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Contrary to recent reports, physical security is not dead

NZ Security Magazine, Feb/Mar 2018

Increases in deployment of security systems, but no concurrent decrease in crime or insurance premiums.Increases in deployment of security systems, but no concurrent decrease in crime or insurance premiums.


Craig Bidois, Managing Director of FearFree Ltd, a leading security consulting and training provider based in Auckland, argues that as a business enabler, physical security should be an integral part of business strategy.


Physical versus cyber security

Firstly, physical security is not dead. Cyber and information security protects only a company's information (and reputation due to loss of information) – and given the specific skillset involved, it's essentially a technical area probably better placed within an IT department than within the traditional security role.

Having said that, from the helicopter view, cyber and information security is naturally intertwined with personnel security and the physical security of premises, which are areas more commonly associated with the traditional security role. Businesses, for example, should have policies around assessing the security status of personnel who interact with and are in charge of cyber and information systems, and important cyber systems need to be in protected areas within premises, which means policies around access, etc.

On the other hand, the security role doesn't require in-depth knowledge of cyber and information security per se - just an awareness of how these fit into a security environment defined by a risk-based framework.

Cyber security itself is probably best left to the experts, who can be engaged once it is determined how cyber/information security will fit into the overall business strategy of a company – and that is the role of the corporate security professional.


Security as a business enabler

Security should thus be regarded as a business enabler, and the scope of the traditional security function ought to be expanded to include playing an integral role in developing an agency’s strategic directions, business planning, and priority and goal setting.

This is just as important for SMEs as it is for large organisations. And the potential benefits for business are significant. Staff confident in their well-being, for example, develop better customer relationships, which means better business.

And there's still a place for the traditional security role. Physical security systems are still necessary where bricks and mortar premises exist, where there is merchandise to steal, and where people have to deal with people. Within security systems, policies and procedures are still necessary to govern how people use systems.

And all the same things that you need for cyber/tech in terms of constant monitoring of threats and upgrading of systems to cope with new and increasingly sophisticated risks are also required to keep premises and people safe and secure.


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Risk-based versus product-based

It is apparent that many security 'consultants' have become more allied to products to sell, becoming more like salespeople. They're probably their own worst friend in this regard, focusing on selling systems to businesses as ad hoc bolt-ons. Been burgled? Here, buy this CCTV, because I and your insurance company say so!

Businesses also need to help themselves by adopting risk based security frameworks. Systems can then be built into every day operations, and aligned with business objectives.

This is perhaps happening already. Businesses are adopting risk management frameworks themselves and don't feel they need the help of someone who just wants to sell them a camera system. Hence the decline in 'traditional consulting engagements'.

Although maybe it's just that the technology has become cheaper and more easily available - you simply don't need to pay someone to come in and tell you that you need CCTV anymore; it's on all the TV shows and demanded by insurance companies. Most people have a reactive approach to security - if you've been done over once, you're more likely to spend the money you may have been reluctant to in the first place.


Part of business strategy

Maybe the 'traditional consulting engagement' needs to move with the times: working with a business owner, considering their business objectives as well as the environment in which potential systems will exist in – not just the selling of products.

And you cannot do that with cheaper and cheaper staff, because it requires specialist engagement with professionals. The perils of cutting corners here is borne out by the fact that we have seen an increase in the deployment of systems such as CCTV, but no concurrent decrease in crime or insurance premiums.

The WINZ tragedy demonstrated the importance of physical security as a part of business strategy, and as part of a coherent whole-of-business approach to security and risk. Now, the security profession has to work proactively to sell that idea to the market: sure, I can sell you a camera, but how will you use it?

It's the old ‘give a person a fish versus teach a person to fish’ argument – and that's where the specific knowledge and experience of security professionals will come through… hopefully.



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