Fortifying critical infrastructure

Fortifying critical infrastructure

When it comes to protecting critical infrastructure, biometric technology is the route to go, says Shiraz Kapadia, CEO and President of Invixium.

Strategies for safeguarding critical infrastructure at a national level are a fundamental necessity for the governments of countries everywhere placing significant importance on securing a nation’s vital assets and services. This commitment is reflected through contemporary security policies designed to enhance safety and resilience. But what constitutes critical infrastructure?

Critical Infrastructure was first defined in Presidential Decision Directive (PDD) 63 dating back to 1998 in the US. Historically, “a critical infrastructure consisted of those physical and cyber-based systems that were essential to the minimum operations of the economy and the government. They include, but are not limited to, telecommunications, energy, banking and finance, transportation, water systems, and emergency services, both governmental and private.”

Today, it means much more. Critical infrastructure encompasses not only physical infrastructure like power grids and transportation networks but also digital components like electronic systems and software data, as well as the resources essential for their management and operation. Targeting critical infrastructure is a key tactic in modern warfare and protecting these operations is extremely vital for the stability of the economy and a matter of national security.

Systematic development in critical infrastructure is the cornerstone of any society’s development today and getting this reliance on life-essential industries right is a huge step forward for what the World Economic Forum calls the Fourth Industrial Revolution. A revolution that is marked by the convergence of digital innovations including artificial intelligence (AI), biometrics, biotech, machine learning, natural-language recognition and others.

Biometric solutions offer advanced capabilities that no other access control solutions can. Critical infrastructure requires security measures that are convenient and efficient and can seamlessly manage staff, daily operations, shift changes and visitors. Many have relied on outdated security measures like traditional cards, fobs and keys which can easily be shared, stolen or lost. These traditional access control solutions can inadvertently promote time theft, buddy punching, unauthorised overtime and payroll errors.

Biometrics, with their inherent capabilities, serve as a valuable tool to safeguard critical infrastructures by effectively limiting access to any unauthorised individuals and thereby thwarting any potential malicious intrusions. These solutions not only exceed the security requirements of industry regulators but also keep people and assets safe by verifying identity and security threats in real-time.

What biometrics has to offer…

Multi-modal and multi-factor capabilities

Biometric systems with multi-modal capabilities use a combination of various biometric modalities such as face recognition, fingerprint authentication, iris scanning and voice recognition to enhance security and accuracy.

Solutions that offer multi-factor authentication using any combination of multiple biometrics (face recognition, finger vein, fingerprint), mobile credentials (digital card, dynamic QR code), and traditional credentials (card, PIN) allow for a more comprehensive and robust identification process, making it difficult for unauthorised individuals to gain access. A multi-factor approach is required for critical infrastructures and face recognition solutions can add a security layer that is difficult to deceive.

Integration with video management software

Integration with a dedicated video surveillance software provider brings several benefits to businesses that rely on both video and access control solutions for their security operations. Such integrations allow video recording or video surveillance to be initiated when a designated event occurs on access control devices. This integration allows security personnel to monitor and verify unauthorised individuals.

Scalability of biometric solutions

The scalability of biometric solutions is paramount. As the infrastructure facility grows, expands and diversifies, these solutions will seamlessly incorporate any changes without causing disruptions or requiring extensive reconfiguration. Whether it’s integration with existing systems, or incorporation of advanced security protocols like surveillance cameras, intrusion detection and alarm systems, these solutions will not only ensure continued protection and security but also eliminate disruptions of system overhauls.

Unmatched speed and accuracy with biometrics

Biometric solutions are known for their high throughput that enhances user experience allowing for rapid and reliable identity verification. The incredible precision of biometric solutions improves accuracy and bolsters security, which is of extreme importance for facilities with large workforces. Advanced face recognition solutions today are compatible with all skin tones, beard types, glasses, hats and even masks, creating a far more accurate experience for end-users.

Efficient workplace management

Let’s not forget that infrastructure facilities usually encompass a large, blue-collar workforce who are impacted by the access control and workforce management solution in place. Security managers aim to make shift changes as fast and easy for their staff as possible. Usually, the management will gravitate toward a card-based access control or time tracking system, however, card systems cannot rise to unique security challenges posed by these units. Biometrics help limit buddy-punching, boast comparably high throughputs versus card readers, manage bottlenecks at peak hours, and prevent intentional and unintentional time theft. High-level biometric solutions with modern features can provide a time-tracking solution that allows your staff to keep protective wear on – including glasses or goggles and hard hats.

Curious case of the Middle East

I have long held deep admiration for the Middle East’s remarkable resilience. A region that grapples with myriad socioeconomic and geo-political changes and yet stands strong amongst strong winds of change by laying the foundations for sustained stability and development. As per the World Economic Forum, the MENA region’s population is projected to increase by more than a quarter by 2030, and a significant proportion of that population will be of prime working age.

This rapidly growing population puts significant pressure and growing reliance on critical infrastructure. With a rapidly growing population and a market with its unique set of challenges, the region provides an intriguing backdrop for discussing the intersection of technology, security and innovation. The Middle East is home to numerous critical infrastructure assets, including energy facilities, transportation networks, water supply systems and telecommunications hubs. These assets serve as the backbone of the region’s economic prosperity, making them potential targets for various threats, including terrorism, cyberattacks and insider threats.

Biometric access control solutions can help protect critical infrastructure assets by real-time monitoring and deliver quick responses to security breaches ensuring that only authorised personnel gain access to sensitive areas, and much more. The biometric and access control market in the Middle East has experienced remarkable growth in recent years. This expansion can be attributed to various factors, including increased government initiatives for modernisation, urbanisation, and the rising importance of security in the region. The Research and Markets report on the biometrics market in the Middle East and Africa states that the market is expected to grow with a CAGR of 20.86% in the forecast period 2019-2027.

Energy powerhouse

The Middle East is a global energy powerhouse, home to some of the world’s largest oil and gas reserves. Any disruption to these resources can have far-reaching consequences, not only in the region but worldwide. Many oil and gas facilities in the region have adopted face recognition as their primary mode of access control and workforce management.

The challenge is that not all biometric solutions work in the harsh and challenging environments of an oil and gas facility. Rugged biometric solutions with high-end materials, heat sinks and scratch-resistant materials are imperative to ensure seamless operation in such demanding environments.

The smart cities influx

The global smart cities market is projected to reach US$2.5 trillion by 2025, and the Middle East is a significant contributor to this growth. According to Meticulous Research, the Middle East & Africa smart cities market is projected to reach US$40.38 billion by 2030, at a CAGR of 25% by 2030. As these cities rely heavily on advanced security measures, biometrics and access control systems are poised to become indispensable.

The region’s rapidly growing smart cities, such as Dubai and Riyadh, rely on secure and efficient infrastructure to function optimally. These smart cities require not only a rugged and modern solution but also an appealing solution that can blend effortlessly with the architecture of the building. Most of the solutions available in the market are clunky and heavy but a few future-focused innovators are manufacturing design-centric devices that are both functional and aesthetic.

As the Middle East continues to expand and develop its critical infrastructure, the need for cutting-edge security measures is poised to increase significantly. Security of critical infrastructures is of utmost importance and access control serves as the first line of defence. Rugged and modern biometrics that can withstand any harsh climate conditions and can integrate with other security measures seamlessly is the ideal choice for industries, providing them with an unmatched level of confidence and convenience.