The Physical Security World and Beyond

A cybersecurity breach is one of the greatest risks organizations face today, especially given how connected our world is, including intelligent locks and access control systems. The potential impact of cybercrime is astounding. The annual cost is predicted to reach $8 trillion (US) globally this year and increase to $10.5 trillion by 2025, according to Cybersecurity Ventures’ 2022 Official Cybercrime Report.

It is a red-hot topic. No wonder so many came to hear what experts had to say at ASSA ABLOY’s annual Systems Integrators Breakfast during ISC West this year. 

Blending Physical and Cyber Security
Physical security practitioners recognize how rapidly the threat landscape is evolving and why there is a greater sense of urgency today to address the changing blend of physical and cyber threat vulnerabilities. They understand how critical it is now to focus as much on the cybersecurity of physical security solutions like video cameras, sensors, electronic locks and access control systems as it is on the physical security of cybersecurity and other logical assets.

Sometimes the easiest hack is physical where someone simply has ready access to a place, laptop or thumb drive that is unprotected. It can also be as brazen as unauthorized company staff being able to freely enter a server room or open a server cabinet. Fortunately, electronic access control locks and credentialing systems are successfully deployed more widely for server rooms, cabinets and openings in general.

Even so, the security industry is always looking at new and diverse ways to protect people, places and assets. Additional physical hardening, incorporating biometrics into access control credentials and greater reliance on advanced automated security measures are just a few examples of where things are headed.

Cybersecurity: Everyone’s Priority
The utility, healthcare, banking, telecommunications, technology and transportation sectors are among the industries that still face the highest cyber risk exposure and ransomware threats. Understandably, they are also the segments that are continually making the most progress to deploy countermeasures. But it is important to realize that our connected world has a growing number of digital solutions, and that means organizations are potentially vulnerable to a disruptive and costly cyberattack. 

Consider all the smart technology, access control systems, sensors, wireless solutions and APIs in the mix and how they connect to various networks. Even SCADA systems used in manufacturing, intelligent gauges and industry 4.0 types of assets that were once traditionally isolated have now become part of the IoT world. Convenience, greater efficiency, better analytics, easy updating and more data capture are motivators. The demand for greater flexibility is not going away. That is why continuous enhancement to secure all data and systems is so critical.

Adding to the pressure, many companies do not have the means to hire in-house cybersecurity experts. Even those that can afford to do so are facing a global talent shortage where candidates are hard to find and, and once hired, are hard to keep. Organizations are looking at outsourcing cybersecurity to managed services companies. 

Openings solutions integrators who have the vision to adopt a managed services approach have an opportunity to help fill the gap and become an invaluable resource that can support their end customers throughout device and solution lifecycles.

Get Up to Speed
Gone are the days of “set it and forget it.” It is not enough for integrators and technicians to know how to physically install things anymore. They need to know about networks, how to assign IP addresses to devices, program switches, and how well IoT technology they are integrating is designed to protect against attacks. Investing in cybersecurity training, continuing education and staying in front of emerging threats is key. This goes for integrators and end customers alike, including those who may be evaluating the practicality of managed services.

It is also crucial to partner with manufacturers of physical security solutions who make cybersecurity a priority. Increased threats have prompted product developers to incorporate robust and well-tested security into their designs from the ground up. Modern products ensure that their applications do not quickly become outdated and exploited. For example, newer devices allow automatic and remote firmware updates and patches instead of requiring someone to visit each one to manually execute updates.

What is critical is to become a strong advocate for cybersecurity, whether it is for safeguarding critical infrastructure, patient medical records, intelligent door locks, access control systems or other vital technology and information.

As Christian Morin, Genetec’s vice president of Product Engineering and Chief Security Officer said, “Start with your own personal life. Are you using multifactor authentication in all the services you use? Do you have a password manager, or are you using one password for everything? Rewire yourself to think about security first.”

Keatron Evans, principal cybersecurity advisor at INFOSEC, took it a step further, “Become an evangelist for cybersecurity. Get in front of it and become a leader. It is not that hard.”

Antoinette King, Founder of Credo Cyber Consulting, had this advice, “Be okay that you do not know everything. Get the education. Create a network and ecosystem of partners. We are constantly learning because the threat vector is constantly changing.”

This article originally appeared in the May / June 2023 issue of Security Today.

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