By Patrice Caine, CEO Thales
The world we live in is increasingly interdependent and interconnected. Our lives are evermore affected by population growth, rampant urbanisation, climate change, globalisation — and of course by global security threats. Flows of people, goods and data are in constant growth, and keeping them safe and secure is more vital and more complex than ever before.
How can we make our fellow citizens more aware of the dangers and keep them out of harm's way? What can we do to make our public safety and security agencies more efficient? Can we spot problems earlier, while still ensuring data integrity and personal privacy? Everybody is facing the same questions. Governments, operators, local communities and businesses realise they need new ways to mitigate risk and withstand new threats. They know they need new strategies to combat dangers that are more hybrid, and more consequential, than ever before.
It is mandatory to work alongside governments to help them meet their national security requirements. We industrial partners must work with cities, transport operators, energy providers and telecom companies to help them make their systems more resilient.
Nowadays, of course, as defence and security needs converge and cyberspace becomes the latest battleground, national defence systems alone cannot contain the new threats. As a result, our focus has expanded, and today we must develop innovative solutions that address the converging needs of defence, security and public safety agencies alike.
From my point of view, there are four domains, four spaces, where flows of people, goods and data need to be protected as a matter of priority: s tates, cities, critical infrastructure and cyberspace.
In each of these spaces, a company such as Thales can bring to the table a rare combination of skills and world-class digital technologies that I believe is helping to make the world a little safer every day.
Fighting terrorists is now a particularly complex security challenge for States, partly because of the rise in what some experts are calling "low-cost terrorism", where terror groups adopt new tactics and make extensive use of the Internet. Recent events in Paris, Beirut, Jakarta and Ouagadougou have shown even more a compelling need to detect and analyse "weak signals", particularly on social media, that could indicate terrorist activity.
Other types of criminal activity can also represent a threat to a country's domestic security. Human trafficking, drug trafficking, illicit arms sales, illegal immigration — not to mention fraud and identity theft — are highly sensitive subjects requiring an in-depth knowledge of the political, economic and cultural contexts of each country.
We must work closely with government agencies to understand their needs and propose the best solutions, such as advanced intelligence technologies, integrated border surveillance and control systems, complete identity management solutions, and secure broadband communications for police forces and emergency services.
More than 5 billion people will live in cities by 2025. The key challenge city authorities face is to reconcile this rapid growth with the need for security; and the only way they will succeed is by becoming "smarter" — improving coordination, sharing information more effectively, exchanging more data and using it more intelligently. This will be especially important in the event of a security incident or crisis.
Working with the authorities in Mexico City, the world's third-largest metropolis, we have helped to deliver the most ambitious urban security programme of its kind in the world. By sharing information between different agencies and making intelligent use of data from different sensors (CCTV cameras, gunshot detection systems, seismic sensors, UAVs, license plate recognition systems, etc.) the solution has brought down crime rates by up to 40% and reduced emergency response times by a factor of four. Businesses that had fled the city are gradually moving back and there is a new sense of urban renewal.
Critical infrastructure under surveillance
Critical infrastructure includes everything that is strictly essential for a nation to function properly — government buildings, ports, airports, rail and metro stations, energy installations, communication networks, hospitals, and so on. All of these facilities must be able to withstand a deliberate attack, an industrial accident or a natural disaster, and to limit the consequences as far as possible.
Not long ago, somebody flew drones over several nuclear power stations in France, understandably causing public outcry and above all showing once again how complex it is to protect our critical infrastructure. Dealing with this level of complexity is where Thales excels. Even in the most sensitive sectors, we have the experience to provide comprehensive physical protection and cyberprotection for critical installations, and to implement efficient crisis management processes in case they are ever needed.
For many years, in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Iraq, Thales solutions have been in place to protect major oil and gas installations. In a region where security issues are very much in the spotlight, we also play a major role in airport security, providing security systems at Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (the world's busiest airport in 2014 in terms of international passenger traffic), Doha in Qatar, and Muscat and Salalah in Oman. We will also be providing the integrated security solution for the new commercial portproject in Doha. In France, we are responsible for physical and IT security at Hexagone-Balard, the French defence ministry's new headquarters in Paris, which was officially opened by President Hollande on 5 November.
Global threats in cyberspace
Just like electricity and the automobile, cyberspace has become part of our everyday lives. The trend is irreversible. But cyberspace is also a new "playground" for criminals, militants and terrorists of every stripe. With an estimated 180,000 cyber-attacks every day around the world, everybody is vulnerable in one way or another.
At Thales, cybersecurity is part of our culture.
Our customers in the defence, aerospace and security sectors, and in ground transportation, financial services and telecoms, demand the very highest levels of protection. And historically, our role has always been to develop mission-critical systems, with all the data protection and encryption technologies that entails.
Today, Thales offers a complete set of skills and capabilities that is unparalleled in Europe. We have 1,500 in-house cybersecurity experts. We have an international footprint, with 24/7 Security Operations Centres in several countries, and we play a key role in cyberthreat advisory organisation of many countries. All of this puts us in an excellent position to help customers in the most sensitive sectors to develop active defences that protect their information systems in a constantly evolving threat environment.
The world is safer when people interact sustainably with the best technologies available. This is what we do. This is why I come to work every morning. It's why I think we must invest more and more our time and energy in finding innovative solutions and developing new technologies for the people who spend their working lives protecting us every day.