Enhanced Layered Security: Utilizing UAVs to improve physical and cyber security posture

Multi-level security with Security Operations Center and UAV
Communication scheme in a layered security system
Organizations face significant challenges in protecting their assets, infrastructure, and personnel in an increasingly complex security landscape. These threats come in many forms, and there is a rise in hybrid attacks, which may combine both physical and cyber-attack vectors. Traditional security measures alone may not suffice in mitigating evolving threats.

However, integrating Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) with Security Operations Centers (SOCs) offers a promising solution. By combining the agility and versatility of UAV technology with the expertise and analysis of SOC teams, organizations can bolster their defense-in-depth approach and proactively address security challenges.

In this article, we examine the
potential applications of drones in layered defense scenarios, talk about SIEM and UTM integration benefits and touch on the subject of countering adversarial drones.

Addressing the security challenges

The dynamic nature of modern security challenges demands a proactive and multi-layered approach. A traditional security infrastructure may include physical barriers, access control systems, and surveillance cameras. While these measures are crucial, they often face limitations in terms of coverage, visibility, and response times. To address these challenges, organizations can leverage frameworks such as Risk Management Framework (RMF), Defense-in-Depth, and ISO 27001 ISMS to guide their security planning and implementation.

Another challenge many organizations face is the disconnect between units/functions responsible for various risk/security areas. Creating a more meshed approach can also improve internal communication, removing unnecessary delays during security incidents.
General-purpose robotic landing station - Ortus Dock

Types of UAVs commonly used in security scenarios

While almost any drone can benefit the security posture of an organization, two types provide the best and most reliable results:

Drone-in-a-Box systems provide an automated and on-demand aerial surveillance solution. Housed in a weather-resistant station, drones can be deployed autonomously or remotely based on predefined schedules, triggers, or manual commands. These systems offer quick response times, extended flight durations, and the ability to cover large areas. They are suitable for continuous monitoring, perimeter surveillance, and rapid incident assessment. Automated battery swapping minimizes mission downtime.

Tethered UAVs are anchored to the ground by a cable, allowing extended flight durations without needing battery changes. This type of UAV can stay aloft for hours or even days, providing persistent surveillance capabilities. Tethered UAVs are particularly useful for continuously monitoring critical infrastructure, event security, and crowd management, as they offer stable observation and data collection platforms.
Providing surveillance of the protected object
Ensuring security

Benefits of using UAVs to enhance layered security

Enhanced Situational Awareness: UAVs equipped with cameras, thermal sensors, and other payloads provide a bird's-eye view of the surroundings, significantly extending the range and effectiveness of surveillance efforts. Real-time video feeds and aerial imagery improve situational awareness, enabling SOC teams to identify potential threats and respond promptly.

Rapid Response and Incident Management: UAVs can be rapidly deployed to assess security incidents, monitor access points, and provide critical information to SOC teams. Their agility allows for swift response times, enabling security personnel to make informed decisions and effectively deploy resources during emergencies.

Scalability and Flexibility: UAVs can cover vast areas, making them ideal for monitoring large manufacturing sites, logistical hubs, or expansive campuses. Their ability to access hard-to-reach or hazardous locations enhances overall security coverage. Moreover, UAVs can be easily repositioned based on changing security needs or areas of concern.

Deterrence and Threat Mitigation: UAVs are a visible deterrent to potential intruders or trespassers. Their aerial patrols convey a message that robust security measures are in place, discouraging unauthorized access attempts and reducing the likelihood of security breaches.

Improved Intelligence and Data Collection: UAVs with advanced sensors can gather valuable intelligence, such as high-resolution imagery, thermal data, and real-time video feeds. This data can be integrated with Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) systems, enabling comprehensive analysis, threat detection, and forensic investigations.

Integration of UTM and security solution processing data with SIEM

The main challenge of using UAVs in conjunction with SIEM (XDR or any other single-panel of glass-type solution) has been the lack of proper integration options. This situation has, thankfully, been improving over the past decade, as both types of tools have been receiving upgrades to respective API capabilities. It still requires a certain amount of creativity and technical savvy, but alerts and triggers can be fully integrated.

