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Cybersecurity | The importance of Physical Security

Physical security has an important role to play in protecting critical information and data. With work and collaboration paradigm shifts, new cases of security threat arise.

The physical security structure consists of three main components: access control, permanent active surveillance and testing. The success of an organisation’s physical security program can often be attributed to how each of these components are implemented, improved, and maintained.

1. Physical Security definition

Physical security aims to protect people, property, and physical assets from any action or event that could lead to loss or damage. Physical security is crucial, and security teams must work together to ensure the security of digital assets.

2. Why is Physical Security important?

Physical security keeps your employees, facilities, and assets safe from real-world threats. These threats can arise from internal or external intruders that question data security.

Physical attacks can cause a safe area to break into or the invasion of a restricted area part. An attacker can easily damage or steal critical IT assets, install malware on systems, or leave a remote access port on the network.

It is important to have strict physical security to protect against external threats, as well as equally effective measures to avoid the risks of any internal intruder.

The key is to understand that physical security refers to the entire space, and it should not be restricted only to the front door, but to the entire building. Any area that is left unprotected – such as the smoking area (with doors for example facing the outside of the building, without the main entrance controls) or the entrance to the car park, can pose a risk.

Security experts refer to this form of protection as a deep or layered protection, since there are several control points in the physical infrastructures.

Physical damage is as harmful as digital loss, and therefore strict physical security measures must be taken.

3. Physical Security principles and measures

Key components of physical security include:

• Access control and monitoring of physical access should cover the entire area, using sophisticated physical security tools such as biometric and ID card restrictions. However, it is important to understand the pros and cons of each measure and how these access controls can be forged.

• Surveillance, containing burglar alarms, guards, and CCTV that keeps a complete record of the entire movement. High-risk areas may have sophisticated detectors to ensure a more holistic view.

The general principles of physical security measures should respond to:

 Physical Security Perimeter
 Physical Input Controls
 Security of Offices, Rooms, and Facilities
 Protection against External and Environmental Threats
 Working in Safe Areas
 Public Access, Loading and Unloading Areas
 Protection and Disposal of Equipment

4. IoT and IA bring Physical Security to the digital world

Traditionally, physical and digital security were two distinct fields. Today organisations are increasingly dependent on IoT and its integrations, increasing by themselves the need for an improvement in their digital and physical security controls (network, servers, data, etc.). Virtual machines and applications, even if they’re in the cloud, are as secure as your physical servers.

With technology constantly evolving, integrations with AIs are increasingly popular. With regard to physical security, these integrations will continue to evolve, for example by allowing:

• Real-time analysis of video surveillance with detection of possible anomalies.
• Intelligent access control systems that enable a more reactive approach.
• Patrols of robots and automatic and proactive drones in search of potential anomalies and threats.
• Crowd monitoring, allowing facial recognition and behavioural analysis.

5. What are the main threats to Physical Security?

Physical security focuses on keeping your facilities, people, and assets safe from real-world threats.
Currently, there are multiple attack vectors, and these can have a focus not only from a physical and technological point of view, but also exploring weaknesses specific to the human condition (social engineering).

Physical security also focuses on rules and controls that allow the protection of persons and property in the event of natural disasters or catastrophes.

Some of the most common and most difficult attacks to mitigate are focused on Social Engineering, psychologically manipulating people to perform actions or disclose confidential information. Examples:

• Tailgating: The attacker manages to follow an authorized person to a reserved area.
• Piggybacking: The attacker manages to trick an authorized person by gaining their access to reserved areas.

6. How can we protect Physical Security?

Your physical assets might get stolen, and that could be a major threat. In the following list, we find some of the most commonly used controls for protection with regard to physical safety:

• Remote access: Allows remote location through applications.
• Gates: Helps form the outermost physical security layer. It makes it impossible, or at least, to attempt to access the infrastructure hastily.
• Surveillance: Provides a visual and historical record.
• Alarm systems: Reactive layer on capturing historical events.
• Access controls: Control and record the movement of people and vehicles.
• Indicated lighting: Good indoor and outdoor lighting may be sufficient to prevent unauthorized access, especially at night.
• Regular audits: All security checks should be regularly audited to ensure that everything is working as expected.
• Incident Response: Organisations should be prepared to handle incidents, ensuring rapid, organised, and efficient responses.
• Backups: Be sure to backup your device’s data constantly.