Norway’s postcard-perfect coastline, rugged mountains and charming cities and towns seem far from the hustle and stress of 21st century life. Indeed, Norway is consistently ranked either first or second in the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Index, a measure of quality of life. But in spite of these idyllic conditions, or perhaps because of them, Norwegian researchers, government officials and industry leaders have developed impressive expertise in the management of security and risk.
Norway’s pioneer in risk assessment may be Det Norske Veritas, or DNV, founded in Norway in 1864 to inspect and evaluate the technical condition of Norwegian merchant vessels. Since then, the company has expanded into risk assessment and management for everything from oil platforms to satellites. But Norway’s efforts in security and risk management have grown to include businesses that help predict tsunamis or develop computer security software. Elsewhere, researchers and industries are taking the long view on security and risk issues under a NOK 12 million programme called SAMRISK, Societal Security and Risk, funded by the Research Council of Norway.
Society’s Response to Risk
Jon Bing, chair of SAMRISK’s programme board, says it’s important even for safe countries such as Norway to examine issues of societal risk. “We have surprisingly little knowledge about societal risk and vulnerabilities,” he says.
SAMRISK is currently funding eight projects, which together are intended to increase Norway’s basic understanding about the country’s threats, dangers and vulnerabilities, how unwanted events can be prevented, and how crisis management can be strengthened – all the while guaranteeing that basic human rights and privacy are respected. Bing says it is important to remember that threats to security include natural disasters and infrastructure problems, not just terrorist activities.
“Our results will be a better understanding of what to look for, advance warning of trouble ahead,” he says. “We’re looking at infrastructure, vulnerability, and coordination between the different authorities.”
One SAMRISK project is called SORISK, The Social Determination of Risk, in which researchers are looking at critical infrastructure and mass transportation protection in the Norwegian civil aviation sector. Project leader Prof. James Peter Burgess, from the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo, says the project is taking a less conventional approach to the issue of security and air transport.
“Traditionally, security has been about the walls being high enough, or the glass being thick enough, and on better detection of weapons,” he says. “The move has been away from people ... but security is about people, too. In the social determination of risk, we’re trying to reopen that dimension – where are the people? Where are the social issues, the cultural issues?”
In the context of civil aviation, that might mean bringing security standards at different sized airports into line with the social and cultural context of the airport, Burgess says. “Our point is that there are different security problems at a local level and at a metropolitan level,” he says. “We’re trying to bring the local situation back into the equation.”
From Ships to Tsunamis to Internet Security
Security experts are studying how cultural and societal settings can be used to
fine-tune security at Norway’s airports, such as Gardermoen, Norway’s main airport outside of Oslo.
© Knut Bry / Oslo Lufthavn AS
DNV may have gotten its start by assessing ships, but these days, the company is working on a variety of topics, whether it’s controlling risks from computer malfunctions to certifying an automobile company’s management systems. Late last year, in fact, DNV was asked by the Norwegian Government for advice on international quotas and carbon capture and storage techniques, as the country institutes its ambitious pledge to make Norway carbon-neutral by 2030.
“With our risk-based approach and technology base, DNV aims to help business and society to focus on the critical needs for change due to global warming,” says Henrik O. Madsen, DNV President and Chief Executive Officer.
The International Centre for Geohazards (ICG), hosted by the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute, has been designated by the Research Council of Norway as a Centre of Excellence. ICG researchers are among the leading scientists in geohazard prediction and mitigation, with their work visible around the globe. For example, they’ve created a landslide database for the country of Nicaragua, and helped with tsunami risk assessment in Southeast Asia, particularly in the aftermath of the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
Companies like Fugro Oceanor AS of Trondheim help reduce risk by providing integrated real-time environmental monitoring and information systems for oceans, rivers and lakes, groundwater and soil. While the company’s floating buoy-based monitoring systems are often used to collect scientific data, they also provide information to offshore oil and gas companies, and in harbour monitoring, sea and fresh water quality monitoring and weather forecasting. The company was recognized by the Research Council of Norway and Innovation Norway by being included in a Norwegian Centre of Expertise in Instrumentation. Other companies in the NCE are Kongsberg Maritime, Roxar, Q-Free, Kongsberg Seatex, Sicom, Norbit, Cavotec MicroControl, Noca and StatoilHydro.
Computer security is an important part of today’s economy, enabling e-commerce to take place.
© Pål Bugge/Innovation Norway
The ocean may be immense, but the information ocean is equally vast, with computer and Internet security a growing business worldwide. Norwegian companies have developed strong expertise in these areas, with companies such as Kantega, which specializes in Internet-based identity services to enable Internet businesses, Internet banks, and public and private web pages to safely identify the person who is logging in to use the various services. Kantega’s subsidiary Kantega Secure Identity has already built Norway’s largest security portal with 12 million potential online users. The company is now planning to expand into Europe.
At Secustream Technologies AS in Trondheim, researchers have been developing content protection systems for all kinds of interactive networks, such as IPTV and interactive cable. Secustream Security System ensures any digital movie, video, TV channel or game can be securely shared over any IP-based device, because it protects streaming digital content “second by second,” not just at the beginning or end of a movie or TV show. Hollywood studios spend billions of dollars every year on security, “but it is still easy to break into systems,” says Gisle Østereng, company founder and CEO. “So we have created a very robust mechanism to ensure that information can be securely shared.”