Intruders reach controls at Quebec hydro stations
Quebec’s power grid showed its vulnerability after journalists from CBC’s Radio-Canada penetrated deep into one of Hydro-Qubec’s hydroelectricity generating stations early this year.
In a program broadcast on CBC Radio on February 15, journalist Christian Latreille and his crew drove a kilometre into a tunnel in the immense Robert Bourassa plant in remote James Bay. Carrying cameras to verify the event, the intruders entered the station’s platform with its 16 turbines and were even able to approach the control panels.
The station generates over 5,500 MW which it supplies to Quebec and the northeastern U.S. “We could have cut power to 1.2 million Quebecers,” Latreille was reported to say.
The journalists also managed to get into the Manic -05 plant on the Manicouagan River north of the St. Lawrence River without encountering any security officers.
The provincial government has expressed surprise that the security measures at the utility were so lax. Immediately after the broadcast — which Hydro Qubec tried to prevent by a failed court injunction — the utility quickly moved to tighten security. Within days it arranged to post security guards on duty 24/7 at all generating stations of more than 100 MW and at all 735-kV transmission substations. The utility also suspended all public visits and tours.
In a press release, Andr Caill, president and CEO of Hydro-Qubec, said, “We admit there were serious shortcomings, especially in terms of access control. Such a situation is unacceptable.”
A vehicle to speak by
Researchers at Simon Fraser University’s Telematics Research Laboratory have built an advanced mobile emergency communications vehicle.
The prototype vehicle is capable of rapidly deploying in remote regions of B.C. and Alberta in the wake of forest fires, floods and other disasters.
The need for such a unit with satellite communications became evident during the forest fires in B.C. during the summer of 2003. Telephone lines and radio repeaters were destroyed by fires, with the result that some communities became totally isolated. With a loss of electrical power, the problems were compounded.
The prototype SFU vehicle is equipped with a 20-kW diesel generator and carries a raft of high-tech equipment that includes terrestial and satellite systems. It has a remote camera, a 30 foot telescopic mast, audio amplifiers and speakers, GPS and GIS software, scanners, fax machines, etc. Peter Anderson, director of the research laboratory, led the project.
Quebec moves to regulate security industry
Quebec’s National Assembly has been presented with a Bill to regulate private security practices. Draft Bill 88, Law on Private Security, was presented for first reading in December. It would cover, among other things, electronic security systems and security consultant services, guard services, monitoring, goods and sites protection. The legislation would also set up a Private Security Bureau, which would issue permits and process complaints.
The Quebec Chapter of CANASA, the Canadian Security Association, has issued a statement saying it is pleased with the draft law. However, together with the Quebec Construction Commission, CANASA would like to negotiate and adapt some of the regulations to the reality of the industry. Among the provisions they would like to see added are for emergency call systems to be controlled by public-private partnerships.
Protecting water works
The American Water Works Association, Water Environment Association and American Society of Civil Engineers are writing interim voluntary guidance documents to help make water and wastewater facilities less vulnerable to terrorism attacks.
The documents, entitled the “Interim Voluntary Security Guidance for Water Utilities,” and the “Interim Voluntary Security Guidance for Wastewater/Stormwater Utilities,” are due to be published in late 2006. www.wef.org
ULC standard for access systems
Underwriters Laboratories Canada will publish its first standard for Electronic Access Control Systems this summer.
Formulated by a working group under the direction of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the ULC S319 standard includes minimum requirements for the construction, performance and operation of access control systems, as well as of related equipment including biometrics.
A continental approach
During a meeting in Texas this spring, U.S. President George Bush, Mexico President Vicente Fox and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin agreed to work together to tighten border security around the whole of North America. They discussed enhanced maritime, port and aviation security as well as a common approach to protecting critical infrastructure.
The Canadian Security Association, CANASA, has introduced a Certified Security Project Manager program. The program involves courses and examinations in areas such as project management, financing, contracting and codes.
Careful who hears
A Los Angeles security consulting firm proved how easy it is to hack into “always-on” mobile personal computer devices. Simply by standing within range of people using PCDs, hackers have gained access to address books and e-mails. The LA consultants attended the Oscar Awards in Hollywood in February. They stood around by the barricades watching the stars arrive and managed to “sniff” out data from about 100 phones carried by actors, producers and publicists.