How to Keep Public Safety and Election Operations Running When Emergencies Arise
Public sector agencies provide critical services and perform essential functions that citizens depend on every day as well as during emergencies. Continuity plans ensure that the essential functions of agencies stay operational if a natural or manmade emergency should occur.
While it’s difficult to know how the aftermath of an emergency will leave an agency, town, or the whole nation, agencies should have the insurance of knowing they are resilient. According to a report from FEMA, 40 percent of organizations don’t open right after a natural disaster and 25 percent fail within one year. The United States Small Business Administration also found that over 90 percent of smaller organizations fail within two years of being struck by a disaster.
Cities and states feel immense impacts from the ripples of disasters. If organizations and agencies don’t have anything in place to ensure either immediate operations or a bounce back plan, the effects can be unrepairable.
Communities directly contribute to the nation’s ability to be resilient during attacks and disasters by arming themselves with continuity plans so that we are stronger as a nation. Cradlepoint provides solutions that help agencies keep operations running, especially at times when an event can’t be halted, such as election time.
During elections, states and local agencies may have voting centers set up in a variety of locations. In an emergency, if a voting center needs to move or new ones need to be set up fast, Cradlepoint’s solutions can quickly spin up a secure LTE network connection for each vote center, no matter where it’s located. A lean IT staff can also rely on Cradlepoint’s network management software to securely monitor each of the networks from one location.
With the 2020 elections upon us, part of continuity planning will be keeping election systems secure. Cradlepoint delivers a comprehensive connectivity solution with layered security defenses in line with Department of Homeland Security best practices that enable agencies to update voting equipment for a modernized voting system. Cradlepoint’s application-based firewall allows for simple configuration of access controls based on identities and applications with features like intrusion detection/prevention, powered by Trend Micro, and web content filtering and malware prevention. Cradlepoint does not store customer voting data in our management platform. Only Cradlepoint device configuration data, which itself is highly secured at rest and in transit, is visible to authorized administrators.
Other security measures include:
- Secure by default configuration for devices, including unique default passwords for every device
- An implicit deny for all inbound connections
- Brute-force protections, such as IP address timeouts after several failed login attempts and mandatory session timeouts
- Salted, hashed, and encrypted device passwords using strong ciphers, preventing disclosure if devices are physically compromised
- Signed and verified firmware upgrades using PKI to prevent firmware tampering
- Zero Trust Network solution that only allows users and devices invited to the network to have encrypted communications with each other
One example of the need for continuity planning is the chain effect of how first responders rely on each other during emergencies. If one arm of communication fails, then response times slow down. For instance, if a 911 dispatch center must evacuate its main center, it can use Cradlepoint routers to quickly pop up networks at a temporary location and remain active to ensure calls are answered and emergencies are relayed to responders.
With pop-up networks, 911 dispatch can even access functions such as VPN for access to files from headquarters, the CAD system, 911 enabled laptops, Wi-Fi, and VoIP phones.
Police, Fire and EMS
Responders use Cradlepoint for resilient Wi-Fi for guest and staff access. With in-vehicle networking, fire departments can extend Wi-Fi connectivity to surrounding responders, or provide other agencies at the site access to the network. The Wi-Fi can be used for weeks on end during the response and recovery stages of an emergency so everyone stays connected and processes continue running.
During natural disasters like typhoons and hurricanes, emergency responders are sent to places where the aftermath can still be seen and there is no cellular connectivity. Cradlepoint solutions can be installed inside transportable rapid deployment kits, for a dependable network solution delivering fast network setup and an available connection during disaster response and recovery.
Plan It and Test It
Planning resiliency before an emergency occurs is the hallmark of continuity planning. The goal is a more resilient nation through whole community integration.
FEMA’s Continuity Assessment Tool (CAT) is one way that organizations can determine if there are gaps in their continuity plan and program, allowing the opportunity to better prioritize and resource continuity needs.
The POETE model (Planning, Organization, Equipment, Training, and Exercise) is another resource that is developed through FEMA. The POETE model describes the importance of not just developing a plan but testing it out. If you don’t train and exercise the plan, then it’s just words on paper. The plan should be demonstrated through a proof of concept derived from exercises and practices until there are minimal hindrances.
Learn more about planning a secure future for your agency in our upcoming webinar: "Election System Security Begins at the Network."