Organizations can leverage AI algorithms to analyze drone video feeds in real-time by integrating UTM systems with SIEM. AI algorithms can automatically detect and track drones, extract relevant Information from the video feeds, and compare it with predefined patterns or abnormal behaviors. This analysis can help identify unauthorized individuals, vehicles, and drone activities, such as suspicious movement, presence near restricted areas, or other potential reconnaissance attempts.

Upon detecting a potential security threat, the AI system can trigger alerts and notifications within the SIEM platform. These alerts can be prioritized based on severity, allowing security personnel to respond and initiate appropriate countermeasures swiftly. By integrating UTM data with SIEM, security teams gain a comprehensive view of the organization's territory, including airspace, and can correlate drone-related events with other security incidents or patterns.

Furthermore, integrating AI-driven analysis of drone video feeds with SIEM enables the establishment of rules-based or behavior-based alerts. By establishing rules, organizations can define specific activity parameters, such as movement restrictions, no-entry/no-fly zones, or presence durations. Any violation of these parameters can trigger immediate alerts, enabling proactive response and mitigation.

Moreover, AI algorithms can leverage machine learning capabilities to learn and adapt to evolving threats continuously. By analyzing patterns and anomalies in drone video feeds, the system can improve its detection accuracy over time, reducing false positives and enhancing the overall effectiveness of security operations.

Integrating UTM and SIEM data also allows for retrospective analysis and forensic investigations. By retaining historical drone video feeds and related security events within the SIEM platform, organizations can conduct post-incident analysis, identify trends, and extract valuable insights to improve future security strategies.

Countering adversarial drones

In the evolving landscape of drone technology, non-governmental or non-military organizations face the challenge of countering adversarial drones. Organizations can implement several measures to monitor and potentially counter such threats effectively.

The biggest challenge is that the most effective counter-drone measures, such as jamming, signal disruption, and EMP, are reserved for military/law enforcement. Organizations considering these should carefully examine local legislation and/or consult with Police/Aviation Authority.

However, there are many ways to gain visibility and understanding of adversarial drone behavior, as these UAVs would most likely be used for surveillance.

Drone Detection Systems: Deploying drone detection systems can help organizations identify and track unauthorized drones nearby. These systems utilize technologies such as radar, radio frequency (RF) sensors, and acoustic sensors to detect drones and provide early warning alerts to the security team.

Radio Frequency (RF) Monitoring: Adversarial drones often rely on wireless communication protocols to receive commands or transmit data. Implementing RF monitoring systems allows organizations to detect and analyze the RF signals emitted by drones, helping identify their presence and potentially locate the operators. There are also commercial solutions for scanning for hotspots in an organization's premises and shutting those down.

Video Analytics and Computer Vision: Advanced video analytics and computer vision technologies can enhance drone detection capabilities. These systems can analyze live video feeds from existing CCTV or dedicated drone cameras, automatically detecting and tracking drones based on their unique visual characteristics.

Drone Capture Technologies: Non-lethal drone capture technologies, such as net-based systems or other physical means, can physically intercept and disable unauthorized drones. These capture mechanisms provide a means to safely neutralize the drone without causing harm to bystanders or damaging property.

Security Education and Awareness: Promoting security education and awareness among employees and stakeholders is one of the cheapest and most effective strategies yet. Training individuals to recognize suspicious drone activity, report incidents promptly, and understand the organization's protocols for countering adversarial drones can enhance overall security posture.

Collaboration and Information Sharing: Participating in industry collaborations and sharing Information regarding drone threats, vulnerabilities, and mitigation strategies can benefit organizations. Sharing insights and experiences can contribute to developing best practices and help organizations stay updated on emerging threats and countermeasures. If a neighboring/similar organization has been scouted with drones, you could likely be the next one.

Partnership for success

In summary, we should return to one of the initially touched topics: the rapid expansion of API capabilities of both UTM and SIEM/XDR platforms. While your security team(s) may be capable of doing the integration by themselves, ensuring that the UAV UTM provider and your cybersecurity partners will support such integration is essential.

A successful strategy might include having your respective partners handle the initial rollout, with your CRO or CISO managing the project and communication. Following the first stage, your security team might take over the continuous improvement of the system with partners offering you an expanded support agreement.

This will ensure that you can benefit from improved security and incident response quality sooner rather than later. Contact us if you are interested in how this approach can be implemented in your organization!

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