
Use Cameras Strategically For Increased Safety
A simple component of any security solution is the typical camera. However, in many cases cameras are an after-the-fact type of protection used to identify the details of an event. These details allow adjustment or improvement to the standard operating procedure or security plan and may assist with criminal investigations. Many times, when a robust security camera plan is the primary means of protection, it restricts the resource owner to passively observe the destruction of their property.
Picture someone approaching a sub-station and scaling the perimeter fence. They then walk across the compound, break into a supply shed, take thousands of dollars of equipment, and leave without consequence. All of this is caught on camera, but not viewed until several hours after the incident, factoring in the time it takes to discover missing or damaged inventory.
But when cameras are woven into a Protection in Depth security plan, the resource owner can slow the event, trigger alerts to focus attention on that particular camera in that specific zone from that specific compound, analyze the data received, deploy the necessary level of resources to mitigate the event and initiate the recovery plan as required. Using active sensors communicated over fiber optic cable installed around the perimeter of any critical compound, building, or data network, the security team can actively monitor the resources in real time.
The 5 Layers of a Competitive Active Listening Platform
Intelligent solutions are capable of “active listening” for anomalies or sounds that are not part of the everyday environment. If detected, the alert system instantly sends an alarm to predetermined personnel via an alert noise, text or email. Early-warning sensing fiber systems allow a security team to pinpoint the location of the event and determine the proper response.
An active listening platform is made up of the following five layers:
- Existing or newly installed intelligent, active sensing fiber optic cabling can detect movement, sound and pressure by changes in the light traveling through the cable without the need for electronics or power in the field. Fiber optics are immune to such things as electromagnetic pulse and electromagnetic interference. They are unaffected by the environment or weather. These proven solutions protect fences, manholes, conduit and critical assets of all kinds. They can detect movement or noise even when buried in the ground, thus helping to prevent buried cable from accidental or intentional digging damage.
- A viable and interactive access control system interfaces directly with non-proprietary unifying command and control software management systems developed in cooperation with the Department of Defense (DoD). This includes using automated keypads for card swipe, pin or biometric entry to any compound, building, room or even network.
- Cameras networked into the security system can be linked to the perimeter sensing fiber. They may be designed to auto-pan, tilt or zoom to the location of the event, providing enough location data for security personnel to increase digital or physical vigilance in that area. Cameras that include speaker and microphone options allow a security officer to remotely warn trespassers from several miles away.
- Concrete barriers protect assets against many types of projectiles. These barriers can also obstruct protected targets from deliberate outside attacks by reducing visual reconnaissance.
- Data networks must be physically protected. Using one, two or three strands of fiber — depending on the need — an entire trunk of network cabling can be protected from any sort of physical intrusion. For campus or long haul (many miles) cable conduit, the entire length of the channel can be protected. Breaks or cuts in the cable can be detected throughout the entire length without needing to add new infrastructure or provide power and electronics in the field.
Taking Steps to a More Secure Facility
The critical infrastructure owners and security managers need to steel their resolve when securing assets and key resources by partnering with critical infrastructure solution providers who demonstrate clear, present value and efficacy.
Producing value isn’t just saving finances and implementing robust security plans. You must have confidence in your choice of vendors and be able to depend on their expertise and past performance. Find a vendor that has protected other high-security facilities and has the expertise to consult and advise in addition to provide product solutions. They can help plan before an event occurs, assist in implementing a quality solution, and help maintain or upgrade your solutions over time. Protecting critical infrastructure is challenge more easily tackled with a strong team behind you.
To learn more about how you can protect your infrastructure, assets and perimeters, contact WESCO’s Technical Team at firstname.lastname@example.org.