By Ajay Jain, President and CEO, Quantum Secure
In the last several years, there has been an intense focus on the safety and security of airports, as the challenges these facilities face are ever evolving. Despite tight security in and around the gate areas, airport facilities are by their nature open to the public – a fact that poses a major hurdle when it comes to physical security.
Another significant challenge is the host of rules and regulations that govern security clearance, identification and access for airport and airline employees, vendors and tenants, which in many cases are complicated by the siloed systems and processes that are used to manage the necessary credentials for facility access.
The security needs and the challenges they present are not new; they have existed for as long as there have been airports, though certainly they have intensified in the last two decades. TSA regulation and internal security procedures have dictated that certain facets of security needed to be addressed in specific ways, but in some cases these requirements have further complicated the security process. The manual processes many airports once employed made it difficult, if not impossible, for them to meet even the minimum requirements, both internally and from the TSA. In short, many airports simply weren’t meeting their security thresholds.
Thankfully, there are solutions that relieve the burden of manual processes and provide a means to achieve security goals. Chief among these solutions are physical identity and access management solutions, which can assist with unifying identity management, integrating disparate physical security systems, automating processes and simplifying control of access for employees, vendors and other identities. Within the aviation industry, there has been an increased understanding of physical identity and access management systems and their potential to not only provide badges or credentials, but to also serve as a cross-airport solution.
Identity management software enables airports to manage the lifecycle of identities related to physical access, including synchronized on- and off-boarding across all systems harboring an identity record. When integrated with other systems – such as mass notification, IT, physical security information management and other event management systems – identity management software provides airports with a larger umbrella under which data management solutions can be combined to deliver deeper levels of security.
Many of these systems have traditionally been separate from each other, which prevented data sharing between them. When integrated with one another, however, they have the ability to multiply the effectiveness of security and provide enhanced capabilities that allow airports to achieve more with fewer challenges and less complication.
For example, if an event were to occur at an airport, the mass notification solution would provide alerts to travelers and employees. Integrating that system with an identity management solution provides a complete data set about that incident that could enable an airport worker to pull up information on who is involved in the incident and determine what areas of the facility they can access based on their credentials. This information could then be used to provide direction via the mass notification system to those within the airport about where they should go, as well as determine how security should handle the incident.
So while airports have struggled to achieve just the security basics, with manual identity management processes, solutions like physical identity and access management automate these processes to provide an increased level of security. These systems can also assist in other strategic areas that have the potential to improve airports’ overall operations as well. Among these are customer service, internal business threats, compliance and auditing.
A prime example of operational goals that can be addressed with physical identity and access management is customer service – with regard to vendors, who are business customers of the airport itself. This is one area that can pose major problems for airports.
The main challenge from an identity management standpoint is that all employees of these vendors require badged access to certain areas within the airport. When a new employee is hired, there’s a detailed process that follows, starting with the vendor’s authorized signatory – the person from the particular vendor who is responsible for the new employee. Airports require these individuals to complete certain tasks to begin the badging process, which can be a very long and tedious manual process in the absence of an automated solution.
In addition to being time-consuming, the process also requires a significant amount of paperwork, making it highly error prone. As part of the process, potential employees are subject to background checks and training that can also be laborious with a paper-based system. In the meantime, these employees are not able to report for work until the process has been completed, which costs vendors time and money. Additional delays caused by blanks on forms or unfiled training reports only add to these losses.
Automating these processes with a Web-based portal for signatories, for example, makes it possible to enter information quickly and efficiently. Because the information doesn’t need to be re-entered by other departments, the potential for error is greatly reduced. This also drastically expedites the hiring process and decreases the financial toll on vendors, which makes the airport a far more business-friendly environment. Through a unified system, vendors and airport employees can view the current status of any transaction during and after the badging process.
The software can automatically submit applicants’ information for automation of security threat assessments and monitor status in real-time to tie it to activation of an electronic airport badge.
Software systems also enable operators to set prices for employer interactions for direct billing or regular invoicing of charges such as badging, background checks, penalties, violations, training and lost assets like keys or cards. Automation can recoup operational costs for transactions that would not be cost-effective to recoup using manual methods.
Related to compliance monitoring, software can generate reports on an as-needed basis – nightly, weekly, monthly and on-demand – in the format required by the Transportation Security Clearinghouse and other channel service providers. It can also provide real-time auditing capabilities, eliminating the need for manual audits.
It stands to reason that the more complexity there is in the security system, the more difficult it is to monitor, understand and respond to incidents. Physical identity and access management solutions remove much of the complexity associated with identity management and other strategic processes, boosting operational efficiency, lowering costs and achieving a higher level of security.
By replacing manual offline processes with automated software, airports are able to relieve many of their traditional pain points.
Physical identity and access management solutions provide the tools to streamline workflows, automate processes and integrate disparate systems. They also reduce risks associated with manual, error-prone systems and practices, improve compliance and increase efficiencies. As a result of the increased efficiency, lower costs and proactive compliance management, airports are safer for everyone. And in the end, that’s what matters most.