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Early Benefits of FirstNet: Network Security

This blog is the fifth in a series highlighting the 5 Early Benefits of FirstNet for public safety. FirstNet is the nationwide public safety communications platform dedicated to America’s first responders. Created through a public-private partnership between the First Responder Network Authority and AT&T, FirstNet is a much-needed technology upgrade to connect public safety to the vital information they need—every day, in every emergency.

From day-to-day operations to emergencies and large events, lives depend on public safety's ability to communicate. FirstNet not only provides reliable "always on" connections, but also allows first responders to confidently send and receive data, voice and text transmissions with the security their life-saving mission demands.

With the delivery of the FirstNet core in March of this year, subscribers have had the opportunity to transform their emergency communications with secure wireless connectivity that allows agencies to integrate mobile devices and data into their operations.

Public Safety Core

Built to the specifications provided by the First Responder Network Authority, which were developed through years of consultation with first responders in every state/territory and at all levels of government, the FirstNet core is the network foundation for the delivery of advanced public safety features unique to FirstNet, including:

  • End-to-end encryption. The FirstNet core comes with FIPS 140-2 compliant VPN solutions, radio, transport and network core encryption, and advanced physical and logical security protocols to keep all traffic on the network protected.
  • Round the clock security monitoring. The FirstNet network is monitored at all times by a Security Operations Center that employs state of the art tools and a dedicated team of FirstNet security experts. Their sole focus is to monitor the security of the network and to protect critical data, applications and services running over the network.
  • User authentication. FirstNet identity credential and access management (ICAM) solutions focus on simplicity and ease of use while ensuring positive identification of both devices and users.
  • Mission critical functions. The FirstNet core will deliver a range of next-generation public safety capabilities that are currently being developed based upon open standards specific for public safety. Going forward, these will include services such as Mission-Critical Push-to-Talk, enhanced location-based services and more.

During the 2018 Volvo Ocean Race in Newport, RI which drew more than 100,000 people over 13 days, first responders saw firsthand the benefits of secure FirstNet connections. The Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT), led by Executive Officer Brook Lawrence, established a 2-bay mobile critical care unit and 2 8-bed mobile field hospitals where patients could be treated for anything from small lacerations to trauma situations. With the advent of digital medical records and mobile patient data their operations rely heavily on reliable, secure broadband connections to transmit critical information giving  hospital staff better situational awareness before the patient arrives.

"We use that data from the field aid stations to the field hospital. It gives the folks at the field hospital a little bit of an advantage because you get more information up front when you are expecting a patient to come in. So, we might have more sensitive information that can now be transmitted where previously we couldn't do that over traditional communication means," said Lawrence. "Much better for the patient in the end."

Network Security Improvements

As the nationwide public safety broadband network matures and moves toward more advanced capabilities, the FirstNet security approach is being continuously updated and refined to ensure the ongoing security of the network. All of these efforts are targeted to meet the security expectations first set forth in the legislation that created FirstNet, and with ongoing feedback from our public safety community, we’ll continue to leverage new technologies.

FirstNet is public safety's network and the First Responder Network Authority is dedicated to delivering the network and capabilities our first responders deserve when and where they need it most- now, and in the future.

For more on the 5 Early Benefits of FirstNet blog series:

  1. How FirstNet-enabled location services are enhancing situational awareness and public safety outcomes
  2. Benefits of Priority and Preemption
  3. Collaboration and push-to-talk apps
  4. Support is Available to Public Safety 24/7/365

More from FirstNet in the video below:

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