Hardening physical security is easy with the right tools
Cyber criminals will relentlessly look to exploit vulnerabilities in all technology, including physical security systems. How can organisations harden their physical security systems to protect them from cyber attacks?
Physical security systems and devices, including CCTV cameras and access control systems, are smarter, more powerful and more connected than ever before. As part of both public and private networks, they are increasingly unified to facilitate their management, speed up communications, increase data sharing, and, most importantly, empower security professionals to keep people and organisations safe and secure.
However, while citizens and businesses benefit from this growing connectivity of security, emerging cyber threats, hazards and criminal activity can lead to new vulnerabilities and risks in a well- documented convergence between physical and cyber.
Hacking a security system
As we have previously spoken about in our article Cyber security in an age of state-sponsored cyber attackers, a less than secure camera or unprotected communications between a server and client application is all that a cyber criminal needs.
As the scope of cyber attacks is increasing, there has also been a rise in cases of cybercriminals getting into private security cameras to access the video and images they contain. Hacking a security system can take any number of forms, including brute force, packet sniffing, and man-in-the-middle attacks. In the latter case, cybercriminals are able to ‘listen in’ to communications that the participants believed to be secure.
Unsecure devices – leaving the gate open
Beginning to harden your security infrastructure against this type of intrusion can be as easy as changing the default manufacturer password. According to our own research, 23 per cent of users have at least one camera that uses default credentials. However, with greater connectivity of systems over the internet, an unsecure device can become the gateway to accessing a large amount of data and information. Put simply, working to harden a physical security system is also working to protect all of the other systems and data on that network.
A strategy for hardening your security
Given these potential vulnerabilities, it makes sense to have a security strategy in place that protects against both physical and cyber threats. Not only this, but the solution must also provide users with insight into their devices, and show them how to improve their security. This kind of system is one which incorporates multiple and varied lines of defence, including encryption, multi-layer authentication, and authorisation. This comprehensive approach requires that every device captures data and moves it to a unified security system for management, analysis and storage with strong encryption that is accessible only to authenticated and authorised end-users.
Encryption and Authentication
This all starts with encryption – the most basic thing that users can do to protect their data. When data is encrypted, even if an unauthorised person gains access to it, it is not readable without the appropriate key. It is a straightforward enough process, but it requires that vendors build this capability into their security products. If a product does not enable encryption, it should be an immediate red flag. Encryption is a good way of hiding data, but it cannot stop unauthorised access to your network. For this, organisations employ different forms of authentication. Authentication is the process of first determining if an entity is who it claims to be and verifying if and how that entity should access a system.
Keep your infrastructure secure
Beyond encryption, one of the keys to maintaining overall system health is keeping your infrastructure secure. An improperly protected device or component can leave you vulnerable. In an ideal world, all endpoints will be thoroughly checked upon installation and kept up to date. However, with often hundreds of devices’ data across a site (such as cameras, access control points and other sensors), it can be incredibly difficult to manually manage each endpoint. Accessing the information required, hunting down the various criteria and then checking each element manually makes the process highly labour-intensive. It is for this reason that modern centralised security applications can monitor the system’s health and provide the end-user with a complete view which helps them anticipate problems and develop solutions proactively.
This type of guide shouldn’t be full of technical jargon and codes that most end-users will not understand. It should be in clear English, provide rules that are easy to understand and ultimately provide an objective score of how secure the system is.
Effective system maintenance
In addition to following best practices, ensuring that your system is up to date is also key for maintaining its security. According to our data, only 30 per cent of cameras use the latest firmware version. This means that 70 per cent of supposedly secure cameras are running out-of-date firmware that is potentially an attack vector. A sophisticated solution will not only show users the status of these endpoints, but have configuration and updates built in. As a result, system maintenance becomes more effective, and costs therefore reduced.
Every party is responsible for cybersecurity
The world of physical security has become connected to the internet at an astonishing pace. No longer do we live in a ‘closed’ world; even ‘airtight’ systems (those which are kept on an internal network with no connection to the outside) are hackable with a USB stick. Every party is responsible for cybersecurity – from the manufacturer and the integrator to consultants and the end-user. As end-users are most at threat from a vulnerable device, they should ensure that the vendors and suppliers they go into business with are just as serious about cyber security and provide them with the tools to protect against cybercriminal activity.
UK & Ireland Country Manager,