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Intruder Alert! Ensuring physical security for preventing cybercrime

Chandrasekar Kesavan, Director, Office Services, InfoSec, Risk & Compliance, Equiniti India.
Chandrasekar Kesavan, Director, Office Services, InfoSec, Risk & Compliance, Equiniti India.

In today’s highly digitized world, data is the most valuable asset that organizations possess. Cybercriminals are constantly devising new and innovative methods to gain unauthorized access to sensitive information. While most businesses employ various cybersecurity measures to protect their networks from online attacks, physical security breaches can still pose a significant risk. Hackers can use physical breaches to bypass digital security measures and gain access to valuable data. Cybercrime is predicted to cost the world $7 trillion USD in 2022, according to Cybersecurity Ventures. If it were measured as a country, then cybercrime would be the world’s third-largest economy after the U.S. and China!

Clearly, cyber security is critical. However, while cybersecurity measures are crucial for safeguarding against online attacks, they are not enough to protect against physical breaches. Physical breaches are different from digital attacks, as they involve gaining access to physical assets instead of exploiting software or network vulnerabilities.

The idea that physical breaches can facilitate hacking may seem controversial or even counterintuitive to some. However, upon closer examination, it becomes clear that physical breaches can indeed pose a significant risk to businesses and organizations of all sizes. While many businesses focus heavily on digital security measures, physical security controls are just as important. Physical breaches involve gaining unauthorized access to a business’s premises, equipment, or sensitive information by individuals who gain physical access to these resources. This can occur through social engineering tactics, such as tailgating, or through the theft or loss of equipment.

One of the main reasons why physical breaches can facilitate hacking is that they can bypass digital security measures altogether. Even the strongest firewalls and cybersecurity best practices can be rendered useless if a hacker can simply walk into a business and plug into an open Ethernet port or steal a laptop or server. By gaining physical access to a business’s premises or equipment, a hacker can circumvent digital security measures and gain access to sensitive data. While digital security breaches may leave a trail of evidence in the form of log files or network activity, physical breaches may not be immediately apparent. A hacker who gains physical access to a business’s premises or equipment may be able to conduct their activities undetected, making it harder for businesses to identify and respond to the breach.

Physical breaches can result in the theft or loss of valuable data, intellectual property, and other assets. Stolen laptops, servers, or other equipment can be sold on the black market, potentially leading to data breaches and reputational damage for businesses. The loss of intellectual property or sensitive data can also result in significant financial losses and legal liabilities. The risk of physical breaches is not limited to traditional office settings. With the rise of remote work and the increasing use of mobile devices, physical breaches can occur outside of the office as well. Employees who work remotely or use their personal devices to access business data may be more vulnerable to physical breaches, as they may not have access to the same physical security measures as they would in the office.

Furthermore, there are multiple attack vectors, and these can focus not only from a physical and technological point of view but also on 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 access to reserved areas

Cybersecurity supports the development of a framework for any physical security measures the organization decides to implement. In many ways, the type of cybersecurity measures that a company seeks to implement will determine which kind of physical security barriers and deterrents should be utilized. However, cybersecurity systems have their limitations, which is why physical security should still exist to pick up the slack and further strengthen business security.

To address the risk of physical breaches, businesses must take a holistic approach to security. This means implementing strong physical security measures, such as access controls, surveillance, and security awareness training, in addition to digital security measures. Businesses must also have strict policies and procedures in place for equipment handling and disposal to prevent data breaches. Even though physical and cybersecurity are inherently connected, many organizations still treat these security functions as separate systems. In the past, this was justified because the technology to integrate physical and cybersecurity was not yet available. However, now the problem comes down to governance, making it a priority to create a single body for security policies and bring physical security and cybersecurity teams together to build strength in your organization. An integrated security architecture offers a foundation for connecting the physical and cyber worlds through intelligence sharing, visibility, control, and automation. As we use more technology in our daily lives, the more there is a need for CPS to help protect your organization from accidental and potentially malicious misuse of these systems and resources and help ensure their intended missions are not disrupted or compromised.

Author: Chandrasekar Kesavan, Director, Office Services, InfoSec, Risk & Compliance, Equiniti India.

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