Critical Infrastructure Security Essentials

The systems, assets and facilities which are essential to the functioning of an organisation need a sophisticated level of protection if that organisation is to continue operating and generating revenue.

The systems, assets and facilities which are essential to the functioning of an organisation need a sophisticated level of protection if that organisation is to continue operating and generating revenue.

From power supplies and plant, to networks, communication systems and inventory, the security that protects these elements is crucial to protecting them from physical and cyber threats that could disrupt business and have far-reaching consequences.

In this post, we will explore the key considerations around critical infrastructure security, and take a look at the mitigation strategies and security solutions that are available to protect businesses from the most common threats in this area.

Critical Infrastructure Security

Threat assessment

Identifying potential threats and vulnerabilities to the critical infrastructure of an organisation and its premises is the first step in protecting it.

Common threats include:

  • Natural disasters
  • Terrorist attacks
  • Unauthorised access
  • Insider sabotage
  • Equipment failure
  • Environmental hazards

Once you have explored each potential threat in the unique context of your organisation and its premises, the next step is to devise mitigation strategies, and security solutions. So let’s do just that for each individual threat listed above.

Natural disasters

Floods are the most common form of natural disaster across the UK, and are now considered part and parcel of the winter with widespread flooding occurring at least once per year across the nation.

Other natural disasters include storms, high winds, wildfires, dust storms and extreme heat.

Mitigation strategies

Disaster recovery and emergency response plans are an absolute must, particularly for the most common types of natural disaster that occur in the local vicinity of a business and any of its outlying satellite offices or hubs.

Your risk assessment should highlight any particular vulnerability, such as loss of premises access, equipment failure and inventory loss or damage.

Once the recovery and response plans are in place, they should be regularly reviewed, especially if there have been any changes within the business or its premises.

Security solutions

Security solutions for natural disasters may include:

  • Advanced alarm systems for severe weather events – artificial intelligence-driven sensor networks and cameras will pick up weather related threats and automatically issue alerts or trigger actions to help safeguard a building and its inhabitants.
  • Physical reinforcements will aid the protection of property – investing in the likes of flood gate door barriers, flood bags or sacks and natural landscaping to help divert water away from a building is a wise move. Reinforced doors, shutters and grilles will help protect against high winds and storms.
  • A fire alarm system which meets the specific needs of the building type and size is a must to protect against wildfire threats to property and life. Be sure to choose a National security Inspectorate (NSI) or Security Systems and Alarms Inspection Board (SSAIB) accredited fire alarm design specialist when planning your alarm system.
  • Be prepared with a backup power system such as a generator or uninterruptible power supply to maintain operations – and security measures – during power outages.
Critical infrastructure security for natural disasters

Terrorist attacks

Terrorist attacks are regrettably becoming more common and increasingly dangerous, with the threats to infrastructure and life very alarming.

Mitigation strategies

Personnel should be trained in recognising and safely responding to suspicious behaviour or potential threats.

Workplace security drills should be carried out on a regular basis. The government also recommends that a dynamic lockdown strategy is put in place. This involves procedures designed to dynamically lock down premises in response to a fast moving attack onsite or in the vicinity. The importance of regular drills to ensure the strategy is fully streamlined cannot be stressed enough.

Security solutions

There are numerous anti-terrorist security solutions that can be deployed within commercial premises:

  • Access control and CCTV surveillance systems – combined access control and CCTV is a powerful combination, detecting threats and behavioural anomalies and recording vital footage, whilst triggering zonal lockdowns and limiting entry or exit.
  • Artificial intelligence-powered surveillance systems have the ability to automatically detect unusual or threatening behaviour and to alert security personnel or the emergency services.
  • Robust perimeter security is a must to keep attackers from penetrating a building. From intrusion detection systems, drones and robot patrols, to physical security measures such as bollards, barriers, grilles and gates, the measures you employ will be dependent on the location of the property and its corresponding vulnerability.

Unauthorised access

Whether it’s planned or opportunistic, unauthorised access can pose a serious threat to people, inventory, plant, data and sensitive company information. As well as direct theft, it can also pose the risk of ransom demands, as well as causing considerable damage by leaking sensitive data.

Mitigation strategies

The threat of unauthorised access can be mitigated by monitoring and auditing user access privileges.

Identifying which particular parts of the building are most at risk is an important step, as is ascertaining where and how an intruder could potentially gain access.

The wider view is essential here, because doors and windows are not the be-all and end-all of access possibilities. Skylights, attic space shared with neighbouring buildings and even insider assistance are all very real threats, so be sure to cover everything within your risk assessment.

Security solutions

Upping the ante in terms of security to prevent unauthorised access can be a game changer.

Modern solutions, especially those which utilise the benefits of artificial intelligence and machine learning, will deliver a much more robust level of protection, especially when layered up.

  • Biometric or smart phone authentication are far more secure ways to control access than key cards or codes which can be lost, stolen or shared.
  • Combining CCTV with access control enhances security by adding a layer of verification via facial recognition, as well as recording who is entering a building and keeping a full audit trail. It can also help to prevent tailgating, where an unauthorised entrant piggybacks on the credentials of an authorised individual.
  • Artificial intelligence-powered systems make it possible for access credentials to be automatically checked against recorded information, without any need for human intervention.
  • Role-based integrated access control limits access to sensitive information and critical infrastructure, as well as keeping a full audit trail of who was in certain places at certain times.

