Embedded Security as a Forethought

As infrastructure that surrounds us in the US grows and improves, there is an opportunity to include greater security. 

The Internet of Things (IoT) and Smart Cities collaborations are a growing trend to provide smarter infrastructure and ubiquitous cyber-physical applications. The smart infrastructure that emerges will incorporate security features, but will a foundation for a more secure infrastructure emerge?

In the mid-1800s, the city of Chicago was quickly growing into a major industrial center. but the new city was being built on a lakeshore marsh. The muck quagmire could not be solved by grading streets or by laying planks on top. The muck was a breeding ground for cholera and in 1854 5% of the population died from it.

Finally, a sewer system was proposed, but because the city was built only 3 or 4 feet above sea level, the only way to insure proper drainage was to elevate the entire city. It required over 20 years of determined effort to jack up Chicago’s buildings 4 to 14 feet or in some cases just moving them. It’s a story of resolve, but also of the importance of a good foundation.

The modern day Chicago Police Department is building a large-scale video surveillance network paid for with $217M in funding provided by Operation Virtual Shield, a Department of Homeland Security Grant program.

The program is responsible for 250 Chicago Police Department video cameras with fiber VPN in an area of downtown and up to 3000 privately owned video cameras being linked into their accessible network. Similarly, Baltimore has fiber to every police camera covering several square miles of downtown that feed directly into their CitiWatch surveillance fusion center.

Operation Virtual Shield pales in comparison to the scope of the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) grant program that supports the 1200 Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) in the US who are buying and installing more and more video surveillance systems.

BID managers and police agencies that implement camera grids are formulating best practices for installing cameras, supporting communications and video software management.

Fusion centers are grappling with how to implement analytics and manage an enormous data consumption challenge. See-Something-Send-Something (SSSS) apps and eLERT apps are now adding to the complex data picture. The patchwork of devices and software introduces a host of potential mishaps and security vulnerabilities. The underlying commercial data networks impose bandwidth and cost headaches.

Running SSSS applications and first responder mobile device applications on the same network as the protected fusion database is a cyber security concern. Monitoring the extended network of devices that are privately owned and operated limits capabilities.

With all the effort to modernize, the city managers will openly admit to the fact that the true benefit is forensic, that there is no plan for active monitoring of all systems, and improved response in an emergency is not readily impacted. This is the muck.

The time is now to consider security as a foundation for our everyday infrastructure. Security needs to be a forethought not an afterthought.

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