Unifying cyber and physical security for airports 

Simon Barnes, business development manager at Genetec, assesses the risks of IoT devices in airports and the need for a joint approach to cyber and physical security to secure networks.

There is no doubt that the ever-expanding catalogue of internet of things (IoT) devices is revolutionising airport operations.  

Innovative technology is directly improving the passenger experience and making operations more efficient. But perhaps surprisingly, one area where it is making an impact is in airport security. 

Security teams are using IoT security tools to help secure the perimeter from intrusions, control access to terminals or runways, and support customs and immigration checks. These devices bolster security by enabling greater real-time visibility of operations.  

However, when poorly managed or configured, they become a potential entry point for cyber intrusions. It is now apparent that physical and cybersecurity need to work in tandem to protect people as well as digital assets. 

IoT adoption will improve physical security 

IoT is paving the way for digital transformation in the physical security space. It helps airports harness the power of their data, enabling them to capture the information they need, analyse it for insights, and act accordingly to prevent and respond to emerging threats. 

For instance, LiDAR-based technology can enhance perimeter security with accurate detection that allows operators to locate real threats and intruders on the fence line. Airports can also opt to pair this sensing method with high-definition internet protocol cameras to focus on the target area for visual confirmation if an alarm should be triggered.  

Advanced access control systems are also working to keep doors and gates within airport facilities locked and sensitive areas secure. Any unauthorised breach of a restricted security area will alert the appropriate teams in real time for a quick, measured response.  

Moreover, a smart badging solution can also help automate background checks of staff before granting them access to areas. It can flag the appropriate people on your team when authorisations and qualifications are about to expire; access control needs to be updated due to employee role changes or when badges haven’t been returned on time.  

This reduces human error from manual processing and helps operators get a better understanding of where employees and contractors can go within the airport complex. 

Ensuring resilience against physical and cyber threats 

IoT devices, however, have become a top target for cyber criminals because of their high computing power and good internet traffic throughput. When not secured properly, any camera, access control system, or IoT device can be accessed remotely by just about anyone, not just those with whom you want to share access. 

This is where security operators will see the value of deploying a unified physical security solution that integrates video surveillance, automatic licence plate recognition, access control, intrusion detection, and more. With a unified platform, security teams will always have access to the latest features, including granular privacy controls and strong user authentication to protect sensitive data.  

A unified solution also enables operators to monitor and maintain the health of disparate systems across the entire network. IoT devices can become insecure later down the line, as manufacturers stop updates for older devices or security teams struggle to keep these security measures updated.  

Managing these devices through a single platform can assist here by forewarning operators when a device is not running the most secure firmware or has a weak password.

Supply chain risks  

Another way to build cyber and physical security resilience is to take a closer look at the end-to-end supply chain and build a network of trusted vendors. Effective supply chain risk management is essential for ensuring the continuity and profitability of any airport.

However, the same principle should apply to the vendors that provide the various components of your physical security system, and even those that install or service technical equipment. 

Managing IoT devices and connections is essential in keeping the airport landscape secure, which is why security teams need to know they can trust and rely on their security devices.

With a unified solution, the ease with which operations can be made more efficient and the speed with which urgent decisions can be made makes it invaluable.

With the additional support in managing cyber threats, operators can be certain that they are doing everything they can to secure their physical and digital realms from potential harm.