Estimates show 75.4 billion connected devices will be in use around the world by 2025. Because so many of these devices interface with physical systems, this raises significant concerns for both physical security and cybersecurity. However, the majority of businesses still handle the two separately.
Merging the digital realm with physical security is essential as more consumers, businesses and organizations continue to move toward reliance on the cloud and internet of things technology. Integrating cyber and physical security for better access management requires actionable plans for security policy implementation and enforcement to address current challenges.
Recognizing the Demise of the Perimeter
Businesses must think beyond the confines of offices and internal networks when considering security. The traditional “perimeter” has expanded to include devices connecting from numerous locations at all times of day. The result is a network with a higher degree of vulnerability from a number of distinct endpoints.
Expansion isn’t limited to large enterprises. Businesses of all sizes are adopting remote work policies and partnering with third-party vendors. Cloud migration is enabling more collaboration between employees in and out of the office. Mobile and IoT devices increase network complexity and may represent the most significant vulnerabilities in modern network environments.
With such a large and varied attack surface, converged security solutions are essential. Devices do much more than manipulate data; they regulate building systems, manage access control and serve as main avenues of communication. Hackers gaining access through any single endpoint can compromise data security and physical safety throughout an organization. This signals the need for smarter security solutions to address physical and digital vulnerabilities.
Considering Organizational Limitations
Unfortunately, full security convergence isn’t a reality in most businesses. It’s either a work in progress or not on the radar at all. According to the ASIS International 2019 State of Security Convergence study, 24% of companies in the U.S., Europe and India have fully converged physical security and cybersecurity. If business continuity is also considered, only 16% of companies in the U.S. have achieved full convergence; 70% have no plans to attempt it.
To identify barriers to physical and cyber security convergence, businesses must examine current physical security systems and cybersecurity policies. Siloed processes and a lack of communication between departments must be addressed when creating unified security protocols.
Mindset among security professionals also has a significant influence. If those heading up different areas of security don’t understand the intimate relationship between digital and physical systems, they’re not likely to recognize the need for convergence. A successful protocol requires a shared commitment to protecting the company’s most valuable assets by maintaining clear communication and working together to enhance all aspects of security.
Understanding the Physical and Cyber Security Risks
Cultivating such a mindset begins with an understanding of how cyber and physical systems are already connected. Converged security solutions are essential to address the vulnerabilities emerging as the result of the way networks, devices and systems have begun to overlap.
The digital realm is no longer isolated from the physical. Building systems, medical devices, manufacturing equipment and much more now rely on connected technology for operation. These physical elements, including apparent incidentals like HVAC units, pose the greatest level of breach risk.
Why? Because businesses share the security vulnerabilities of any party connecting to their networks. Devices often allow or require third-party access for maintenance and monitoring. Many businesses also erroneously believe such devices are already secure and don’t require additional protections. Because entry into one system can give hackers control of other devices on the network, businesses should perform regular audits to identify all connected devices and eliminate potential entry points.
Supporting Cooperation Between Departments
Physical security involves protecting essential equipment, as well as infrastructure of businesses and buildings and their employees or occupants. Cybersecurity addresses access control and data protection. Bringing the two together shouldn’t seem foreign, so it’s up to company leadership to communicate the importance of adopting an all-encompassing security strategy.
When IT departments and those in charge of physical security come together to discuss the needs and challenges in both realms, it reveals areas where policies and protocols can be streamlined for more effective security and overall cost savings. Merging protocols though an automated, scalable security system designed to support convergence makes it possible to create specific parameters for physical and digital access, which not only minimizes vulnerabilities but also provides a critical audit trail in the event malicious activity is discovered.
Developing converged security solutions requires thinking outside the box and embracing a “holistic” view of security. IT professionals, cybersecurity experts and business executives need to get serious about breaking down silos and developing all-in-one security solutions with the goal of addressing every known point of vulnerability. With improved communication, integrated platforms and detailed policies, businesses can create secure systems equipped to meet today’s biggest security challenges.