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Eliminating threats


Genetec’s Simon Barnes assesses the risks of IoT devices in airports and the need for a joint approach to cyber and physical security to secure networks.

The ever-expanding catalogue of ‘smart devices’ is revolutionising airport operations. Innovative technology is directly improving the passenger experience and making operations more efficient.

One of the biggest areas where this technology is making a difference for airports is security. When it comes to the Internet of Things (IoT), security teams are modernising their practices to keep passengers, airport staff and airline staff running smoothly.

Indeed, IoT security devices are invaluable to security teams. Security operators are using IoT tools to help secure the perimeter from intrusions, control access to terminals or runways and support Customs and Immigration checks, to keep passengers flowing through the airport.

Tasks that were once time-intensive and stretched manpower to untenable levels are now automated. By trusting the devices to do the legwork, security staff can stay constantly aware of the bigger picture, and stay informed of which issues are urgent, and which are distractions.

IoT devices introduce efficient and effective layers of security to operations, with greater real-time visibility across the entire airport. However, risks increase when these devices are poorly managed or configured, opening 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 innovation to improve physical security

IoT is paving the way for digital transformation in the physical security space. Airport security teams are receiving more data that is insightful and actionable when informed decision making is required.

With the ability to capture and analyse information, threats are identified sooner, responded to faster, and robust standard procedures are developed to prevent similar threats in the future.

For threats approaching the airport, LiDAR based technology can enhance perimeter security with accurate detection, which allows operators to locate real threats and intruders on the fence line.

Airports can also opt to pair this sensing method with high-definition IP cameras that will allow them to focus on a target area for visual confirmation if an alarm is triggered or multiple targets need to be tracked.

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.

Access can also be granted remotely, which improves emergency response times compared to the use of a physical key, which would require security staff to leave their station. Handing over a physical key invites a whole new set of security risks, so teams are now granting access remotely.

Remote access control will leave a digital trail of evidence for auditing, making it easier for security teams to investigate incidents, generate reports and stay compliant with regulations.

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.

Protecting your physical security from cyber threats

Introducing IoT devices to improve physical security means a sharp increase in data. These devices require high computing power and good internet traffic throughput, which makes them a top target for cyber criminals.

When not secured properly, any camera, access control system or IoT device can be accessed remotely by just about anyone including unfriendly countries and their agents, with potential to destabilise airport operations or leak private data.

This is where security operators will see the value of deploying a unified physical security solution that integrates video surveillance, Automatic Licence Plate Recognition (ANPR), 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. Regular system health checks are deployed to check the hygiene of all connected devices. Operators are then forewarned when a device is not running the most secure firmware or has a weak password.

Security starts with the supply chain

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.

Operators should be vigilant when purchasing devices. Investigate suppliers to know if they are compliant with security and data protection measures. It is also essential to know their history of cyber-attacks, including what measures were taken to prevent similar attacks from occurring again.

Zero-trust mindset

Senior management across all areas of airport operations will see the operational efficiency benefits of a IoT devices. However, the introduction of new technology opens up the possibility of risks caused by human-error.

A unified security platform can assist here as it simplifies staff onboarding with standardised processes and training tools. Nevertheless, security operators must introduce a zero-trust mindset to keep staff aware of threats to cyber and physical security.

The role of senior management is to make a commitment to zero-trust and encourage the same for their staff.

The first response to an access request should be to authenticate it with the security team, whether that’s at the gate, or with a suspicious looking email link.

When introducing new technology to employees, don’t take for granted that they are already doing the basics. Seemingly insignificant prompts to discourage obvious passwords or advice on how to spot phishing attacks will protect the investments that are made in new technology.


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 an innovative unified solution, the ease in which operations can be made more efficient and the speed in which urgent decisions can be made makes it invaluable.

And 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.

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