Focus on Physical and Cyber Linkages
All the discussions in recent years about the “convergence” of physical and cyber security have fallen short in one crucial area. The arguments about how best to organize the departments, set the budgets, and who should report to whom have not succeeded in making organizations more secure. Network penetrations are still happening, doors are still being propped open, and ransomware attacks are still succeeding.
As recently as December 2020, the federal government confirmed perhaps the largest and most damaging cybersecurity breach in history, and the most sobering thing about that breach is that we still do not know the intentions of the attackers. Instead of organizational debates, leadership at every organization should be squarely focused on preventing security breaches of all kinds, and engaging the entire team with processes and actions to work toward that result.
Physical Security Vulnerabilities Are Cyber Vulnerabilities
We now know that physical security devices – including not only cameras but also every networked device that is part of these systems – is a potential entry point for cyber attackers and breaches. Physical security devices are themselves IoT devices (Internet of Things) and designed to access networks. But while most IT departments have specific processes for protecting networked PCs and similar organizational devices, the same is often not the case for physical security IoT equipment.
For example, unlike with traditional computers or mobile devices, there are no built-in mechanisms to address new vulnerabilities that are discovered after physical security devices are placed in service. Often the devices are installed with out-of-date firmware that is vulnerable to known attack methods. This is one reason why physical security systems are the #2 most successful attack surface used by cyber criminals to breach an organization.
Even worse, the problem is quickly becoming bigger – the number of connected devices that could compromise network security is increasing at a phenomenal rate. The consensus of a number of market analysts is that the number of network-connected devices will exceed 25 billion within the coming year – and that more than half of those devices will be unmanaged and/or IoT devices. Examples of the devices in this category include not only security cameras, but also VoIP terminals, printers, point-of-sale terminals, medical devices, and many more. These devices will greatly outnumber the traditional enterprise devices such as PCs and servers, as well as managed BYOD devices such as tablets, smartphones, and laptops.