Insider sabotage

Sometimes, the biggest risks to the critical infrastructure of an organisation can come from within. Disgruntled employees, ex-personnel or new recruits who have come on board specifically to disrupt an organisation pose a very real threat, making insider sabotage something that should never be overlooked.

Mitigation strategies

Implementing employee screening and background checks has to be a priority if the threat of insider sabotage is going to be minimised.

Clear policies should be established, as should procedures for reporting suspicious behaviour and addressing internal threats.

Data loss contingency plans should be put in place to deal with the fallout from any data theft situations, including reputational damage, regulatory action and loss of investment or market share.

Security solutions

  • CCTV analytics use artificial intelligence to transform surveillance cameras into a proactive security system. AI-powered CCTV analytics can recognise patterns, reveal unusual or malicious behaviours and spot potential security risks.
  • Smart access control can be used to implement a ‘least privilege access’ system across the organisation. This limits access permissions only to those with a critical need to access the vital elements of the business’ critical infrastructure and data.
  • Modern access control systems incorporate an audit trail process that tracks and records an individual’s movement throughout a building.
Insider sabotage needs critical infrastructure security

Equipment failure

Equipment failure could be down to malfunction or age, lack of maintenance, user error or negligence, or sabotage.

Whatever the reason for it, the failure of critical equipment within a business could lead to catastrophic financial losses, as well as reputational damage and impaired customer relationships.

Mitigation strategies

A preventive maintenance programme for all equipment should be implemented across the organisation. Identifying and addressing issues before they escalate into major problems is the best way forward.

In situations where producing inventory is equipment-dependent, a contingency supply should be retained to service orders during any outage period. Keeping a stock of critical equipment spare parts and components is also a wise strategy, particularly for plant that relies on overseas or difficult-to-place components.

Security solutions

  • Condition monitoring technologies are able to detect failing equipment before it gives up altogether. Smart sensors monitor noise and vibration, whilst CCTV cameras will relay irregularities in operation so that action can be taken in good time.
  • The addition of artificial intelligence into the equation means that service visits are automatically triggered, transforming the entire equipment maintenance process from reactive to proactive.
  • Access control limits access to critical plant to only those who have been adequately vetted and authorised.
  • CCTV detects any unusual behaviour around equipment, and records any purposeful malicious damage.

Environmental hazards

From chemical spillages to gas leaks and pollution, there are numerous environmental hazards that can affect critical infrastructure and wreak havoc on business continuity.

Whether the hazards emanate from the business itself, or via a third party, the effects can be devastating in terms of health and safety failings, financial losses, brand damage and regulatory action.

Mitigation strategies

The implementation of environmental monitoring systems will help detect and mitigate hazards, whilst an emergency response plan and protocols for addressing environmental incidents will allow businesses to prepare for the worst.

Organisations handling hazardous goods can implement environmental compliance management software to ensure adherence to regulatory requirements and industry standards.

Risk assessments will identify potential environmental risks so that contingency measures can be prepared to mitigate impact. Robust recovery and business continuity plans should be put in place to minimise the impact of environmental hazards on business operations.

Security solutions

  • Environmental sensors and monitoring technologies can be used to detect and respond to hazardous conditions in real time, alerting emergency services, triggering evacuation alarms and pushing immediate response instructions to occupants’ smartphones.
  • Smart HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) systems employ artificial intelligence and machine learning to detect unhealthy levels of airborne pollutants, radiation or humidity within a workspace. Automated actions are then triggered, such as increasing ventilation, or setting off evacuation alarms.
  • Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices (such as sensors, thermostats and CCTV cameras) collect real time data from environmental monitoring stations. The data is transmitted to a central platform where it can be used to make short and long term improvements to working conditions. This could be anything from servicing or replacing ageing, emissions-heavy plant, to reviewing working times or processes, or relocating the business.

The power of integrated security solutions in protecting critical infrastructure

It is easy to think of commercial security solutions as simply the likes of CCTV, intruder alarms, access control and physical measures such as locks and barriers. Of course, it is all of those things.

But when you layer them up and combine their merits, introduce artificial intelligence and connected technologies such as IoT, and add specialist human expertise in devising tailored solutions around them, the concept of security becomes something very powerful indeed.

At Barry Bros Security, we have been supporting businesses in protecting their critical infrastructure for more than seven decades. Naturally, needs and threats have evolved over that time, especially in recent years where cyber risks have been introduced into the equation.

Our multiple certifications and accreditations, combined with our long term industry experience and forward-looking approach to solution finding have seen us serve and retain a raft of commercial and private clients over the years.

Our mission is to devise tailored solutions to protect businesses from the constantly growing and evolving threats to critical infrastructure.

If you would like to discuss your security related concerns and vision for a more protected business and premises, we invite you to get in touch.

How Can We Help?

Regardless of the type of premises you are looking to protect, Barry Bros Security has the solution. Contact us today for expert advice and the benefit of decades of experience in the security industry.