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City lights: Securing critical infrastructure

George V. Hulme | March 5, 2013
During the 2007 housing crisis, Columbus, Ohio--like most municipalities--faced significant tax shortfalls and revenue constraints.

Security effectiveness increased while cost and management burdens decreased. On the IT side, coordinated actions across departments readied city assets for when the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center would issue early warnings.

The centralized security command center increased building security. The $500,000 command center, finished in 2010, is staffed by up to 20 people. Should an event trigger an alarm, the footage from an appropriate video camera will be displayed on the monitors.

A few years ago, the city's video surveillance system had a couple hundred video cameras, but today that number is 600 and growing.

The importance of unifying the city's building access control system cannot be overstated. Over the years, the city had adopted a hodgepodge of such systems, all of which were implemented at different times, resulting in multiple variations on the same system even where a standard system was used.

Maintaining separate building-access-control systems not only made it much more difficult to manage access properly, but it was also expensive.

According to Calero, consolidating the purchase of equipment related to the city's access-control systems reaped a 15 percent one-time savings, as well as about a 15 percent average annual savings in the cost of recurring maintenance, and an additional 3 percent long-term savings from increased efficiency.

Building Security In

While many organizations strive to incorporate security into an asset's lifecycle, Calero has succeeded in bringing it to buildings and facilities development.

"Building security is IT security, too," said Calero. "Every information system has a physical security requirement. The building itself, the rooms, the network itself--all must be reasonably physically secure, and that includes integrating secure design very early in the phases of construction projects," he said.

This includes the upgrade of the police department headquarters that the city is currently undertaking. To better secure the tax offices, which will be housed there, Calero began working early in the process with the tax agency, building architect and oversight contractor to establish requirements for physical security, including surveillance camera placement and network closet security.

Other agencies are now coming to Calero and his team to ask for security advice when they're planning projects such as renovating recreation centers or building new pool houses.

"[The CSO] being brought to the table is a win for the city. Internal subject-matter expertise is invaluable in reducing the cost of security and increasing security effectiveness," Calero said.

Maintaining separate access-control systems in each building, including the police station, was expensive and made it more difficult to manage access properly. Calero centralized the system, resulting in tighter security and big cost savings.

"Vendors will come in and install security equipment [without] asking to see the most recent risk assessment. If they review it, the assessment will not tell them about available connectivity--280 miles of fiber owned by the city--or the strategy to unify security systems and manage them from the command center. They may propose physical servers be purchased and installed on-site with a battery for backup power, while the city has redundant data centers full of virtualized servers."


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