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Silent guardians of the telecoms universe

The UK government is investing in a surveillance ship to patrol the security of ‘critical’ subsea cables. 

The announcement comes as concerns grow over the threat to national security from the physical sabotage of internet and telecommunications infrastructure located offshore. It is a timely reminder of the vital role of physical security in protecting the online communications and data networks integral to government, public sector, and financial and commercial activities, at all levels of sensitivity. 

Online security threats, such as systems hacking, data theft, and cyber fraud, tend to preoccupy media attention. But physical infiltration or destruction of even a very small part of the installed network, through malicious intent or not, can be just as devastating. 

Last year, criminals targeted Openreach installations in East London to steal copper cable in a flurry of break-ins, disrupting local phone and broadband services. Vulnerabilities elsewhere in the network were flagged in a report in The Times back in 2018; it revealed how a journalist had walked unchallenged into two separate cable landing stations on UK shores.

Physical security threats come in many guises: from unauthorised access, trespass, and vandalism, to theft, malicious sabotage, extortion, or at the extreme, terrorist attack. And they could be targeted at any part of communications ‘hardware’ – underground cables, data centres, broadband networks, power supplies and ancillary installations.

A physical breach will lead to a varying degree of service disruption and time and cost of recovery management, affecting data availability to customers and the communication provider’s compliance with assured service procedures. On top of this is the damage to customer confidence and business relationships and to the reputation of the supplier and the industry overall. 

Good physical security also helps property owners and asset managers to meet their Duty of Care, by safeguarding against the risk of an intruder or assailant being injured or killed by interfering with electrical supplies, flammable substances or other hazards. 

So, while ships keep guard offshore, who or what is physically safeguarding telecommunications and digital assets onshore?

Significant expansion of the network, including the rise of the edge data centre in suburban and more rural locations, is increasing the scale and type of risk of criminal attack or trespass and in many new areas.   

Security measures such as perimeter fences, CCTV and guard control are important deterrents to the progress of an intruder to the sensitive areas of the edge data centre or other operational site. But ultimately, the physical resistance of high security doors, cages, cabinets, access covers and associated equipment will be the last line of defense of critical equipment from a determined attacker with heavy duty tools. These are the silent guardians of the telecommunications network, on duty 24/7, every day of the year. 

Network and data capacity and the infrastructure to house it is expanding faster than ever before. There is an ongoing need to adapt, extend and reconfigure the operational environment and distribution network while meeting a wide spectrum of physical security needs.

4 ways we’re partnering telecoms and data services companies on reliable physical security:

  • Proven certified security meeting stringent performance standards                                                                                                                                      We have 20+ years of expertise in the design and high quality manufacture of steel security solutions, tested and certified to the highest performance criteria of CPNI or the LPCB standard LPS 1175. Our comprehensive portfolio of UltraSecure equipment provides third party approved, dependable protection that is continually evolving to protect critical assets against contemporary security threats and risks of an attack.

  • Fast-build modular engineering that is ‘mouldable’ to site security specifics                                                                                                                        In the hands of our experienced designers, our highly modular products can be adapted to meet site needs whatever the scale or space constraints, all within the scope of their security certification. Kiosks and mesh enclosures, for example, can be scaled up to secure large assets or even groups of critical assets, and configured to unusual footprints, roof layouts or lean-to applications, to bring refurbished buildings, extensions, or re-appropriated space in line with security standards.

  • Turnkey security installations delivered by our ‘Total Service’                                                                                                                                            Telecoms and data service clients need fast, agile construction solutions to help them add capacity within secure infrastructure. Our Total Service partnering will take on every aspect of your asset hardening project, from site survey, design, and manufacture, through to fully project managed formworks, delivery, site lifting and installation – ensuring minimum disruption and asset downtime for the client.  

  • Best value security solutions right through to ‘end of life’                                                                                                                                                  With numerous accessories and design options available within the scope of certification,  our products can be tailored and integrated to support long-term operational efficiency and health and safety as well as security. High quality manufacturing, including a post-galvanised zinc finish, assures long term structural integrity and long life durability. Incurring minimal maintenance, this provides the best Whole Life Value, as well as a product that can be recycled at end of life.

Kevin Davies,  Head of Sales & Business Development at Technocover
Got a question or enquiry? Then email Kevin at:                                                                                                                                          

This article “Silent guardians of the telecom universe” was published in the weekly Data Centre Newsletter Friday 23rd April 2021.

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