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HomeCase StudiesDarwin Airport Hits Cyber Space

Darwin Airport Hits Cyber Space

DARWIN International Airport (DIA) is NT’s main airport and the 10th busiest airport in Australia, serving more than 1.75 million passengers every year. Importantly from a security point of view, the airport shares runways with the Royal Australian Air Force’s RAAF Base Darwin.
The airport has an international terminal, a domestic terminal and a cargo terminal and the site supports a large number of retail outlets and cafeterias. Same as every airport, this site is defined by distance and overcoming the challenges of distance was a key aspect of this access control installation.
According to Nikkie Harley, systems co-ordinator DIA, the central objective of the Cyberkey installation is to improve management of mechanical keyways and keys.
“We found our conventional mechanical masterkey system had a lot security risks associated with lost keys and the lack of being able to see who was accessing which doors/gates when,” says Harley.
“We were looking for a robust system that was user friendly, met all of our unique aviation security requirements and could withstand the harsh climate of the Northern Territory. Being able to control individual access privileges and pull audit trails has allowed us to strengthen the security of our airport.
“The fact that we can now easily and quickly block lost keys means we can eliminate potential security breaches of unauthorised access to secure areas, something that was just not possible with a mechanical masterkey system.”
To meet the needs of Darwin Airport, Independent Locksmiths and Security installed a new Cyberlock access control security system and a Morse KeyWatcher key cabinet. 182 Cyberkeys have been allocated to staff and stakeholders such as airline and baggage staff. The system is supported in part by the existing data network and partly by remote solar-powered 3G links.
Independent Locksmiths & Security was tasked to prove this concept would work. After bench testing the concept Independent sent a key authoriser and key to DIA that communicated with the company’s server in Sydney in real time. Once this part of the puzzle was confirmed, DIA accepted the concept and had the solar units built and erected, ready for fit off when the installation team arrived.
According to Independent’s Ryan McGovern, the nucleus of the Cyberlock system is the Enterprise server where traditional access control rights are determined such as Door Lists, People lists, Time Schedules, Access Matrix and Location Graphics.
“The database is installed on a HP server using a Linux operating system,” McGovern explains. “The information from the database is transmitted to the key update authorisers using TCP/IP protocols. In the terminals this, transmission is over Ethernet cabling but on the perimeter of the airport in remote locations where cabling could not be achieved the 3G network has been used for the communication between the server and the key updating authorisers.”
Inside the terminal Independent replaced normal oval, round rim and lockset cylinders. The Cyberlock cylinders, like the keys, have a circuit board inside them that stores lock information and audit trail information of keys used to open it. The Cyberlock cylinder is not powered and gets power from the key when it touches the cylinder.
“Outside the terminals there was a requirement to have access control on padlocks,” says McGovern. “Only wireless access control systems can satisfy this requirement. The Cyberlock system excels in this area. The padlocks were on gates at the perimeter of the airport runways. Part of the requirement was to have access control at these points. Some of the people who used these gates never visited the terminal so they had to have a way to update their keys.
“There were no network points or power at these gates. So a solution had to be engineered to provide power and network at these places. The DIA staff including the security manager Matt Cocker and the IT manager Tim Woods initiated the concept of running solar-powered units using the 3G network to communicate with the server.”
Other stakeholders in the airport such as the NT Fire Brigade needed a way to update their keys but they were not on the DIA network. To cater for this a web station communicator was connected to the existing internet connection.

