The number of devices within an emergency services vehicle – a police car, fire truck or ambulance – that require constant, reliable and secure communication grows every day. Making this technology easy to use can be incredibly complex, so how is a first responder agency supposed to implement these resources in a secure and user-friendly way?
These and other questions are covered in Cradlepoint’s recent webinar, which aims to help public safety agencies create secure Wi-Fi/cellular bubbles in their vehicles without users having to change networks, log in and out, or complete any other unnecessary steps. Moderated by Cradlepoint’s director of solution marketing, Robin Manke-Cassidy, the webinar’s experts are:
● Daniel Dubief, Cradlepoint corporate solutions engineer
● Graham Lee, global corporate solutions engineer of security at Cradlepoint EMEA
● Ian Tearle, technical alliances engineer at Cradlepoint EMEA
Together, they discuss security considerations and ways to achieve an agency’s wireless goals no matter how large or small the department may be.
WHY YOU WANT WI-FI/CELLUAR ACCESS IN EMERGENCY VEHICLES
Wi-Fi and 5G cellular technology make it possible to move massive amounts of data to and from public safety vehicles. This means that police cars, fire trucks and ambulances can be as well-connected as any office or dispatch center.
“Organizations are deploying new technologies all the time and looking to improve the outcomes for the officers, patients, firefighters and EMTs,” said Manke-Cassidy. “5G is really changing how that information is available – how quickly you can have it – making it a possibility to share live real-time video and information back to hospitals, station houses, other headquarters and actually being able to share among yourselves as well.”
SECURITY IS A MUST
In a world where hacking is rife, it is vital for Wi-Fi/5G network access within emergency services vehicles to be safe and secure. This is why the panelists advise that agencies use wireless equipment certified to the latest security standard, which is referred to as WPA3.
However, establishing a secure network goes beyond the hardware that’s used. Your agency should be prepared to dive deep into other aspects of the network, like public key infrastructure (PKI) access, which sometimes isn’t feasible for some departments.
“There are challenges in deploying a WPA3 enterprise infrastructure and frankly, not all businesses currently have the facility to be able to do that, because it requires you to have PKI infrastructure radio servers,” said Lee. “You need to be able to manage the identity of those devices and be able to deploy certificates and revoke certificates if you need to.”
KEEP IT SIMPLE WHEN YOU CAN
An additional aspect of secure Wi-Fi/5G access across emergency fleets is your service set identifier (SSID). Sometimes referred to as a network name, the SSID is a sequence of characters that identifies your agency’s Wi-Fi network.
When it comes to creating first responder networks that are accessible by emergency services vehicles, which option is best – setting up a single SSID that everyone uses, or multiple SSIDs that are interconnected but targeted to specific groups of users?
The answer, according to Tearle, is that it depends. “What are you trying to do? What are you trying to achieve? If this is a police vehicle and most of the devices can support the authentication type you think is needed, those devices may well support WPA3 and I can use one SSID.”
Tearle says there are instances where multiple SSIDs are called for due to the volume of network users, but the rule of thumb is to use as few as possible. “I have seen 16 SSIDs in the air in a hospital and they’re complaining that the Wi-Fi doesn’t work properly,” he said. When there are numerous networks in the air, it actually slows users’ ability to utilize the Wi-Fi, he explains.
THE POWER OF NCX SECURE CONNECT
Agencies shouldn’t feel as if the security of their wireless networks falls completely on their shoulders, as there are tools they can incorporate that will dramatically enhance their level of security. Cradlepoint NCX Secure Connect, for example, can play a role in creating and consistently supporting secure Wi-Fi/cellular bubbles.
“Secure Connect is the cornerstone of connectivity,” Lee said. Secure Connect creates encrypted tunnels for an agency’s data and works similarly to an internet security protocol connection. For example, if a hacker attempts to break into a public safety network, they will start port scanning devices as part of their attack. Secure Connect completely obfuscates your addresses and which port numbers are being used for communication, he says.
The webinar’s experts concluded with some words of wisdom for public safety agencies.
“First of all, get control of your assets and have a good asset roster,” said Lee. “You need to work out what devices you have because then you can better plan the wireless network that you’re going to put in to support them.”
“Always try to use the latest security you can,” added Tearle. “If your device supports WPA3, use WPA3. Try and keep the number of your SSIDs down as well.”
“My suggestion is don’t leave everything at max settings,” said Dubief. “You don’t need to have 160 megahertz wide channels. You might actually perform a lot better on just 20 or 40 megahertz channels.”
Finally, fully plan out your Wi-Fi/5G deployment in advance of actually implementing it in order to maximize its chances for success. “Make a plan for your Wi-Fi deployment,” Dubief concluded. “Make your list of what has to happen and then what you want to happen, in that order, so that you’re not disappointed in the long run.”
Click here to watch the webinar on-demand.
Visit Cradlepoint for more information.