The second decade of the 21st century, and particularly in the last year, the global community has suffered numerous incidents of high-profile and destructive cyberattacks. From the National Security Agency (NSA), to the American and French elections, and Sony Pictures, just to name a few, it appears no entity, intelligence or otherwise, is immune or fully safeguarded. Moreover, with the rise of internet of Things (IoT) technologies and the global community’s dependence on smart cities, the question remains: Does the shortcoming or culprit lie within the digital or physical security realms?

Physical security, cyber safety and critical infrastructure protection are just a few of the homeland security segments that will be discussed at the upcoming International Exhibition for National Security and Resilience (ISNR Abu Dhabi 2018). The eighth edition of the event will run from March 6-8, 2018 at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, and feature a wide range of exhibitors, pavilions, forums and co-located events focused on protecting assets as well as lives.

In today’s hyperconnected and fast-paced world, physical security often appears as an afterthought. However, it is not something to be taken lightly. While the rise of cybercrime may overshadow physical threats at present, proper integration of multi-layered and interdependent physical security procedures with stringent cyber security protocols renders a hack — whether remote or on-ground — near-impossible.

Part of the problem perhaps stems from the misconception that virtual and physical security are two separate entities. In today’s digital world, even the smallest thing can have a global impact. Recently, intruders from every corner of the world are churning out technological innovations just as fast as global industries and, to add insult to injury, they are disseminating the knowledge on how to attack. This leaves enterprises more susceptible to a spate of attacks that seem to come from every direction.

The lack of effective physical security measures can lead to sensitive information being stolen or used against an organisation. The world we live in is full of threats — from natural disasters to terrorist attacks and sabotages. Therefore, industries must be prompt in implementing the latest measures to protect their physical and intellectual property, whether it is site design and layout, environmental mechanisms, emergency response readiness, or training. A solid blend of these measures will help businesses prevent disruptions.

When critical infrastructure comes into play, the demands on physical security grow exponentially. Safeguarding critical infrastructure is not the sole domain of governments and private companies — it is the responsibility of every citizen.

When under attack, it is not only the targeted establishments that become vulnerable, but also public health and safety, as well as national economic stability. Entities such as government agencies, airports, banks, railways, and power generation companies must constantly adapt to ensure the safety and security of their premises and, in turn, the public.

Physical security protocols

At a time of increasingly audacious attacks, it is just as crucial to adopt a proactive defence agenda on a physical security level. Governments must take advantage of technological innovations to bolster their physical security protocols and improve response times. Cutting-edge technology such as surveillance cameras, intruder alerts, and access control systems enables better preparation to avert worldwide attacks.

Since its inception in 2007, the Critical Infrastructure and Coastal Protection Authority has ensured the security of Abu Dhabi’s critical infrastructure and safeguarded the country’s social stability. With its expertise in implementing comprehensive risk management programmes, the authority emphasises the importance of taking all necessary precautions for preventing against potential incidents.

Security breaches are not limited to institutions and companies — individuals are at risk as well. Recent events saw the police discovering that the homes of several families had been infiltrated through surveillance cameras, leaving their private lives exposed. This common threat that holds the public to ransom requires a tactical approach using sophisticated procedures that focus on physical security just as much as cyber security. Even with the most advanced cybersecurity system in place, if there is a deficiency in physical security, attackers can easily enter the premises and gain access to sensitive information.

Meline Eolmezian-Soulie is the group exhibition director of the security and safety portfolio at Reed Exhibitions.