Technology & Resilience

Dec 15, 2013

The warning was unequivocal: Canadians must confront the steadily increasing numbers of technological traps, trip-wires and hazards that await the unprepared, the careless and the unaware.

In October, Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI) president Tim Page opened SecureTech 2013, by describing Canada’s security environment. “Serious risks to pubic safety, threats to our eco systems, traditional way of life and national security challenges abound, and are growing in complexity, impact and cost.”

The conference portion featured four panel discussions that focused on the federal government’s Beyond the Borders Action Plan; emergency management; the econo­mics of community safety; and critical infrastructure. The first day was dominated by discussions about security of cross-border commerce and measures taken to enhance Canada-United States commerce while ­preventing criminal misuse of the transportation system conveying goods and materials. The second day addressed public safety and law enforcement, and the economics of community safety such as fire fighting and paramedic services.

The conference featured remarks and presentations from Steven Blaney, Minister of Public Safety; Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transportation; and Senator Vern White. The conference included many well-known Canadian and U.S. experts for the various panel presentations – each an acknowledged authority on security issues regarding cross-border trade and travel, maritime challenges, law enforcement, and public safety and security.

In his opening keynote address, Minister Blaney underscored the necessity to seek new ways to meet future cyber threats and conduct research into security challenges.

Cyber attacks from individuals and groups looking to steal identities or valuable information from businesses and government are evolving. He advocated increased efforts to protect Canada’s cyber networks and critical infrastructure.

The first Conference panel, This included details of how air and maritime radar are combined with other sensors through inter agency operations to ensure domain awareness and efforts to detect and interdict the “bad guys” before they gain entry to Canada.

In Beyond The Border: Leveraging Technologies to Improve Border Security, chaired by Dr Tim Nohara of Accipiter Radar, panelists turned their attention to security issues surrounding U.S-Canada trade and prevention of criminal misuse of the cross-border transportation grid. A substantive discussion ensued over efforts to enhance U.S-Canada trade while improving intelligence-led security at and between ports of entry. This included details of how air and maritime radar are combined with video, infrared, seismic and magnetic sensors, overtly and covertly along the border to detect and catch the “bad guys”.

Transport Minister Lisa Raitt explained the importance and impact of land, marine and air transportation, comprising the backbone of the nation as a global trading partner. Without safe, secure and reliable transportation systems, she warned, our current international trading relations will be jeopardized, leaving us unable to capitalize on new markets.

On day two of the conference, former Ottawa Police Chief, Senator Vernon White addressed the cost of policing and public safety, the fastest-growing areas of municipal spending, typically utilizing more than 20% of local budgets. The dichotomy of a 42% increase in policing costs over the last decade, while crime levels remain stagnant or are reducing, only serves to aggravate a public that doesn’t see the linkages, he noted. His presentation explained how the cost of policing includes much more than salaries. That said, he advises decision makers to look at cost avoidance -  measures to divert troubled individuals away from police and direct them to other agencies, such as mental health and youth resources, before their actions become criminal.

Community mobilization, simulation, and multi-responder exercises were cited by panelists and attendees as possible activities to improve municipal and community emergency response.

Panelists discussed emergency management and disaster response, and presentations focused on issues such as the train derailment at Lac Mégantic, Quebec, earthquake preparations in British Columbia; and the Alberta Government’s response to flooding in Calgary and High River.

Panelists singled out industrial control systems for special attention. The value of cyber security systems and services, they warned, has to be recognized or they will not be purchased, and without necessary changes to enhance cyber security their efforts will fail.

During the panel on law enforcement, officials from both sides of the border recognized the Shiprider program as one area of notable success. A shared Canada-U.S.  initiative, Shiprider fosters collaborative cross-border law enforcement. The many successes of joint programs such as Shiprider, attendees were told, underscore the critical need for officials on both sides of the border to cooperatively anticipate threats and collectively approach issues. One of the most challenging aspects is interoperable communications because, as one speaker noted, “swapping radios just doesn’t work.”

Firefighting services, subject to the same economic pressures as police services, also typically use a “risk-based” model. Panelists discussed economic value options.

The conference concluded with a description of the impact of increasing social issues and anti-social behaviour, much of which stems from alcohol abuse. If left unaddressed, these activities will likely become criminal, with people in the 15 to 24 year old age group more likely to perpetrate and be victimized. The World Health Organization notes that violence is a global problem with 80% of its roots in alcohol, a $20 billion annual market in Canada.

Taken in its entirety, the conference paints a sobering picture of Canada’s future public safety and security challenges. It urged elected officials, decision makers and leaders of Canada’s corporate and industrial sectors to take deliberate and immediate steps to guard against and address vulnerabilities that will lead to cyber attacks, interruption of production and theft of privileged information.

FrontLine correspondent Tim Dunne attended the two-day conference in October. The next event will be November 2014.
© FrontLine Security 2013