What is Physical Security in Cyber World, Common Threats, and Best Practices

With the growing trend of cyber-attacks, organizations are becoming less focused on their physical security compared to their IT security. There is a perception that setting up a state-of-the-art firewall system, network segregation, access controls, AI-driven endpoint protection, and similar other digital security measures are enough to keep digital assets safe.

Although cybersecurity measures are mandatory, but what about unauthorized access to your physical premises and compromising of your corporate network from within your workplace? Physical security and cybersecurity go hand in hand and neither one of them can be neglected. To highlight more about the necessity of physical security in today’s digital era, this article presents a brief and comprehensive guide on physical security.

What is Physical Security?

In general, physical security implies the protection of people, physical assets, and property from all possible physical damaging events, such as natural disasters, fire, theft, burglary, etc. In cybersecurity, physical security implies protection of IT assets and digital data from physical threats, such as unauthorized personnel access to the server room, suspicious USB drives, unauthorized corporate network access from within the workplace, and similar other threats.

Let’s understand the importance of physical security with Sony Pictures’ cyber-physical attack. As reported by CSO Online, a couple of years ago, Sony had to shut down its corporate network because employee workstations were compromised by attackers. They managed to get physical access to the internal network possibly by insider help, which allowed them to gain access to the employee workstations.

We cannot expect Sony to be negligent towards cybersecurity measures, but the lack of physical security within the workplace led to the network breach. This implies the importance and significance of having proper physical security alongside the organization’s cybersecurity.

Common Physical Security Threats

With the growing reliance on IoT devices and more interconnected systems and networks, cyber-physical attacks can cast prominent financial and reputational damage. In this perspective, the following are some of the common physical attacks that organizations have to be cautious about:

  • Social Engineering

There are different forms of social engineering attacks, but the basic strategy in such attacks is to manipulate employees to gain access to networks or secure areas. Usually by abusing human empathy or impersonating someone else makes social engineering attacks possible. For example, an unauthorized person holding two cups of coffee one in each hand near an office door will get assistance from someone (employee) in opening the door, thereby letting the person in without any suspicious thoughts.

  • Identification Thefts

Most of the organizations have an access control system, where employees’ ID cards or special access cards let them access the secure area. But it is very easy for employees to lose their ID or access cards. Once an unauthorized person gets access to an access card, he can easily enter the secure server or network room. These access cards can also be cloned by a malicious attacker.

  • Tailgating

Tailgating implies a scenario when an unauthorized person follows the employee (authorized person) into the secure area. Once an employee swipes the card to open the door, anyone behind him/her can easily enter the premises. It is one of the easiest ways for unauthorized persons to enter any secure area.

  • Unsupervised Visitors

When an organization has a flow of continuous visitors, allowing them to roam around the workplace without monitoring can be very risky. Some visitors can pretend to have an appointment with higher management or present themselves as friends to any employee to get into the premises. So, if there are no proper security measures to inspect visitors at the entrance stage and monitor them afterward, then they are free to make any damage.

Once unauthorized persons get inside the organization’s premises, they can conduct different types of cyber-attacks, such as attempt to enter a corporate network or server room, plug in malicious USB devices, steal sensitive documents, etc.

Recommended Physical Security Practices

The above-listed physical security attacks are some of the common ones an organization can face, but the evolving technological advancements also encourage new attack methods. Therefore, up-to-date and robust physical security practices are the need of the corporate world. Below are some of the recommended physical security practices that your organization must consider:

  • Advanced Access System: In addition to a swipe-card access system to enter secure areas, you should practice more advanced measures, such as fingerprint scanning, anti-tailgating doors (Man Traps), etc.

  • IT Equipment Security & Monitoring: Equipment handling sensitive business data must be installed in a secure physical location with proper door locks, ideally with motion sensors, cameras, and alarm systems. In addition, the system should have continuous monitoring and keep records any activity conducted at the physical location.

  • Robust Security at Facility Entrance: An organization’s entrance area should be highly secure. No one should be able to enter the premises without entry via a card system or other access methods. Visitors should be provided with special passes while being on the premises and their whole visit period should be accompanied by employees and properly monitored.

  • Employees Awareness: It is necessary to have proper physical security measures at your organization, but they cannot serve the security needs alone. Your employees have a crucial role to play in ensuring top-notch physical security. Therefore, you need to raise awareness in employees about physical security and make them capable to identify and respond to any cyber-physical attack.


In present times, both cybersecurity and physical security are crucial for organizations. Failing to ensure effective physical security measures can leave behind security loopholes that can let criminals get access to sensitive data and IT resources. On the other hand, top-notch cybersecurity along with well-executed physical security gives an organization a solid chance to defend itself from any major calamity.