Protecting water supply and the treatment of waste water. Are you really safe?
December 3, 2023
As one of the 13 Critical National Infrastructure sectors, set out by the government and supported by the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI), the water utility industry is a core component of our nation’s ability to function on a day-to-day basis. The demands, responsibilities and risks to our water system – whether that’s through production and supply of fresh water or removal and treatment – are therefore of the highest importance. In today’s modern age the protection of this infrastructure is becoming ever more complex and diverse, especially as automation and connectivity increasingly enhance the management of this valuable resource.
We therefore find ourselves moving away from the core ‘mechanics’ of creation-distribution-removal and into new areas of risk management such as cyber threats, physical terror threats, espionage (both internal and external), vandalism, trespass, health and safety risks and many more. Combining all of the above with assets which span the whole of the UK, managed by one of the most advanced, but disparate, water industries in the world and it is easy to see that a well audited, well planned and well executed security strategy is essential, not only for the safety of consumers, employees and the economy but, just as importantly, to protect the reputation of the companies and water industry as a whole.
With Reliance High-Tech as a trusted partner and our knowledge and use of modern technology, not only can these risks be managed, but many other commercial benefits can be gained which can assist with the profitable and smooth running of a business. Our approach is to help businesses undertake a medium to long term security strategy and, by fully understanding our customers’ business objectives, we can provide a more sustainable system, with better results and lower cost of ownership. This partnering results in far more value for our customers than traditional procurement procedures can provide, due to the increased understanding and alignment of objectives that are realised.
Timeline of Security – Yesterday, today, the future
Historically within the water sector, we at Reliance High-Tech were seeing intruder detection and perimeter protection deployed along fence lines, especially in large open areas. We would find seismic detection being used to protect hatches and tanks from attack, security cameras providing visual feedback and a mixture of physical measures (keys, locks and electronic access control) to limit access to sites and buildings. Often these would be reactive, not integrated and would only provide low levels of intelligence.
As technology progresses, there are new solutions to old problems that now also provide improved protection, enhanced integrity, are less costly to deploy and maintain and, in most cases, provide valuable intelligence, data and insight which can provide business critical feedback that can enhance an organisation’s commercial operation.
For example, historically, keys and padlocks have remained widely deployed on remote sites. This creates a huge burden for key management across a large and disparate workforce (often contractors), increases security risk and carries with it the inherent costs of administration and replacement – potentially running into hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Today there are many solutions, such as mobile credentials, apps, WiFi, networked systems and even ‘smart electronic padlocks’ that could not only simplify this management and cost, but also provide real time usage reports, one-time passwords for contractors and much more. Use of biometrics could essentially make these impossible to share with others and security levels would therefore be increased.
With staff, visitors and contractors approaching and exceeding 10,000 personnel in some companies, it is often difficult to effectively manage health and safety, compliance, attendance and security across a geographically diverse estate. By integrating access control into HR systems or approved contractor databases it is entirely feasible to instantly create, add and remove access rights nationwide from one source. Linking competencies and security clearances to access control credentials means that access rights are determined by necessary competencies, training, site inductions and adherence to health and safety courses.
Combining access control, biometrics or ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) with the latest security camera technology and analytics it is now possible to determine not only who has entered a protected work area, and when, but whether, for example, they are wearing a high-vis jacket and hard-hat, or whether they are licensed/ticketed. In fact, there is now emerging technology that can even identify and flag unusual behaviour such as people standing on, or climbing structures they are not permitted to and enables operators to proactively review these scenarios.
On the subject of Health and Safety our Lone Worker devices currently protect 40,000 users around the UK, enabling them to feel safe and secure when working alone or in high-risk areas. These are monitored 24/7 x 365 by our own dedicated monitoring centre so we can ensure that any slips, trips, falls, panic alarms/attacks etc. are actioned quickly and efficiently, using two-way audio and GPS.
Where Cyber meets Electronic, meets Physical security
Another significant and increasing threat today is cyber security and cyber resilience. Most organisations think about their core infrastructure – their SCADA system and their corporate network – but, to use an old phrase, “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link”.
The creation of the government lead National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) partially addresses this risk through compliance and resilience initiatives. However, this alone is not enough.
At Reliance High-Tech we fully understand the importance of security from the core all the way to the perimeter. We recognise that a lack of water or essential services will displace people from their homes and quickly cause national implications.
For example, there are many reported cases of cyber attacks, such as Fort Collins-Loveland Water District in the US having their wastewater plant hit by ransomware, or a New York dam having its control systems attacked by a suspected Iranian hacker. Ironically the electronic security systems that are designed to protect the physical environment can, in many cases, be the ‘weakest link’ if they are not installed correctly, not secured, not maintained with the latest software patches, or implemented on unsecured networks by unqualified companies.
A large proportion of the reported cyber and hacking incidents in the press are caused by poor installation and programming as much as by poor equipment. Which is why our security solutions are always cyber secured.
Additionally by choosing the right partner and creating a secure, scalable and interoperable eco system, your physical and cyber security reach can be extended. For instance, a system that is able to recognise if an employee is simultaneously logged in from home on their computer while using access control on site would indicate a potential security breach that needs investigation.
Are your contractors – and their third party contractors – truly qualified to manage critical national infrastructure?
At Reliance High-Tech we carry the highest accreditations available, no compromise. Your reputation, your customers and your organisation are safe in our hands.
We are fully accredited to ISO27001 and Cyber Essentials
We can provide high availability hosting and Disaster Recovery solutions for security and were recently awarded ISO 22301 status
We have in house dedicated IT support and our own 24/7 x 365 monitoring centre
We will work with your cyber partners to help you comply with the DEFRA 2017-2021 Water Sector Cyber Security Strategy and National Cyber Security Strategy as part of your overall security plan.
Science fact or science fiction
While it may seem like science fiction, there are now many established technologies that are commercially viable for security applications – such as radar systems and thermal imaging systems that are able to provide advanced perimeter protection, even when physical fences are not in place.
We continually work with our customer partners to understand their evolving business needs, not just from a security level but also where the repurposing of our technology can provide other business benefits, we then use our global connections to build the right solutions.
Whether primarily designed for security, health and safety, or compliance, your security system can provide valuable information and insight on other subjects, for example, occupancy and usage to assist with energy management, or identifying patterns of employee behaviour and attendance for improved productivity and cost control. Today when we at Reliance High-Tech think about smart buildings, smart companies and smart cities we know the options are limitless, so we always start with your needs, your concerns and your opportunities.
How to find out more
At Reliance High-Tech we pride ourselves on our professionalism and integrity. We work across some of the most high profile organisations in the country, including utilities, government, Home Office, large university campuses and multi-national corporations.
We welcome the opportunity to listen, to learn, to guide and to be part of your strategic business plans going forward.
Contact our office for more details around utilities:
0118 933 5763