Converging physical security with IT security is a welcomed option for some in the industry. But many (nearly 73 percent, in fact) feel that integrating IT security with physical security can lead to a breach in their security operations, according to a recent survey released by Honeywell.

More and more often, our industry is seeing the need for physical security to be connected with IT security. Partnering these two security entities will no doubt create a more cohesive and smooth running operation, which can translate into fewer incidents and more protection for guests. But how many in the industry are actually executing this partnership?

Honeywell recently released a survey, “Enterprise Threat Management and Security Convergence: A Benchmarking Study,” revealing how some organizations are integrating physical security with IT security. More than 50 chief information officers, chief security officers and chief information and security officers of U.S.-based global companies with revenues from $1 billion to more than $100 billion participated in the survey.

The Study Findings

The study found that the majority of respondents (nearly 73 percent) believe vulnerabilities in either physical or IT security can lead to a breach in the other system. As such:
  • 91 percent of responding companies showed an increase in security investment

  • 75 percent of which said those investments increased by more than eight percent

  • 31 percent suggested a greater than 12 percent rise
“The convergence of physical and traditional IT systems can provide compelling security benefits for an enterprise,” said Mark Diodati, Identity and Privacy Strategies senior analyst with Burton Group, a well-known research service company. “Successful compliance initiatives can be enhanced when the organization adopts a holistic approach for managing access to these systems.”

“This study reinforces that companies are increasingly concerned with protecting their information assets as well as their physical assets, and they recognize that integrating once-disparate systems can be effective in addressing threats,” said Jim Ebzery, senior vice president of Identity and Security Management at Novell, which recently collaborated with Honeywell to develop a converged physical-IT security system. “How they choose to implement convergence varies on a number of factors including internal roles and overall attitudes about its effectiveness.”

Security Risks

When asked whether having physical security systems on IT backbones is a security risk, the answers were split: 59 percent said no, while 42 percent said yes.

The results also differed regarding personal responsibility for organizing responses to a coordinated physical-IT security attack:
  • 34 percent said there isn’t a single internal contact

  • 27 percent said the director of security is responsible

  • 14 percent said a single CSO deals with the threats

  • 14 percent said the crisis management group is ultimately responsible

What is Your Definition of Convergence?

When asked to define “convergence” (of course, our industry’s favorite catchphrase), responses varied from using IT backbones for security systems to automating manual processes through an IT system. Additional responses included the strategic partnership of physical and IT security organizations in risk management. Although these responses varied, they reinforced existing research.

For example, in the Feb. 22, 2008 report “Let’s Get Logical: The Convergence of Physical Access Control and Identity Systems” by the Burton Group, Diodati wrote, “The convergence of physical and logical systems has many moving parts. In addition, a convergence end state may look very different depending on an organization’s goals.”

Timing for Convergence – Looking Forward

Thirty-three percent of respondents said they envision convergence happening within their organizations in the next two to five years, while another 33 percent said convergence will never happen. The barriers associated with true convergence include: turf control, complexity and skills needed to handle multiple disciplines; budget conflicts; compatibility across groups; lack of technical platforms; and expanding privacy laws. 

“A multitude of elements must be in place for convergence to truly improve overall security and streamline internal business processes,” said John Lorenty, Honeywell Systems Group president.

“A strong IT backbone and common protocols are essential for convergence to be effective. Most importantly, a strong partnership between cross-functional teams is critical to ensure that ea converged solution meets the challenges of ever-evolving threats,” Lorenty added.

The study’s margin of error is plus/minus 2 percent. For more information about “Enterprise Threat Management and Security Convergence: A Benchmarking Survey,” please

SIDEBAR: Security and IT

Most respondents indicated increased interaction between their security and IT functions:
  • 63 percent said their security and IT organizations “had a formal coordination mechanism”

  • 10 percent stated the two functions are run as one entity within their organizations

  • 52 percent noted their security functions had a formal working relationship with their audit and compliance functions, while 11 percent said those functions are combined