Protecting Critical Infrastructure

Society is highly reliant on the safety and stability of critical infrastructure. From boiling a kettle to maintaining national security, an interruption in the electricity supply can cause serious damage to businesses and the economy.

There are many potential threats to power sector infrastructure including malicious vandalism and theft of essential equipment from electricity generation or distribution sites. The effect of an unplanned shutdown at a power station could be enormous—not to mention the negative impact it could have on business reputation and the potential damage to stakeholder confidence and value.

To complicate matters, potentially vulnerable sites are often at remote locations; they tend to be dispersed and are serviced by a combination of employees and contractors to keep them operating effectively. Physical security at these sites can be especially challenging, but crucial.

Protecting critical infrastructure

Although power companies need to guard against vandalism, theft, and trespass, access must be granted to those who need it—often on short notice at any time of day. So which security systems offer a solution to these issues?

A Secure Solution

Electro-mechanical locking systems are one solution to the problem. New systems are available, such as PROTEC2 CLIQ from Abloy UK, which combine the highest standards of electronic and mechanical security. The systems can be programmed by an administrator to open only the locks for which specific users have access authorization.
Keys for such systems can have replaceable batteries that power both the key and the cylinder when the key is inserted. Communication between cylinder and key is encrypted to ensure a high level of security. Because the locks are wireless, installation time and onsite maintenance are minimal, making it ideal for the power industry.

The PROTEC2 CLIQ solution is fully scalable and can be configuredto suit smaller installations as well as extensive master-keying solutions that can have over 50,000 locking points spread over a wide geographic area.

Access Rights and Audit Trails

Authorized administrators control the access rights of every key so staff can only open specific locks at a facility. They can also grant access rights for specific time periods, allowing security and site managers to implement explicit permissions for employees, service crews, and contractors.

The entire access rights for a key can be revoked immediately if it goes missing. This eliminates the risks and costs associated with a lost key that could undermine the security of traditional mechanical locking solutions. A single CLIQ key offers a streamlined solution with substantially improved security that also overcomes the need for staff to carry a cumbersome bunch of keys. Administrators can program, amend, or delete keys remotely and instantly via web management software. They can also generate audit trails for any lock or key.

Remote programming devices enable users to update keys conveniently, and the latest version of the system, CLIQ Connect, utilizes wireless Bluetooth technology to enable keys to be updated via a smartphone. Using CLIQ technology not only improves security substantially, it also helps companies save money with significant operational efficiency benefits.

Success in the Field

Electricity North West is the distribution network operator for a large part of North West England, Manchester, and Carlisle. It sought a solution to control access at its sites, which are spread across urban and remote rural locations. To date, Electricity North West has been fitted with almost 15,000 locking cylinders at its multiple sites. The installed CLIQ system offers high flexibility, as mechanical cylinders and padlocks were installed in conjunction with the electro-mechanical CLIQ cylinders across all sites.

Electricity North West is also using almost 2,000 CLIQ user keys and more than 40 CLIQ programming devices to update access rights of keys remotely. The old brass padlocks had been targeted by thieves for their scrap value. The new CLIQ padlocks meet all required security criteria, and have been tested and certified in accordance with building hardware and padlock standards.

CLIQ software supports the complex workflow of a power company by enabling audit trails to be generated for individual locks, keys, and system users. Instances where a key is not returned or is lost no longer present a major security risk, because it can be invalidated immediately using the CLIQ web manager software. The solution has proven to enhance key management for Electricity North West’s widespread access points both on-site and in the field. 

—Steve Wintle is head of Critical National Infrastructure at Abloy UK.