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  • Donald E. Hester

The Importance of Converging Physical and Cybersecurity an Interconnected World

In today's interconnected world, State and Local Governments, Critical Infrastructure partners and National Critical Functions rely heavily on technology and cyber-physical systems. This dependence on technology and interconnectivity has led to new risks, which have made it increasingly essential to have a convergence of cybersecurity and physical security. The convergence of these two security functions is necessary for organizations to have a holistic view of security threats and to better prepare for and prevent threats to interconnected cyber-physical infrastructure.

The Connected World

The growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) has introduced a new set of risks for critical infrastructure and National Critical Functions. IoT refers to the interconnection of physical devices, vehicles, buildings, and other objects, embedded with sensors, software, and network connectivity. These devices can communicate and exchange data with each other, and with the cloud, to enable smart applications, services, and systems.

In critical infrastructure, IoT is used to connect and control a wide range of devices and systems, such as power grids, transportation systems, water treatment plants, and manufacturing facilities. IoT enables the collection of vast amounts of data, which can be used to optimize performance, reduce costs, and improve safety. However, this interconnectivity also introduces new risks, as each device becomes a potential entry point for cyber-attacks.


Moreover, the interconnectedness of industrial control systems (ICS) and IT systems in critical infrastructure increases the risk of cyber-attacks. ICS are used to monitor and control physical processes, such as power generation, water treatment, and chemical manufacturing. These systems rely on computers, networks, and software to operate, which can be vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

In recent years, there have been several high-profile cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure, such as the 2015 attack on Ukraine's power grid, which left over 200,000 people without electricity. The attack was carried out using malware that was delivered through spear-phishing emails, which exploited vulnerabilities in the ICS systems.

The increased reliance on technology in critical infrastructure also means that any disruption or failure can have severe consequences. For example, a cyber-attack on a power grid can lead to a blackout, which can cause economic damage, loss of life, and disruption of National Critical Functions. Similarly, a cyber-attack on a water treatment plant can lead to contamination of the water supply, which can have serious health consequences.

Therefore, it is crucial for organizations to have a holistic view of risk, which includes both physical and cybersecurity risks, and to integrate their security functions to better prepare for and prevent threats to interconnected cyber-physical infrastructure.

A Connected World Needs Connected Security

As organizations continue to rely on interconnected cyber-physical infrastructure to support their operations, the need for convergence between physical and cybersecurity functions has become increasingly important. This convergence allows organizations to better prepare for and prevent threats to their critical infrastructure. Without a holistic view of security threats, organizations risk being caught off-guard by attacks, resulting in economic damage, loss of life, and disruption of critical functions.

Siloed security functions can lead to a lack of coordination and communication between teams responsible for physical and cybersecurity, resulting in missed opportunities to detect and prevent attacks. For example, if an organization's physical security team is not aware of cybersecurity risks, they may not recognize that a potential attacker is attempting to gain unauthorized access to their network through an internet-connected device. Similarly, if the cybersecurity team is not familiar with the organization's physical infrastructure, they may not recognize the potential impact of an attack on critical physical systems.

Convergence between physical and cybersecurity functions can help organizations address these challenges by providing a more comprehensive understanding of security risks. By sharing information and working together, security teams can identify potential threats and develop strategies to prevent them. This collaboration can also help organizations identify vulnerabilities that may exist at the intersection of physical and cybersecurity, such as those that arise from the use of internet-connected devices in critical infrastructure.

Moreover, convergence between physical and cybersecurity functions can help organizations respond more effectively to attacks. By having a coordinated response plan that incorporates both physical and cybersecurity elements, organizations can more quickly identify the source of an attack and take steps to mitigate its impact. This can help minimize the damage caused by attacks and reduce downtime for critical functions.

Overall, the convergence of physical and cybersecurity functions is essential for organizations that rely on interconnected cyber-physical infrastructure. By working together and sharing information, physical and cybersecurity teams can develop a more comprehensive understanding of security risks and develop strategies to prevent and respond to attacks. This convergence can help organizations better protect their critical infrastructure and functions, reducing the risk of economic damage, loss of life, or disruption.

Enterprise Risk Management

It is critical for organizations to have a holistic view of all risks to effectively manage and mitigate them. When it comes to risk management, it is common for organizations to have siloed departments, with each department responsible for a specific area of risk, such as cybersecurity, physical security, financial risk, or operational risk. While having specialized teams can be helpful, it can also lead to a lack of a comprehensive understanding of the interconnectedness of risks across the enterprise.

