SCTX 2019 preview: experts talk border security, drones and cyber warfare

Talal Husseini 27 February 2019 (Last Updated February 28th, 2019 09:54)

Leading UK security experts gave a preview of the key issues facing domestic and global counter-terrorism in a media briefing ahead of the Security and Counter Terror Expo (SCTX 2019), which will take place on 5-6 March.

SCTX 2019 preview: experts talk border security, drones and cyber warfare
UK defence seniors met with journalists to discuss the global defence issues before the Security and Counter Terror Expo on 5-6 March. Credit: SCTX.

Leading UK security experts gave a preview of the key issues facing domestic and global counter-terrorism in a media briefing ahead of the Security and Counter Terror Expo (SCTX 2019), which will take place on 5-6 March.

The aim of SCTX 2019, according to former Olympic Gold Command Commander in 2012 Robert Broadhurst, is to bring the public sector and industry together to have much-needed discussions in order to react to threats more quickly.

Broadhurst said: “The show is where best practice can be shared. We are going to hear from some fantastic speakers and hopefully as well, if they are very good speakers, they will tell us about some things that didn’t go quite so well because that’s where the learning is.”

He noted it is a huge opportunity to engage communities in the security debate, which ultimately affects us all.

“We need to be talking about and engaging communities and businesses…and that for me is the big dynamic,” said Broadhurst.

Post-Brexit border security

Gatwick Airport border security manager Andrew Palmer talked about how UK airport security is preparing for the impact of Brexit on airport operations.

Palmer said: “The changes that are being proposed wouldn’t impact on border security and they wouldn’t impact on our passengers as well in terms of queuing or time they would have to spend at the border.

“Over the past several years, we have invested billions of pounds in additional e-gates in both our terminals, and the capacity we now have through those is enough to cope with the…introduction of 5 Eyes alliance – plus Japan, South Korea and Singapore – using those e-gates.  Passengers from those countries will hopefully be able to use those e-gates this summer.”

Palmer also discussed the benefits of behavioural protection in identifying potential suspects at airports, which has been used at Gatwick since 2013.

Protecting land and air at crowded events

Another issue is public protection from terrorist attacks at crowded or high-profile events. Thames Valley Police head of protection and vulnerability mitigation Peter Dalton gave a breakdown of how the police worked with the armed forces at the royal wedding 2018 to mitigate established methodologies of terrorist attacks, including the new threat brought by drones.

Dalton identified the largest threat to crowded events was using vehicles as a weapon, as evidenced by the London attacks in 2017, and so one of the main strategies used was hostile vehicle mitigation.

He added, however, that “technology is only one of the tools in the toolkit. You have to have the right databases on ANPR and CCTV, and you’ve got to have the right skill to analyse assess and respond”.

Regarding the Thames Valley Police’s strategy to protect the airspace at large public events, Dalton said that there were a range of counter-UAS measures from “police service, military and private security to detect and track and identify things that are flying sub-2,500ft”, which are more of security issue in these situations than larger aircraft.

Dalton said likelihood of people using small drones as a protest or publicity stunt was greater than using drones as a form of attack; however, the panic that small aircraft can cause could lead to a stampede within a crowd, which is always a concern.

He mentioned that some commercial off-the-shelf drones, such as the DJI Phantom and Mavic drones, were incorporating self-regulating, geo-fence software that stops the drone from entering protected areas, such as airports. However, these are currently in the early phases of development.

Promoting cybersecurity awareness

One of the key aspects of SCTX 2019 in the discussion over cyber warfare is industry and public awareness.

Speaking of how the expo can shape cybersecurity, Viacom vice-president for international security Terri Nicholson said: “Next week is going to be a mechanism. It is about awareness; people today will go onto their email and click on things from somebody that they don’t recognise, which will allow somebody into their world. They don’t realise that.

“We need to keep reinforcing that messaging. It’s absolutely essential and this is all part of it. It’s not just about preventing a terrorist attack; it’s about all forms of the threat.”

Nicholson added that SCTX 2019 will provide for real discussion of the impact of cyber warfare and, if possible, how to counter it.

She said: “We’re going to see genuine conversations from true experts from all sides coming together and debating, sometimes in quite vibrant debate, where they won’t all agree with each other, and…bring a high level of maturity to discussions.”