Closing the Gap Between Cyber and Physical Security

For the past decade, organizational security has been focused on detection rather than prevention and today’s security environment is a whole new world full of complexities. This has caused a major gap in the security industry. Physical security was once the main attraction, but then digital threats entered our world. It used to be appropriate to address physical and internet security separately, but that is no longer an option. Hackers are operating in an environment that is more shielded and safer than ever even as these online criminals make everyone else’s word increasingly vulnerable. And more and more, hackers are finding their entry point in that hazy gap between physical and digital security.

Recent attacks demonstrate this exploitation with frightening clarity. For example, the personal data for over 25 million U.S. military veterans seemed perfectly safe after the VA went to great lengths to safeguard their network with the best firewalls and anti-virus software. However, in the end, it was a physical security breach that exposed their data. A data analyst with the VA broke company protocol to take the data home to work on it. A thief broke in and stole the employee’s laptop and hard drive, compromising a treasure trove of veterans’ personal information.

Another instance at a Ukrainian electrical plant left thousands of people without light and heat in the dead of winter. A control center employee noticed his computer cursor moving without him and began hacking into the control structures. In the end, two power distribution centers and 30 substations were hacked, signaling the systems to shut down circuit breakers. Hundreds of thousands of people were left without light and heat while the IT specialists watched, powerless to stop the damage.

So, what’s the right way to ensure your organization, data, and people are safeguarded? Evaluate how cyber threats can open up physical security vulnerabilities within your organization and vice versa by focusing on the overlap. Ask yourself these questions to help expose potential security gaps in your company:

For cyber security:

  • Can I eliminate any digital switches that have open ports (that are not in use)?
  • Are there IP devices outside of my facilities that are not protected by firewalls or incorporated into a unique virtual local area network (VLAN)? If so, how can I fix this?
  • Are my physical security and business computer networks sharing the same server? If so, how can I separate them?
  • Are all communications on the physical security system encrypted through delivery?
  • Are my switches set up so that they will lock out devices once they are disconnected?

For physical security:

  • Am I screening potential employees thoroughly with background checks?
  • Am I conducting security screenings on visitors?
  • Is my video surveillance viewed by authorized people only?
  • Are all of my IP connections and security servers thoroughly locked up (and protected by tamper switches)?
  • Is my physical security system protected by a firewall and IP intrusion detection systems?
  • Are the related firewall records reviewed daily? (Automated software is a good starting point here, but human eyes provide an extra layer of security.)
  • Are all non-vital USBs and DVDs disconnected from security workstations?

It’s no longer an option to have physical and cyber security efforts operating separately. Make sure that you have someone at the management level overseeing both capabilities with specialists in each area reporting to them. And make sure that managers model smart cyber and physical security themselves to enforce the importance of constant vigilance. As you bring these two functions together, you can make your organization more resistant to sophisticated new threats that seek to exploit the gap between these fronts. Use high-tech tools like FedCheck to bring an extra layer of security to your frontline.