Mission Impossible? Bridging the cyber-physical divide in security
By Benjamin Cher April 27, 2016
- Breaches often a combination of both the cyber and the physical
- ‘We haven’t seen a 9/11 level of attack on the cyber side yet’
THERE is a great divide between physical security and its cyber counterpart, especially in South-East Asia, despite the fact that in today’s world, the two domains are dependent on each other.
Singaporean managed security services provider Quann, a business unit of security organisation Certis Cisco and formerly known as e-Cop, believes it is critical to bridge that divide.
There are different levels of maturity between physical and cyber security. Physical security ramped up after the Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, according to Foo Siang-Tse (pic above), senior vice president and head of the Cyber Security Group at Certis Cisco.
“The paradigm shift was 9/11, and the events of the last eight months, from Paris to Brussels, have further raised the need for physical security,” he says, referring to the recent terrorist attacks in those two cities.
“We haven’t seen a 9/11 level of attack on the cyber side yet,” he adds, in a recent conversation with Digital News Asia (DNA) in Singapore.
But companies are cottoning on to the fact that physical and cyber security need to come under one umbrella.
“If you watch movies like Mission Impossible, they typically obtain whatever they want with a combination of both,” says Foo. “The geek bypasses the cyber defences while the agent breaches the physical defences.”
By integrating with parent company Certis Cisco, Quann believes it can be that well-oiled Mission Impossible team.
This is important in a region like South-East Asia, where physical security is quite mature but cybersecurity lags far behind.
The gap may be less in countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore “because of the inter-connectedness of their economies,” says Foo, but countries like Myanmar are only now starting on their ‘cyber’ journeys.
And Quann sees an opportunity there. “Whether it is physical or cyber, security is in our DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), and we are uniquely positioned because we have capabilities right through [both],” he adds.
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In-country and on the ground
Quann has in-country security operations centres (SOCs) to deal with incidents locally, according to Foo.
“We have quite a large footprint – the advantage of an extensive regional presence is that it gives us tremendous visibility in terms of what’s happening in other countries,” he says. “Our biggest differentiator is the ability to collect, collate and analyse intelligence.”
Having in-country SOCs also gives Quann an edge in dealing with regulatory and data sovereignty issues.
“We believe in in-country 24/7 SOCs because our customers are typically regulated industries with data sovereignty or residency requirements,” says Foo.
“For us, a SOC is a hub for services – monitoring, as well as recovery, consultancy, and other kinds of services,” he adds. “It’s almost like a satellite office.”
And Quann’s SOCs are about to become more ‘physical’ too, he declares.
“Over time, we see our SOCs becoming integrated next-generation SOCs, not just cyber SOCs, providing our analysts and our clients with an integrated visibility over all assets,” says Foo.
“The concept is that you will have visibility over all your assets, not just your computer assets.
“For example, in a power plant, you will be able to see your cooling systems, CCTVs, access controls and IT system,” he adds.
This would help clients connect the dots between the physical and cyber domains.
“Things that might be seemingly benign in one domain might not be so benign when you connect the dots and realise that there is something malicious taking place,” says Foo.
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