October 10, 2018Janice Yucel

Merging Your Physical and Cybersecurity Strategies

Your physical security is certainly more important than your virtual security when it comes down to it. No one would argue that a broken leg is more immediate than a hacked Facebook profile. But many people forget just how linked the two concepts are in this day and age. A wired alarm system is only effective if it’s working properly. If it’s hacked, you’re left as vulnerable as you would be if you’d never installed the control panel to begin with.

Unfortunately, a hacked security system is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how criminals can exploit cybersecurity. And while many people are waking up to the potential hazards, there’s still too much separation for most homes, businesses, and organizations. Understanding how to merge the two starts with understanding how they are undeniably related to each other.

New Opportunities 

Few people have to be told that being online can be dangerous. There’s no shortage of news articles covering the devastating effects of identity theft. Whether it’s stolen credit card numbers or medical insurance fraud, consumers are constantly being reminded of how to keep themselves safe. But as horrible as identity theft is, it doesn’t physically endanger you. People may be ruining your credit score, but they’re not breaking into your home to harm you.

Except now, there are more opportunities for criminals to threaten your physical safety by messing with your virtual safety. They now have ways to shut down everything from schools to businesses to fulfill their own agenda. And while most criminals are still likely after some kind of financial gain in one way or another, they may end up hurting someone in the process.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is starting to connect practically every known appliance and device, forcing everything from your toaster to the traffic light outside your house to be on a single system.

Scary Consequences

Ukraine has already seen the results of several blackouts across the country, showing that both private and public leaders need to be prepared for how to keep their people and information safe. If a criminal enters a building and disables the elevator system, they could trap people inside or leave them without a way to get out. Criminals can force an appliance to overheat to the point where a real fire can break out.

In one town in Finland, criminals were able to force heating systems offline, leaving the town’s residents to suffer through sub-zero temperatures without heat. In New York, hackers tried to control the flow of water of a small dam. These types of ‘pranks’ can and do endanger our physical safety, leaving people defenseless against the anarchy that exists in a virtual land with few laws. Law enforcement is typically woefully underprepared to handle attacks like this, even as they work toward hiring more qualified experts to catch hackers.

The Problem of Convergence 

As ubiquitous as technology may be in today’s day and age, the relationship we all share with it is still deeply personal. Some companies and organizations rush to technology with open arms, adopting new methods as easily as they abandon them. Others are hesitant to make major changes, worried that the disruption to the status quo will be worse than keeping everything as-is. That’s just one of the reasons why we don’t have a unified solution when it comes to convergence.

The other problem is that most people still don’t realize just how vulnerable they are. The electrical or key card system may seem like a perfectly mundane thing, but it’s really an opening into the building. Like standard burglars and thieves of yesterday, hackers today are looking for the easiest route to fulfill their mission. If the HVAC system isn’t properly secured, it’s as good a means as any to get what they’re looking for.

Making It Count 

This is the time for companies and organizations to start investing in the IT department to get more eyes on the convergence problem. You may need to either adjust traditional security assumptions or change them entirely. For example, after one Austrian hotel’s key card system was hacked, leadership decided to go back to traditional lock and key. But you may not need to do something so drastic. It could be as simple as increasing the communication between all your departments so everyone is on the same page.

If the IMS Research prediction comes true, there will be 22 billion devices connected to the internet by 2020. A single gap in one device or appliance needs to signal an immediate threat across the board. In addition, everyone should be put to work on closing up the gaps in security. This includes additional training to remind employees of social engineering tactics or standard infiltration methods. As hackers become more sophisticated in relation to the technology upgrades, it’s going to be a never-ending battle — but it’s a battle worth fighting.

Changing the Philosophy 

To this day, most companies aren’t willing to invest in virtual security unless they’re personally affected by it. It’s unfortunate, but it’s easy to see why people feel somewhat invincible online. But as people learn about the physical threat that virtual hackers pose, the philosophy will start to change. The idea is to address the problem now though, before you become a target for the next big attack.

If you are looking for cybersecurity solutions to accompany your physical security, or are a physical security organization looking for a partner in IT security solutions, contact us to see how we can help. We work with the leading cybersecurity providers for SMBs and enterprise to bring customers the most comprehensive coverage that suits their budget.

About the Author

Janice YucelJanice Yucel has covered hardware, software and IT services for over 7 years as an editor, reporter and marketer for various tech media outlets. She is currently the digital marketing manager of Xchange Technology Group.
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