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The Time Is Now:  Convergence of Cyber and Physical Security

How do cybersecurity and physical security differ? The answer is, they don’t—not anymore. They’re increasingly becoming the same thing.

The convergence between cybersecurity and physical security is necessary because modern systems are increasingly interconnected and because threats keep evolving that can quickly destabilize a business.

The growing adoption and integration of Internet of Things (IoT) and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) devices have resulted in a progressively interwoven network of cyber-physical systems (CPS). This expansion of interconnectedness, while beneficial, has some significant consequences for security. For one thing, there are more potential points of attack, making businesses more vulnerable. For another, the previously clear distinctions between cybersecurity and physical security business functions are becoming blurred. In short, cybersecurity and physical security are converging.

Top 10 Reasons Why Convergence Is So Critical:

  1. Interconnected Systems: In today's world, many physical security systems, such as access control systems, surveillance cameras, and alarms, are connected to computer networks for monitoring and management. Cyberattackers can exploit these connections to compromise both physical and digital assets.
  2. Digital Transformation: Organizations are undergoing digital transformation, integrating more technology into their operations. This includes the adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, smart buildings, and automation. As these systems become interconnected, a breach in one area can lead to cascading effects on both cyber and physical security.
  3. Dual Impact of Attacks: Cyberattacks can have physical consequences and vice versa. For instance, a cyberattack on critical infrastructure (such as power plants or transportation systems) can lead to physical damage, while a physical attack on a data center can paralyze digital operations.
  4. Data Privacy and Compliance: Many physical security systems capture and process sensitive personal data, such as biometric information and access logs. Organizations must consider data privacy regulations and cybersecurity standards when designing and implementing these systems.
  5. Risk Management: Converging cyber and physical security allows organizations to holistically approach risk management. By considering the potential impacts of both cyber and physical threats, organizations can develop more comprehensive strategies to mitigate risks and respond to incidents effectively.
  6. Improved Incident Response: Coordinated incident response is crucial in the face of a combined cyber-physical attack. Security teams must work together to address different aspects of the attack, such as isolating compromised systems, restoring services, and securing physical locations.
  7. Supply Chain Vulnerabilities: An organization’s supply chain is increasingly vulnerable when a compromise in one area can impact the other. For example, a supply chain attack on a vendor providing physical security equipment can also harm an organization’s sensitive data.
  8. Employee Awareness: Employees play a significant role in both cybersecurity and physical security. Convergence encourages a more comprehensive approach to training and awareness programs, ensuring that employees are educated about potential threats to both realms.
  9. Regulatory and Legal Considerations: The convergence of cyber and physical security may have regulatory and legal implications. Organizations must navigate these complexities to ensure they meet all necessary requirements.
  10. Emerging Threats: As technology evolves, new attack vectors and methods emerge. It is vital that cybersecurity and physical security professionals collaborate to stay ahead of these threats and develop innovative strategies to counteract them.

Security Starts at the Top

Given the above scenarios, it is clear that an organization’s C-level leadership and its IT department must work together. As IoT and IIoT devices proliferate, and the CPS web grows continually more intricate, the collective expertise and synergy between top executives and IT professionals are paramount. No longer can the IT department be held solely responsible. This is a company-wide responsibility starting with top leadership.

This collaboration ensures that strategic decisions align with technological advancements and security risk mitigation. The C-level provides strategic vision and necessary resources, while IT offers technical and operational insights. Together, they identify vulnerabilities across both cyber and physical domains, enabling the organization to develop comprehensive security strategies that safeguard it against multifaceted risks.

Furthermore, this partnership fosters a culture of continuous improvement and adaptability. By working together, the C-level and IT department can swiftly respond to emerging challenges, allocate the right resources, and make informed decisions that protect the organization's digital assets, physical infrastructure, and overall resilience.

In a world where the boundaries between cyber and physical security have become blurred, collaboration between leadership and technology experts is not just beneficial—it's imperative for creating a robust, integrated security posture that stands resilient against the evolving landscape of threats.

Resource: CISA Convergence