An enterprise-wide view of risk is necessary for the governing body to make informed decisions about risk tolerance and mitigation strategies. It allows them to consider the tradeoffs between different types of risks and make informed decisions about the allocation of resources. For example, a company may choose to invest in physical security measures to protect their critical infrastructure, even if it means reducing resources allocated to other areas of risk, such as financial risk.

A siloed approach to risk management can lead to missed opportunities for risk mitigation and increase the likelihood of incidents occurring. For example, if a company’s physical security team is not working closely with the cybersecurity team, they may not realize that a cyber-attack could also compromise physical security systems. Similarly, if the financial risk team is not communicating with the physical security team, they may not realize the financial impact of a physical security incident.

By taking a holistic view of risk, the governing body can ensure that all areas of risk are considered in decision-making and that the organization’s mission is not compromised. It also helps to prevent gaps in risk management and improve overall resilience. For example, if an organization is preparing for a natural disaster, a holistic view of risk would consider the potential impact on all areas of the organization, not just physical infrastructure. This could include assessing the financial impact of lost revenue, the safety of employees and customers, and the potential for cyber-attacks during the recovery process.

In summary, a siloed approach to risk management can lead to a lack of understanding of the interconnectedness of risks across the enterprise, resulting in missed opportunities for risk mitigation and increased likelihood of incidents occurring. By taking a holistic view of risk, the governing body can make informed decisions about risk tolerance and mitigation strategies, and ensure that all areas of risk are considered in decision-making.

Benefits of Convergence

Converging physical and cybersecurity functions in an organization can bring numerous benefits, which can contribute to creating a secure and resilient enterprise. Here are some of the key benefits of converged security functions:

Secure Enterprise:

Converging physical and cybersecurity functions can help create a more secure enterprise by aligning security policies, processes, and technologies. With a unified security strategy, an organization can ensure that all security measures work together seamlessly, leaving no gaps for potential attackers to exploit. As a result, an organization can significantly reduce its attack surface and minimize the risk of security breaches.

Efficiency:

Converging physical and cybersecurity functions can lead to greater efficiency in an organization's security operations. By having a single security team responsible for both physical and cyber threats, an organization can streamline its security operations and eliminate redundant efforts. This can result in cost savings, improved response times, and reduced risk.

Versatility:

A converged security function can provide more versatility in handling threats. Physical security teams may have more experience dealing with threats to facilities, while cybersecurity teams may be more adept at detecting and responding to cyber threats. A converged team can leverage the expertise of both physical and cybersecurity professionals to create a comprehensive security strategy that can address threats across the organization.

Strategic Alignment:

Converging physical and cybersecurity functions can help align an organization's security strategy with its overall business objectives. By having a holistic view of security risks, the security team can identify areas where security measures can support the organization's mission and objectives. This can help security become a business enabler rather than a hindrance.

Shared Information:

Converging physical and cybersecurity functions can create a culture of information sharing within the organization. The physical security team may have knowledge about the organization's physical vulnerabilities, while the cybersecurity team may have insight into the organization's cyber vulnerabilities. By sharing this information, the organization can create a more comprehensive understanding of its overall security posture and create a more effective security strategy.

Common Goals:

Converging physical and cybersecurity functions can help create a sense of shared responsibility and common goals among the security team. By having a single team responsible for security, all team members are aligned to the same security objectives. This can create a culture of collaboration and teamwork, where everyone is working together to create a more secure enterprise.

Converged security functions can bring many benefits to an organization. By aligning physical and cybersecurity functions, an organization can create a more comprehensive security strategy that addresses all potential risks to the enterprise. This can help create a secure, resilient, and efficient enterprise that can continue to fulfill its mission even in the face of ever-evolving security threats.

Conclusion

In today's interconnected world, where cyber-physical systems and critical infrastructure play a crucial role, organizations must adopt a unified approach to security that converges physical and cyber security functions. The convergence of these functions provides several benefits to organizations that include a more secure enterprise, greater efficiency, versatility, strategic alignment, shared information, and common goals.

A siloed approach to security can lead to a lack of a holistic view of security threats and competing for the same resources, ultimately putting an organization's mission at risk. By converging security functions, organizations can have a more comprehensive view of risks and develop a unified response that addresses risks to operations as a whole.

Furthermore, the growth of the Internet of Things and increased reliance on technology have introduced new risks, making it crucial for organizations to adopt a converged security approach. This approach reflects an in-depth understanding of the cascading impacts to interconnected cyber-physical infrastructure, providing a more robust and secure framework for an organization's mission-critical systems.

In conclusion, a converged security approach is essential for organizations to address the complex risks to their critical infrastructure and mission-critical systems. By adopting this approach, organizations can mitigate risks more effectively, develop a unified response to security threats, and maintain their mission in a rapidly changing and increasingly interconnected world.

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