The Cyber-Physical Threat Connection Demands Attention

On a daily basis companies experience minor and major cyber violations that range from phishing for individual login passwords to significant ransomware attacks that can disrupt entire industries. No matter what the level of cyber infraction, these are security issues hyper connected to physical threats. This cyber-physical linkage — and the large-scale potential business continuity devastation that can occur if these threats are missed — demands attention from every enterprise.

The Colonial Pipeline suspended its operations after hackers held its computer systems for ransom, and a hack contributed to the shutdown of plants that process roughly one-fifth of the nation’s meat supply. The FBI received nearly 2,500 ransomware complaints in 2020, up about 20 percent from 2019. Earlier this year, for the first time an American administration publicly urged corporate executives and business leaders to discuss the implications of the ransomware threat and review corporate security posture and business continuity plans to ensure they have the ability to continue (or quickly restore) operations.

Accelerated by COVID-19 and an increasing volume of threats, corporate cybersecurity and physical security teams — often divided functions with physical security lagging in investing in and adopting modern tools and technologies — are rapidly coming together in terms of funding and the mindset that they must be inextricably connected to prevent devastating harm to their companies.

The Ontic Center for Connected Intelligence’s Mid-Year survey of 300 physical security and IT leaders at large U.S. companies revealed resounding support for unifying physical security and cybersecurity intelligence. Why? The Center’s research found that intelligence failures at U.S. companies are a regular occurrence, resulting in insiders abusing authorized cyber access leading to supply chain damage or property theft. So it’s not surprising that there is overwhelming agreement among both physical security and IT leaders that cybersecurity and physical security must be integrated — otherwise cyber and physical threats will be missed. A single platform for identifying threats, investigations, data and analytics is supported by those in physical security (95% agree, including 45% who agree strongly) and IT professionals (95% agree, including 55% who agree strongly).

As people begin to return to the office and also continue to work remotely, nearly half (48%) of physical security and IT leaders say it is more urgent than it was at the beginning of 2021 that funding for physical security and cyber security technology solutions are allocated at the same levels. Underpinning this sentiment may be the fact that the vast majority of physical security and IT leaders surveyed say most (37%), some (29%) or all (11%) of the physical threats their company has received this year originated as a cyber-threat. That is, pre-incident indicators (or threats) first appeared in cyber auditing tools, email, on social media, in antivirus software, via a cyber-breach or ransomware attack.

Business continuity has also been disrupted in 2021 by physical threats and they have also resulted in harm or death at companies, but security and IT leaders surveyed say some, most or all of those physical threats could have been avoided if cybersecurity and physical security intelligence were unified so threats could be shared and actioned by cross-functional teams.

Both cyber and physical threats to companies are only expected to increase and become more dire in the future. Three-quarters of those surveyed agree that based on the current unmanageable physical threat data, physical threats will increase exponentially as they begin to reopen and return to the office. The need for both physical security and cybersecurity leaders to immediately stand up a proactive protective intelligence strategy to fundamentally transform and strengthen security across the organization is now.

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Managing Through Change: How Increased Cyber-Physical Security Threats Will Impact Companies

Lukas Quanstrom Avatar