Managing Editor, IFSEC Insider

Author Bio ▼

James Moore is the Managing Editor of IFSEC Insider, the leading online publication for security and fire news in the industry.James writes, commissions, edits and produces content for IFSEC Insider, 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.
February 26, 2020


State of Physical Access Trend Report 2024

Protecting CNI

Using the latest tech to secure CNI sites

Effective key management is an essential tool in access control and is vital when it comes to protecting critical national infrastructure (CNI) sites. Here Steve Wintle, Head of CNI at Abloy UK, explores what can be done to keep these locations secure and the increasing role digital security solutions are playing.

We all know that key management is extremely important and should never be undervalued. Regardless of the site or asset that needs to be secured, a dependable system which provides physical security, along with a tool to generate audit trails and remotely revoke access, can significantly improve operational efficiencies.

SecureCNI-2-Abloy-20This task becomes much more complex when you are dealing with CNI sites, many of which are high-risk and remote. Yet the need to protect them remains constant, either because of world events and possible state sponsors attempting to disrupt the country’s economy, or closer to home with disgruntled employees looking to cause disruption and loss of reputation.

However, the increasingly demanding requirements of the CNI market can be matched and supported by the latest developments in technology, helping organisations to stay one step ahead.

What security challenges does the CNI sector face?

In 2018, the population of the UK was 66.4 million and is projected to pass 70 million by 2031, which means that CNI organisations are under more pressure to grow their services than ever before.

Managing, monitoring and maintaining the security of these resources is no easy matter. The challenge lies in the fact that CNI sites can cover huge geographical areas and be found in remote, rarely visited locations. There are practical difficulties too; these sites often lack internet connection to utilise online platforms, or are exposed to extreme weather, harsh enough to corrode hardware.

“The next generation of key management systems will also make much more use of mobile phones. Implementing a system that utilises a simple to operate app – which is also encrypted to the highest standard – can maximise the flexibility and efficiency of on the ground staff, especially short term contractors.”

Also consider the rising appetite for eco-friendly solutions, which need the power generation, utilities, telecoms, healthcare, transportation and financial institutions to invest heavily in sustainable infrastructure. All new investments must demonstrate that they contribute to a reduced environmental impact.

The next generation of security solutions must consider these challenges, while also helping organisations meet regulatory compliance, provide cost savings improve operational efficiencies, reduce health and safety incidents and ensure assets are maintained and kept secure.

So how does digital come into play?

What are the benefits of digital solutions?

All national infrastructure organisations seek to improve operational control and efficiency but often compromise security for convenience. High security locking solutions should integrate maximum security and reliability into their processes.

As a sector, we combine the convenience of keyless solutions without compromising robust physical security. A system which combines mechanical and electronic technology and will maintain strict standards required for physical security while future-proofing for scalability, operational efficiencies, greater auditability and activity reporting.

The aim is to integrate robust, resilient physical locks with intelligent backend digital systems, while linking them to security and access management platforms. This provides the capability to manage access rights, credentials, third party organisations and other metadata – all creating a more efficient system and keeping CNI sites thoroughly protected and compliant and visualisation of the sites status.

Integration can also take security to a new level. Specifically, combining a key management system with mapping software such as OS Cloud can provide huge efficiencies and visibility of the sites status.

A locking system which utilises this type of software integration allows for the management of locks and users, while also providing visibility of lock status and instant access log/audit trails.

The next generation of key management systems will also make much more use of mobile phones. Implementing a system that utilises a simple to operate app – which is also encrypted to the highest standard – can maximise the flexibility and efficiency of on the ground staff, especially short term contractors.

Such advances could even allow organisations to stop using traditional key management and key deployment systems altogether, as end users will use their mobiles through a network to access restricted areas, including padlocked remote sites.

The benefits of this application are vast, as users could receive activation codes through SMS, display a list of access credentials, connect to a lock and use their phone to unlock it, receive rights from backend services, or even install a firmware update.

You could also ensure that these tasks still take place at sites without mobile connection by using a system of access tokens inserted into the mobile device before entering the offline area.

CNI security solutions of the future

Abloy-BEAT-20At Abloy, we’ve helped to protect the UK’s CNI for more than 50 years, working with end users within specific markets to create lasting and secure mechanical and electric locking solutions. We believe the future of locking and access control is a combination of digital communications and precision mechanical products.

The implementation of innovative digital solutions within the CNI sector will bring a huge range of benefits, including operational efficiency, reduced CO2 emissions plus cost and time savings, allowing organisations providing critical services to focus most on what matters: supplying uninterrupted services to their domestic and business customers, while Abloy helps to keep the country secure.

Abloy has recently launched its new digital, Bluetooth padlock solution, designed for critical national infrastructure sites. Find out all about the Abloy BEAT.

Abloy has unveiled a new whitepaper on how the critical infrastructure sector can unlock the potential of smartphones in the workplace to improve employee mobility, job satisfaction and productivity. Read ‘Smartphones: The future of access control?

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