Cybersecurity is arguably crucial, but it is not the be all and end all of securing personal or organizational assets and intellectual property. We cannot, in our growing dependence on technology, overlook the lasting importance of physical security practices, which remain just as vital as their digital counterparts. Worse, as corporate, personal and public funding is shifted toward cyber protection investments, some security leaders have seen their bottom lines shrinking on key personnel and physical security funding; leaving them open to severe security vulnerabilities.

Enduring advantages

There are aspects of physical security that remain both relevant and advantageous in overall asset protection and crisis prevention. However, when looking at physical and cyber security through the lens of asset protection (which includes human assets as well as property) it is clear that it’s hard to keep pace with cybersecurity trends if physical security best practices are not adhered to. For example, think about the tangible benefits of keys, which can be hard to physically duplicate, access control systems and identification used to visibly distinguish authorized personnel in keeping someone away from offices where passwords and proprietary information is stored. Physical perimeter security has also endured as a timeless safeguarding asset; ideally, a fortified building or establishment should possess several layers of defense to make breaches harder to achieve, and concepts like physical access control points and fencing systems increase difficulty for unwanted visitors.

Finding balance

It would be contradictory to say that physical security outweighs cybersecurity in both application and importance; this is simply not true. However, ideally, the benefits of both mediums can co-exist in many regards. While I am hesitant to accept certain “smart technologies,” such as biometric locking devices, as the future of security efficiency (in many cases, they are too much of a risk to stand as a new norm), other concepts like security cards reflect a clear balance between cyber and physical security values.

Old-fashioned as it may seem in a modern context, we must continue to advocate for well-designed architecture, steadfast locking systems, and fully realized external security measures to keep our citizens safe. Should we allow the physical/cyber scale to tip too far in one direction, we may risk the wellbeing of those with the right to remain safe and unharmed in their day-to-day lives.
A. Benjamin Mannes, MA, CPP, CESP is the former Director, Office of Investigations for the American Board of Internal Medicine and a nationally-recognized subject matter expert in security & public safety. He has served on collegiate advisory boards and for three terms on the Executive Board of InfraGard, the FBI-coordinated public-private partnership for critical infrastructure protection.