Editor, IFSEC Global

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James Moore is the Editor of IFSEC Global, the leading online publication for security and fire news in the industry. James writes, commissions, edits and produces content for IFSEC Global, including articles, breaking news stories and exclusive industry reports. He liaises and speaks with leading industry figures, vendors and associations to ensure security and fire professionals remain abreast of all the latest developments in the sector.
October 28, 2020

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“Drones are not a new threat, but simply a new delivery mechanism” – The role of data in mitigating against the drone risk

On the agenda at the recent Tall Buildings Crisis Management Conference, hosted virtually by FIREX International this year, was the emerging security threat of drones. Amit Samani, Vice President for Sales at Dedrone, provided attendees with critical advice for security managers to think about when mitigating against the security risks the small, yet intrusive machines pose. IFSEC Global reports. 

The security landscape has evolved once more. No longer is it enough to simply provide ground perimeter protection and ensure your systems are all cyber secure. Airspace security is now on the agenda – for businesses ranging from those involved in critical infrastructure, through to city-based banking firms housed in tall buildings.

Drone-TallBuildings-20

It’s easy to understand why airspace has become a new route of access for those engaging in physical or cyber intrusion attempts. A small drone, Amit explains, can cost as little as $500, with a range of up to five miles and reaching speeds of up to 50mph. They are easy to acquire, easy to use, and have a relatively low perceived risk for the offender.

There have been an estimated 800 drone-related security incidents that have been documented by Dedrone, with illicit uses covering everything including surveillance, sabotage and smuggling (their use of dropping illegal substances into prisons has been well documented). The evolving threat was very much highlighted to the UK during an incident at Gatwick Airport in 2018, where a small drone caused significant disruption and delays for thousands of passengers. The onset of a pandemic leaving thousands of individuals with a ‘glut’ of spare time on their hands has, too, led to an increase in drone-related activity, explains Dedrone.

The threat, therefore, is growing. Drones represent a useful tool for wrongdoers to carry out physical surveillance of a site during the planning stages of an attempted break-in, or as a method of cyber-attack – there have been recorded instances of devices attached to drones being used to spoof internal Wi-Fi networks, for example.

Either way, explains Amit, drones aren’t necessarily a new threat – but rather a new delivery mechanism.

Data is the foundation of a threat assessment

He is also quick to point out that before any business begins to invest in anti-drone technology, they should ask the question: “How big is the problem for us?”

For those businesses truly under threat – particularly those in the critical infrastructure arena – many find that there is a significantly higher proportion of drone activity than they initially suspected. But, before immediately investing in high-level technology to disrupt or deter the devices, a security team should assess, understand and action the data companies such as Dedrone can help them gather.

For example, Amit explains that the devices will often be used to carry out reconnaissance work close to an event, or at similar times of the day. There have been instances of drone activity directly coinciding with changing security shift patterns. To combat such a scenario, technology isn’t necessarily the answer – instead a simple change to the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), such as staggered shift times, could be enough to mitigate the risk.

Detecting drones can be a challenge, as the majority are so small they are difficult to spot by eye. The four principle ways to detect a drone flying in your airspace include:

  • Radio-based frequency sensors
  • Video analytics via surveillance cameras
  • Radar (can be difficult to implement, especially in tall buildings/city-based applications)
  • Other sensors, such as acoustic

While radio frequency is the most commonly utilised tactic, Dedrone argues that security departments should be layering different sensors for better protection. For example, drone identification tactics should be integrated into a security operation platform – the company is currently working towards integration with systems from several vendors, including Genetec and Milestone.

Ultimately, explains Amit, businesses should take a five-step phased approach to airspace security. This includes:

  • Threat/vulnerability assessment: What types of threats are relevant to me? Is there enough data to prove there is a threat to the business?
  • Situational awareness: Where are the drones? Are there any recurring themes in location and times of drone activity?
  • Standard operating procedures: What SOPs can be changed/are impacted? If a particular floor is being targeted, can you automatically bring curtains down on that floor, for instance? Change in shift patterns?
  • Aggregation into other platforms: Can drone detection and airspace risk management be integrated with other building management systems/security platforms?
  • Mitigation: Only in permissive environments – it is illegal in most countries to shoot down drones, particularly in Europe, so businesses should make sure they’re aware of the local laws and their legal responsibilities.

“The point in drone detection technology is to give you the capability to have the data to build your standard operating procedures,” surmised Amit.

Dedrone helps protect organisations from malicious drones by securing the airspace using advanced hardware and software technology. Find out more in our interview with Dedrone’s David Greenberg at IFSEC 2019.

Do you work in the logistics sector? You may be interested in content from our sister title, SHD Logistics. Provider of news, case studies and opinions from the logistics sector, has launched a new app. It is available on the Apple App Store and on your desktop. Once downloaded, the app will allow you to save, read, search and share digital editions of SHD Logistics. SHD covers many verticals including retail and fashion, food and beverage, engineering, manufacturing, and transport and distribution. 

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