Combating Insider Threats at Airports

Employee Screening Insider Threat Physical Security

By Chris McLaughlin, Vice President, Global Solutions, Evolv Technology

The shift in the threat landscape has impacted multiple industries from entertainment to education. Today millions of people are vulnerable in places where, in the past, they could freely gather. For airports, which already require several security procedures and screening processes, the shift has resulted in the need to further secure non-traditional areas of the facility.

This need is partially being driven by the uptick in insider threat incidents that have taken place at airports in recent years. With new insider threats like a baggage handler smuggling several handguns onto flights, and an avionics technician showing a willingness to transport explosives to a secure part of the airport, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Transportation Security Administration (TSA), airport authorities, and airlines are installing more physical security protocols to protect the vulnerable areas of the airport.

Let’s explore what we need to address insider threats at airports, the current processes that exist and how new, innovative technologies are addressing that need.

Security that Considers the Pace of Commerce

The Current Process: For decades, airport insiders have been given extensive access to almost all parts of the airport with identity verification serving as the primary tool for screening employees.To remain operational, employees need this level of access; however, it makes implementing new screening processes difficult as employees encounter dozens of access points daily.

The New Solution: When considering new employee screening processes, an important question to ask is, “will this process unduly slow employees down and make it difficult to do their jobs?” If the answer is yes, then you will want to consider another option. To help, look for options that do not require employees to empty their pockets or take off their shoes and belt.

Automating the Employee Screening Process

The Current Process: In addition to ID checks, there are currently a number of different processes being used for employee screening at airports. In a few cases, airports use traditional x-ray systems and magnetometers, which are costly to operate and invasive for all employees. At the other extreme, airports use physical pat downs, which while more cost effective, are much more invasive for selected employees.

The New Solution: As an alternative, airport managers should look for automated systems. These systems offer a variety of benefits. For example, instead of manual processes like bag searches and metal detectors, guards can maintain focus on the employees coming to work, responding to threats only when they present themselves.

Leveraging Innovative Technologies to Take a Proactive Approach to Security

The Current Process: Today, the screening systems have limited capabilities. For example, they cannot analyze data quickly and are not technologically advanced enough to perform consistently.

The New Solution: Innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and sensors offer airport managers a number of benefits. AI has the power to analyze data quickly and identify patterns in real-time. In a screening scenario, this application eliminates the need for full hand wanding or physical full-body pat downs as the technology itself alerts guards if someone is carrying an item of interest and tells them where to search.

Scalable Solutions for Pop-Up Deployment

The Current Process: Not all airport budgets support a 100 percent screening model. While we applaud those that can commit the resources, there is strong evidence that supports random, unpredictable employee screening models as well.

The New Solution: Random, unpredictable screening stations are not only effective but also offer flexibility as conditions change. Solutions that are designed for pop-up deployment allow airport managers to set-up employee screening stations at different access points throughout the airport for various amounts of time.

Flexible Solutions to Meet Specific Needs

The Current Process: This is a complicated process and often times, identifying where, and how, to start can be the biggest challenge. Because of this we see airports choosing NOT to strengthen security in lieu of reverting to a costly and cumbersome “one size fits all” solution that is expensive.

The New Solution: Each airport needs its own flexible solution that can be adjusted based on their specific needs, budget and risk factors. There is no perfect security solution; however, those that that strategically balance security, access, usability, and cost can ultimately provide the best long-term protection against an evolving adversary.

Airport operations are extraordinarily complex. At their most basic level, if security measures make it impossible for employees to get to work on time, airplanes won’t get off the ground on schedule. To incorporate additional layers of security that improve the employee screening process, airport managers should look to maximize their resources. In today’s new world paradigm, it is the combination of identity and physical security that will enable airports and airport managers to successfully protect against insider threats.

Check out this case study to learn more about how Oakland International Airport is leveraging innovative technology to enhance its employee screening process.

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