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Or Shalom, security and cyber expert and adviser

Airports around the world have been an attractive target for attack, from the assailants’ point of view. Their motivation to attack aviation targets and array in both the physical and cyber arenas emanates from the psychological repercussions and global publication, among other reasons. Therefore, investments in securing airports and preventing aerial terrorism have become vital.

Security planning should be based on (independent) security cycles integrating technological tools and systems in a way that provides situational awareness for rapid decision making regarding an unusual incident. Also, innovation is required in order to improve the current ideas and security methods in order to be in advance of the assailant and identify the intention before it is too late.

The airport security challenge has intensified due to the need to operate strict security checks without human touch and without “annoying” or causing any delay to passengers. This trend is designed for a smart security procedure in response to advanced terror threats in both the physical and cyber arenas, alongside criminal or non-terrorist threats. This can be achieved through the integration of technologies and AI capabilities for cutting operational costs.

The COVID-19 crisis has forced some changes and constraints in the HLS systems arena in general, and in airports in particular. The pandemic has created the need for system planning and architecture conforming to safe distance principles. These changes have leveraged the opportunities in the touchless biometric systems market, now preferable to the traditional systems that require touch and are considered highly reliable (testing additional aspects, e.g. pulse etc., in order to prevent manipulations or the use of stolen identity).

The installation and integration of such touchless systems are already evident in several airports around the world and contribute to the smart and efficient security that refrains from eroding the passengers’ experience. The deployment of these systems requires an optimal integration of compensating definitions, such as the requirement to screen full hand instead of one finger.

The use of face masks due to the pandemic can enable intruders to bypass the facial recognition-based biometric systems. The use of face masks in public spaces makes face identification more difficult and challenges the manufacturers, as the identification process is based on many exposed points in the face and eye areas. 

The findings elaborated in a NIST report demonstrate a high error rate in the cross biometric screening with face masks (above the nose). Quite a few technologies (with a focus on Israeli technologies) provide Machine Learning solutions and the capability to compensate accurately for the lack of details during the identification process.

The technological innovation and mainly the need to optimize and calibrate the security systems are measured also in the processing and later in the information extractions in big data systems and the fusion of AI processes in support of decision making. The integration of AI and data fusion must start from the first circles and be conducted with constant cross-checking vis a vis the big data from current systems.

The integration of AI is required in processes where the system analyzes behavior and identifies suspected patterns while checking the history of reservations and flights.

The specification regarding information gathering processes requires orientation and information retrieval in a way that allows efficient and rapid search and monitoring. A vehicle license number or a person’s behavior analysis must be textualized in a way that will enable manual search later. It is expected that a manual query and the data in order to conclude about all the passengers will provide accurate information. 

This process and the ability to create a text from an image will produce a smarter investigation process that is not time-consuming (but rather detects the relevant parts efficiently). 

There are constraints also in the dedicated airport camera analytics, and they require reorganization. 

According to data provided by UNWATO (UN World Tourism Organization), some 1.45 passengers have passed through airports during 2019. It demonstrates the possible difficulty in the detection of anomalies in the dense crowd. Therefore, it is imperative to calibrate the systems and adjust the analytic definitions to possible scenarios, such as the capability to detect abandoned suitcases (and link them to the right person), the capability to alert when someone puts a suitcase on the conveyor belt and turns to the direction opposite to the passengers’ entrance, the detection of people that stay for too long in a certain area, etc.

There is innovation in advanced settings, such as the capability to identify a weapon sight or weapon drawing even before the actual firing. Security incidents such as the one in the Mogadishu airport (in Somalia) on February 3, 2016, require adequate preparedness and suitable analytics definitions to counter the domestic threat. In that incident, an airport employee transferred an explosive mobile phone to a terrorist, causing an explosion in an aircraft. The camera analytics definitions must correspond to the threats, terrain, and needs.

The technology-based integration of security circles will support the distance guarding between security teams and passengers (for the health protection of both sides), will help cut resources and operational costs, and increase the use of technologies and their contribution, which are important for achieving higher security levels and other advantages (relating to remote security checking).

Among the sources: aci.aero, i-hls.com, nist.gov

Or Shalom – Security and cyber expert and adviser to government entities and defense industries. He holds a master’s degree, as well as civil and national qualifications in the realm of information security and cyber. He has experience in developing cyber risk mitigation plans for companies and organizations, as well as experience with business development in the cyber fields. Mr. Shalom has led various professional cyber programs to various entities in academia and the civilian and security industries.