Plan Might Have a Weakness
Cybercriminals can cause a security breach for unprepared organization
- By Greg Schreiber
- Aug 01, 2019
Cybersecurity and physical security no longer
exist in two different worlds. Each now
supports and depends on the other as part of
a comprehensive risk and liability management
program. Criminals can exploit weaknesses
in either area of security to enable a
breach, and cause potentially catastrophic consequences for
an unprepared organization.
When the conversation is centered on cybersecurity, often the
focus is on hardening the network, creating better passwords,
avoiding malware and strengthening the firewall. These are all vital
components of cyber hygiene and should be maintained to the
fullest extent at all times. But alone, they are not enough to keep
your data safe from hackers.
The surprising reality is that one of the most common ways
for a hacker to gain access to an organization’s data is by walking
through the entrance to your facility. Once inside, they can steal
a laptop or server for data or access to the network, plug into a network port to create a backdoor network entrance they can
use whenever they want, or pop a flash drive into a computer to
download files and folders containing sensitive financial information—
or to upload malware.
This vulnerability at the entrance can be a tremendous weakness,
and one that is too easily overlooked when planning for
optimal cybersecurity. As long as there is the possibility of an
unauthorized person entering the premises, you are at a much
higher risk for a cybersecurity breach.
Because building and perimeter entrances are key points for
physical security, much of the technology for physical security
devices has been developed to protect entrances. Even as new
technologies have emerged, they have mostly been a variety of
protections for standard swinging doors, which have long been
used to enter and exit buildings. The use of doors has typically
and traditionally been an architectural decision, with door styles
selected for their design aesthetic or user convenience with little
consideration for security.
Generally, the biggest security concern considered when installing
an entrance was compliance with fire codes and other
emergency exit guidelines. While it is still important to consider
these factors, it has now become necessary to consider the entrance
as a primary factor in cybersecurity best practices.
Installing standard swing doors at any location in a facility
presents risk, as their design does not prevent unauthorized intrusions.
Once a swing door is open, even if it has been unlocked
using authorized credentials, an unlimited number of people can
enter. What is often considered basic politeness—holding the
door for the person behind you—can in fact be an enormous security
risk. Unless there is a guard at the door, there is no prevention
for tailgating (additional people following someone through
the door). Worse, unless it has special alarms, a door can be
propped open and left that way indefinitely.
Even the presence of trained security officers is no guarantee
of keeping cybercriminals out of your facility. For them, it can
even become something of a sport to get past guards—in fact,
there is even a name for this: social engineering. You can read virtually
unlimited articles and blogs about this online. Many hackers
openly discuss the tactics they use to get through even the
most stringent officer-manned entrances, and tell stories about
some of their biggest achievements. Fortunately, most of the exploits
that are being written about were done in the name of penetration
testing, which looks for an organization’s vulnerabilities
so that they can address them—but the ease with which they are
able to enter secure facilities shows that this is almost certainly
happening, unsanctioned, on a regular basis.
Once a cybercriminal is inside your facility, you have lost most
of the battle to protect your data. At that point it is quick and
simple for them to plug into an IP port, access your network,
and perform whatever actions they want. If they walk in and out
without having been noticed, you may not even know that there
has been a breach until data turns up corrupted, operations cease
to function properly, or the stolen data is utilized or ransomed
back to you—at which point the damages only multiply.
The bottom line is simple: to keep your data safe, you need to
address physical security and you must have a fully secure entry.
Security entrances offer a unique level of protection as they
not only fully prevent tailgating, one of the greatest risks presented
by standard swing doors, but also verify the identity of
every individual entering a facility. They cannot be compromised
in the way that a security guard can through social engineering,
and they cannot be fooled or tricked. When integrated with access
control systems, they reliably deter and detect unauthorized
entry attempts. Certain types can even prevent unauthorized entry
without supervision. And, they also enable accurate monitoring
of who is in the building at all times.
Security entrances work well both against lone actors and
organized hacker groups. They enable access to authorized individuals
who need to be in your facility while keeping unwanted
visitors, including those who are intent to steal your data, out of
Security entrances come in a wide range of assurance levels, as
well. For example, they can take the form of waist high turnstiles
for controlling high volumes of traffic, to full height turnstiles, to
optical turnstiles, to security revolving doors and mantrap portals
that make it close to impossible to tailgate into your facility, with
sensors that recognize shapes, size and volume and stop entry.
One additional point must be made about the vulnerabilities
presented to cybercriminals at the entrance. Today, any device on
the IoT—from a smart fish tank to an elevator system—could
be used by hackers as an entry point to the network. The same is
true for physical security products from surveillance cameras to
Wi-Fi locks. The moment a device is connected to the network,
it becomes a potential attack surface for a hacker to use to reach
the network, from which they can implant malware, steal data or
cause many other sorts of mayhem that disrupts business operations.
Every IoT-connected device used in your organization must
be properly hardened to prevent this from happening.
For that reason, it is important to take all possible measures to
harden your networked security entrances against hacking. There
are several protocols you can easily implement to accomplish this.
1. Performing third-party penetration testing is essential across
your digital networks, and security entrances should be included
in the process. It’s recommended that this testing be conducted on
a regular basis, as hackers are constantly updating their tactics.
2. Lock down the control panel to authorized users only, and
lock it away entirely at the end of the day so that it is out of the
hands of anyone looking to get inside.
3. Make sure that physical and cybersecurity personnel are in
communication and agreement as to both physical security protocols
and cyber security updates.
4. Limit the number of users that have access to the security
system, including entrance operation.
The boundaries between physical security and cybersecurity
are disappearing, as each is an essential component of the other.
Savvy cyber criminals often attempt to gain entrance into a facility
in order to access data, steal intellectual property and otherwise
cause harm to an organization. The risks and liabilities can
be catastrophic—so it is important to ensure you are as prepared
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2019 issue of Security Today.