Installation process

The Darwin Airport installation comprises 194 Cyber lock cylinders installed including Oval Cylinders, Round Rim Cylinders and Padlocks. 182 Keys were allocated as part of the initial roll out. A pair of key authorisers was installed in the terminals and connected to the LAN. Provision has been made for another 6 authorisers to be installed after the completion of renovations.
These have been allocated in the database and will be plug-and-play when the airport is ready to expand the system. Meanwhile, 3 solar-powered key authorisers installed at the airport perimeters and a Cyber web station was installed to allow system management.
A separate local area network was established to cater for the Cyberkey
security system. The server was installed in a rack in the communications room and connected to a network switch. The key authorisers fitted in the terminal were cabled back to the network switch.
An internet connection was included so the solar-powered 3G authorisers could communicate with the server. The server has a built in web server so any browser or connected device such as iPad or smart phone can connect to the server to make alterations to the system or generate reports.
While the installation itself took only a few days there was plenty of planning in the leadup. Independent Locksmiths & Security started talking to DIA 12 months ago. The first direct contact with DIA was to fly Ron McMah, business development manager of Independent Locksmiths & Security, to Darwin to conduct a site survey.
“Once we knew quantities of product required then a price could be submitted for the project,” says McGovern. “We then ran proof of concept tests for the 3G communications and the project was accepted. Electronic Keying Australia, distributor of the Cyberkey product then supplied the product. After this we scheduled a suitable time for all parties concerned to implement the solution.”
To conduct the physical installation, Independent Locksmiths and Security sent a team of 2 including project manager Wayne Eagles (special keying manager) and Adam Farugia (electronic security technician) along with Steve Moller (IT support leader – EKA). Also helping with the installation was Darwin-based Mobile Locksmiths’ Oshen Gleeson.
It’s obvious the installation was a team effort. McCah surveyed the site then he and McGovern priced the system. McGovern also worked on the technological side, ensuring the system would perform what was required. Wayne Eagles then project managed the installation with support from his team.
“DIA staff were also heavily involved, including security manager Matt Cocker and IT manager Tim Woods, who initiated the concept of running solar powered units using the 3G network to communicate with the server,” says McGovern.
After the initial discussions and site visit, Independent Locksmiths & Security was tasked to prove its concept would work. After bench testing the concept the team sent a key authoriser and key to DIA that communicated with our server in Sydney in real time. Once this part of the puzzle was confirmed DIA had the solar units built and erected, ready for fit off.
With DIA being so far away from Sydney, Wayne Eagles built the system in the Independent Locksmiths & Security office before it was shipped. The server was built and the management system installed and all of the cylinders, keys and authorisers were enrolled into the system based on door locations, peoples’ names and IP addresses provided by DIA. The result of the pre-commissioning effort was that time on site was minimised.
One of the benefits of pre-commissioning was that McGovern never doubted the system could be finished in time and would function as it should.
“Because we ensured the system was working on the bench in our office before it was shipped we had no doubts it could be done in the time allocated,” he explains. “The only issues that could have stopped us from completing the installation on time would have been on site issues.”
The team did face some challenges on the ground but these are typical for technical teams working in airports. In this case installers could only fit locks in secure areas when there were no flights arriving or departing. Aside from timing issues, he says the biggest challenge was to get the solar key authorisers to talk over the 3G mobile network.
“While the whole job took about 150 man hours, once on site the roll out only took 3 days,” says McGovern. “Cyberlock is deployed very quickly as it replaced existing cylinders with new cylinders. Making the job faster was the fact that the solar/3G stations were already in place and the authorisers had been cabled.”
Independent Locksmiths & Security will be responsible for the maintenance of the system into the future. The company’s contractors in Darwin Mobile Locksmiths will carry out routine maintenance to ensure the system works correctly. Meanwhile, Darwin Airport’s IT and security staff will look after software systems.

Managing the system

The management system installed at Darwin Airport is CyberAudit-Web. All the keys, locks and Authorisers are entered into this database system. To enter the key and lock information into the system you use the Grand Master Key (programming key).
“You touch the lock with the key that extracts the unique identifying number from each of the locks,” says McGovern. “You then touch the key onto the authoriser which places the information into the database. Once the information is in the database you can name the locks with the door location, put them into door lists and place a symbol on a location graphic.
“In a similar way, each key is touched on the authoriser which brings the unique information into the database. These keys can then be named with a persons name or role. People can then be put into groups known as ‘Tags’.”
These Tags make programming the system easy, you can allocate a People Tag (group of people such as ‘Managers’) to a Lock Tag (group of locks such as ‘All Locks’). Cylinders can be part of multiple lock tags. People (Keys) can be parts of multiple people tags. In the management system you can choose a Person (Key) or a Lock and instantly retrieve an audit trail from them.
“And if a key is lost, then the Grand master key is used to record that key as lost on a black list and the cylinders that the key was authorised for need to be touched to block the lost key from gaining future access,” McGovern explains.
“A really neat part of the management system is the ability to use location graphics to show where the locks are located in the facility. From this graphic you can extract the Lock audit trail information.”
In terms of day to day running of the system, DIA’s own security staff handle management.
“Security Coordinator Renee Overend is owner of the system, she pulls reports, monitors, adds new keys etc, with risk assessments conducted by our security manager Matt Cocker,” says Harley.
According to Harley, the system gives important capabilities to Darwin Airport.
“Being able to control individual access privileges and pull audit trails has allowed us to strengthen the security of our airport,” She says. “The fact that we can now easily and quickly block lost keys means we can eliminate potential security breaches of unauthorised access to secure areas, something that was just not possible with a mechanical masterkey system.”
Speaking to McGovern about the site after the installation he makes an interesting observation, pointing out that Darwin International Airport is an example of machine to machine communication that it showing an intense global uptick.
“To me this project shows that the security market will be part of this growth,” McGovern says. “We are all accustomed to M2M in the electronic security industry as we’ve been supplying alarm monitoring and access control solutions for decades.
“But this is something different, something bigger. With the price of industrial 3G modems becoming affordable this DIA project demonstrates how these low-cost modems can be implemented to enable IP communication with edge devices across the internet.
“The 3G communication path coupled with solar power shows that we can supply and install security systems anywhere at all. We are no longer restricted to expensive and limited cable runs. This really is a game changer.”
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