In 2018 Waukesha and Milwaukee County will be fully migrating to a joint P25 mission-critical, digital, radio system for first responders and dispatch personnel. The IP-based system has so many benefits over our previous analog systems not the least of which is our ability to talk across two counties and easily coordinate responses and investigations with multiple agencies. But this sophisticated technology, like all IP based technology, is vulnerable to cyber attacks from unauthorized users, looking to take down the system or hold the system ransom for money.
As we built the new radio system we realized we needed to take a look at our cyber security protocols and make sure we have the appropriate support in place to protect the system against potential impacts from cyber threats such as malware, phishing malicious code, botnets and unauthorized users. Routine software updates and patching is one of the best ways to protect a system. In fact, according to the Department of Homeland Security Cyber Emergency Unit, at least 85% of attacks can be prevented by routinely applying security patches.
To protect the system from cyber threats we use a security update service to manage the complexity. System managers review all available software patches, determine if they are necessary and then test them in their lab to make sure there will be no adverse effects on our system when the patches are implemented. When the upgrades are pushed out into the production environment, they are implemented systematically following a rigid set of protocols to make sure there are no unprotected areas of the system and the users are not impacted. This is beneficial because we have a highly available system, relied on by field and dispatch 24x7, and we need to minimize any downtime. It also controls the number of people who are touching the system and possibly opening the system up to outside intrusions.
Just knowing that there are individuals out there that are dedicated to watching the system, have a baseline for what normal traffic is, and can see when the spikes occur that require action definitely allows me, as an administrator of the system, to relax a little bit and focus on the things I need to focus on which is our people and future enhancements.
My advice to other system administrators is to make sure you know what your cyber security protocols are and make sure it's being done effectively because you do not want to be impacted by a downtime event. Today’s IP systems are much different than the old-school, siloed analog systems; everything is interconnected and vulnerable now. So, it is important to make sure that patches are being done by the people who are specifically designed to support that system.
I invite you to watch a newly released Waukesha County Communications operations video and hear from our people how we are keeping our system and our community safe and secure.
To learn more about the importance of cybersecurity and patching please attend Motorola Solutions’ Troy Mattern, VP of Cybersecurity Products and Services during APCO Cybersecurity Speaking Session: “Welcome to the ‘No FUD’ Zone” on August 6 at 4:30 PM - 5:30 PM.
Gary Bell, Director of Emergency Preparedness for Waukesha County Communications, Wisconsin.
Whether it’s the day-to-day requirements of the job or the unexpected emergency, your teams need to be able to communicate effectively and efficiently. That’s why mission critical communications systems are designed to be resilient – so your organization can function seamlessly even in the midst of the most pressing disaster.
In a crisis, lives depend on effective, unbroken communications. Radios and networks must work – even when faced with high winds, flooding, power outages and more. Today’s land mobile radio (LMR) networks are designed, engineered and tested with this in mind, delivering a unique combination of power, resilience and purpose-built devices.
Powerful Transmitters Reduce Support Needs
A massive hurricane devastates a coastal area. An earthquake topples structures and injures thousands. A tornado cuts across counties, leaving broken buildings in its path.
When disaster strikes, your team needs to focus on response and rescue efforts. You don’t want to be diverting in-demand resources to perform network repairs or deliver supplies.
With powerful transmitters that provide extensive range, LMR and dedicated networks cover large areas with fewer necessary sites. Their greater range gives you more choice in site placement, allowing for strategic placement to increase coverage, provide easier access and ensure strengthened security. In addition, powerful transmitters enable coverage indoors – in buildings with thick walls or underground parking garages – where other tower signals may not be able to penetrate.
By decreasing the number of sites needed, organizations are better able to prepare for emergencies and ensure their sites have adequate back-up supplies, generators and even fuel to withstand a crisis that includes loss of the power grid most commonly associated with natural disasters. Less infrastructure is easier to support and service, allowing your network to remain up and running when you need it most.
Resilient Design Minimizes Disruptions
If the worst-case scenario is to occur, your network needs to be resilient. LMR networks have a proven history of resilience in the most dire of circumstances. Extensive back-ups and redundancies built into these mission critical systems are devised to prevent communication gaps and losses.
Multiple levels of redundancies for key elements and fallback modes are specifically built into the networks to minimize service disruptions and stoppages – even in the most extreme conditions. Geographic redundancy with multiple zones and cores enable the zone to act as its own network if the connection to the main core goes down. Fallback modes incorporate a second core in case the main core goes down. In addition, local site trunking ensures that if part of a network goes down or is disconnected, the local site continues to operate, and users are still able to communicate.
Even with infrastructure down, limited indoor coverage, or in remote, rural areas with no coverage or electricity available, radios are able to engage in device-to-device communication – Direct Mode Operation (DMO) – ensuring that public safety personnel are always connected.
Purpose-Built Devices Thrive in Challenging Environments
Much like the network they run on, your device should be constructed to suit the conditions you work in. That’s why today’s LMR devices have undergone multiple generations of development and user experience testing – ensuring they provide a number of functions integral to mission critical operations.
Dedicated push-to-talk buttons, rugged construction, advanced noise cancellation and high-capacity batteries are all features that have been incorporated into LMR devices with the customer in mind. Whether it’s environments with zero visibility, uniforms that include heavy gloves and protective equipment or situations of high stress, mission critical radios are designed to be easy to use, to let you focus on your work and the task at hand, knowing that you are connected at all times.
Control Provides Backend Security
Today’s public safety agencies want a high degree of control over their systems. LMR networks provide organizations with the authority to manage coverage, set capacity and dictate prioritization.
Control over the coverage, capacity and prioritization of the network provides organizations with the ability to determine who has access to the system, when and where. This control helps to protect your network, making it more resilient and secure.
Unmatched power, proven resilience and purpose-built devices are all fundamental to LMR networks. It is what sets them apart and has established them as the most reliable means of voice communications for public safety. Every day, organizations rely on these networks to stay in touch and to keep our communities safe and thriving.
Learn more about why land mobile radio is mission critical in this video.
Geoff Hobar is Manager, ASTRO Infrastructure Customer Solutions at Motorola Solutions.