Last week the House Homeland Security Committee unanimously passed the National Cybersecurity and Critical Infrastructure Protection Act, positioning the bill to be taken up by the full House, hopefully in the near future. Working for a company that provides crisis communications systems, what struck me as interesting when reading about the bill is how much of it pertained to physical security.
The bill calls for DHS to work with industry organizations to expedite critical infrastructure protection and incident response; codifying the process Cyber Incident Response Teams use to provide crisis management assistance; and codifying DHS processes for ensuring resiliency of networks and systems – all of which pertains to physical security and processes to ensure physical security.
What you’re seeing in the bill is a trend we’ve been noticing for quite a while, which is the convergence of cyber security and physical security. There are many good reasons for this convergence, including the common use of IT for all operations and physical security (for example, video surveillance and access control systems) and how cyber threats may directly or indirectly lead to physical security incidents. The processes for responding to cyber security and physical security incidents are similar and closely related: Detection and alert; containment; remediation; conclusion; and assessment. To treat cyber and physical threats separately – particularly in terms of response – would create unnecessary confusion, delays and inefficiencies.
While the concept of convergence has been around a long time, only recently have companies gotten serious about adopting the approach. 27% of companies and organizations have already combined their cyber and physical security processes, and we expect the trend to grow. Companies are doing this by establishing global security operations centers (GSOCs) to develop a unified approach for responding to both physical and cyber security threats to their personnel and operations. In the event of a cyber attack, for example, the GSOC would coordinate two-way communications with impacted personnel and emergency response teams. GSOC’s would use next generation crisis communications systems to maintain information flow on a mass scale or on a targeted basis, in spite of IT outages.
We expect a rapid increase in the rate of convergence for cyber and physical security threat mitigation and incident response operations. The House and the Senate work is an important milestone recognizing this trend with their respective cyber security bills. We hope passage will occur soon by both houses followed with a signature by President Obama to address these critical issues.