Critical organizations need total security for their professional communications. Indeed the high security enabled by today’s dedicated Tetrapol and TETRA networks has been one of their key selling points. In addition, it is vital to ensure security in other areas.
Which are the seven strategies of security that need to be used so that operations do not become compromised – today or in the future?
1 - Physical security
The physical security of a communication network is the responsibility of the network operator. The operator must ensure that the critical network elements are protected against the normal rigors of nature, against exceptional environmental conditions and against physical attack. Alarm systems must be in perfect working order, allowing as fast a response to a situation as possible.
Network elements must be physically protected against exceptional environmental conditions.
And if several communication networks are in use – such as in hybrid networks – every one of them must have its physical security in control.
2 - Network elements and architecture
A large part of network security is determined at the planning stage, when the network setup and topology is decided, and even earlier, when its system software is designed.
This strategy must include making sure that the servers and base stations enjoy an uninterrupted power supply, that there is adequate redundancy in place in the network, and that the network has enough capacity to serve its users.
In addition, planning the network to consist of autonomous areas ensure that losing one part will not affect the other parts of the network.
3 - Network functionality
Network functionality - the services that it provides - contribute to the overall network security, of course. Key services include prioritization mechanisms that help guarantee the continuity of communications for the critical users in all circumstances. Another important functionality makes it possible to disable user devices that have been lost or stolen.
Discrete listening, ambience listening and jamming detection are further special security functions that today’s critical communications users have learnt to appreciate.
4 - Operation and maintenance
Operation and maintenance of the networks is another key to security. The routines and systems must be well thought out and established, and when maintenance is needed, handling them without down time becomes important.
Network upgrades are another consideration. The latest versions often have new features and functions to improve safety and security, and the operator must manage system upgrades without compromising security in a live network.
In private networks, the operator may sometimes be one of the organizations who also use the network. For commercial networks, it is vital that the operator’s personnel cannot access the information that is internal to the user organizations.
5 - Competence and preparedness
Even the safest network will become vulnerable if the users do not have adequate skills. Training must be comprehensive and there must be a well thought out organization in place.
And although the routine use of the system can be learned quickly, personnel must also be prepared for exceptional situations and major incidents. When more manpower is needed, volunteer organizations may be called on to participate in operations and they too must be trained and prepared to take on their duties.
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6 - Personnel safety
For people working in critical tasks, staying in touch is the key to personal safety.
Reliable, available communications safeguard the personnel. In addition, user devices should support special safety features, such as the emergency call. Other examples of functions that could save someone’s life include
- A “man-down” feature which will alert backup if the user’s device stops moving or stays horizontal too long - the Lifeguard feature, for example
- A feature which can tell the user where and how far colleagues are at the moment - like the Where Are You feature
- End-to-end encryption, the ultimate protection from eavesdroppers.
7 - Information security
When information security is mentioned, passwords and encryption are among the first things that come to mind. Encryption is indeed an important element of security, but at least as important is to be sure that the encryption keys are administered in the safest possible manner.
Loss of confidential data or data corruption are risks related to data inside user devices or accessible through them. That is why the user devices themselves must also contain safeguards to provide high confidentiality and integrity.
Security is the sum of all elements
A mobile network’s security depends on a wide range of measures – not just its availability, not just end-to-end encryption, nor any other single aspect. This is why the pros have learned to use these seven strategies.
Only when all strategies are in use can one trust that the network is secure and that the communication services that it provides are secure. Only then can the network be shock-proof such as the ones described in the white paper: "Shock-proof networks - How professional radio communication helps tackle extreme circumstances ".