Homeland security has always been a question of juggling priorities – and today, that has not changed. As citizens, we need to feel trust in the authorities to keep us safe at home and abroad, and we need to feel free to live our lives and move within and across national borders as we choose. Trust, safety and freedom all need to be balanced – and, of course, resources are finite.
But what *has* changed is the hyper-connected world we now live in, together with new types and levels of threat. The implications of these are huge.
The world, as we all know, did not always feel like a safe place in 2016. The threats that nation states now face are evolving fast:
Counter terrorism is still a top-priority, with the number of terrorist attacks having doubled in the last two years. Social media has given terror groups new communication channels which must be detected, surveyed and responded to.
On the Intelligence front, countries need to understand and prioritize threats both home and abroad, and the connections between threats.
Cyber risks can ruin national security, public safety and economic competitiveness – and paralyze a nation. In this field, we see different opponents: hacktivists, terrorists, criminals and other nations – ALL with different motivations and ways of operating.
Pandemics such as ZIKA, SARS and Ebola have created new sets of challenges for prevention, response and containment.
Travel and aviation security, with more travellers than ever – a six-fold increase in illegal migration in Europe in one year; more terrorism; together with lower security budgets and fewer resources.
Re-thinking the response
A country’s economic prosperity depends on achieving the balance between freedom (letting people/goods come and go as they need) and security (keeping the bad guys out).
As homeland security threats get more complex and asymmetric, then the challenge of achieving that balance between trust, freedom and safety in day-to-day life becomes ever greater.
In terms of freedom, there are more travellers (legal and illegal) and more movement of goods (legal and illegal), than ever before (there has been a one-and-a-half times’ increase in the weight of seized drugs in the last four years). And citizens are enjoying new digital freedoms: freedom to work, communicate and connect, wherever and whenever they chose.
These changing and increasing threats put huge pressures on operational performance. The nature of the evolving threats – together the pervasive digital environment and increased global movement – requires Homeland Security organizations to completely re-think the way they operate.
Harnessing data for border control
So how can security organizations control their borders to achieve the right balance for citizens – that vital balance between trust/freedom/safety in the context of today’s threat landscape and the operational challenges in our inter-connected fast-changing world?
One absolute imperative is for organizations to effectively gather, store and use data to judge and respond – often in real time – through:
- constant monitoring
- agile use of resources
- actionable use of real time and historic data
- continually evolving and differentiating intelligence.
In terms of surveillance, a combination of technologies are needed, from smart CCTV, biometrics, eID, facial recognition (real time), checkpoint monitoring and vehicle license plate recognition – all integrated with national and international databases.
Much of Atos’ experience in land and sea border control was acquired developing systems and solutions for Maritime Rescue, Police and national Ministries of Defense across the world. Through our Big Data and Security arm, we deploy vehicle detection for regulated border control. This checks within four seconds whether a vehicle crossing the border is stolen, carries false plates or has undergone a transformation such as a color change. We have also introduced state-of-the art facial recognition into our vehicle license recognition technologies to detect wanted individuals traveling in vehicles. The software cross-checks facial recognition information with that of the license plate. This highlights any abnormal activities, such as the use of various vehicles by the same driver, an unusually high number of passes, and so on. And in the event of an abnormal situation, the barrier doesn’t lift and an automatic alert is sent to the relevant authorities.
This is just one part of a suite of solutions for land borders, with border checkpoints and automated alerting and mobile monitoring vehicles. Critically, systems and data are integrated for effective information exchange with national and international agencies.
These kinds of solutions (already being used on the Spanish border) give authorities much greater insights and control while saving significant time and resources in the fight against illegal cross-border activities and organized crime. At the same time, border crossings for ordinary citizens and goods are quicker and less hassle.
We’re also helping to patrol Spain’s coastline against illegal activity at sea. Again, it’s a combined surveillance and response solution, with Command & Control Centers on land, and systems equipped with maritime and land radars, visible light cameras, infra-red cameras, and so on. There is a database of all vessels that should be in the waters – and if there is an authorized vessel, then a patrol ship is sent. This has enabled the authorities to intercept drugs and other smuggling. It has already saved lives, intercepting and rescuing migrants who otherwise would have died. These systems have also detected oil spills and illegal fishing activities.
Agile deployment of assets, when combined with sensors and surveillance technologies, means that ‘finding a needle in a haystack’ really does become possible. And it’s just one example of how data can help keep regulated and unregulated borders operational. Effective homeland security now depends on the right combination of surveillance, integrated data systems and actionable intelligence to prevent and respond to criminal activity – often in real time.
Atos showcases in HOMSEC 2017, VI International Exhibition of Technologies of National Security, its latest innovative solutions in border control and maritime traffic management, checkpoint control, tactical communications, solutions for State security forces, etc. More info here.