As the age of the Internet is hitting a crescendo, cyber vulnerability is no longer a growing concern; it is a reality most businesses will face in the near future without adequate network protection.

Cybersecurity is a global issue that every industry faces, from government to corporate enterprises, to critical infrastructure and more. A recent Ponemon study shows that since 2013, the average cost of a data breach has risen 29 percent (or from $3.52 million to more than $4 million) in just three short years. More than half of spear phishing attacks carried out in December 2015 were targeted toward small enterprises in the U.K. Also, the U.S. government and Federal Reserve Bank are only two of the numerous high-profile victims of cyber attacks, with the Fed claiming more than 50 between 2011 and 2015. Major corporations faced the challenge of addressing vulnerabilities after a breach and – even after the stories have been told and protection assured to the public – there is still potential for new cyber attacks to have an even more widespread effect on the security of corporate data, assets and infrastructures across the globe.

Moreover, the ongoing development of the Internet of Things (IoT) has many professionals asking how much cybersecurity (or lack thereof) will play a role in the continued growth of a business and how we can get it right. The elevation, interconnectivity and transformation of our everyday encounters into IT analytical hotspots is an astounding wealth of technological innovation, but it prompts as many questions as it answers – chiefly, how will authorization and authentication be robust enough to manage the influx of sensitive data coming in through these devices?

From an identity management standpoint, this is a crucial moment for the security industry, as we are finally seeing the adoption of unified security and identity management policies applied to real-world applications, such as hospitals, school campuses and corporate enterprises. A unified approach to identity management is essential in adapting to the emergence of the IoT and allows IT departments within these enterprises to fill in security gaps and provide solutions that are resilient enough to combat and prevent cyber threats of varying degrees.

A unified access control approach uniquely promotes the health of corporate networks and physical security with IT-centric access control solutions. This type of access control is designed to easily and securely operate within an organization’s existing IT infrastructure, and seamlessly integrate with identity management and video surveillance to bridge the gap between physical and logical security applications. These Web-based systems can be installed anywhere and scale to service any size enterprise because they are not bound by traditional hardware requirements. Built using the language of the Internet, these platforms are designed to safeguard against cyber or physical attacks, with robust security made available through growing compliance with increasingly stringent government cybersecurity regulations. Moving forward, the true test of an access control system’s effectiveness in SMEs and above will be determined not by its hardware durability, but by its ability to harden networks and protect the enterprise and its databases.

When we compare the success of those who operate on unified platforms against those who don’t, it’s clear that there is still plenty of room for cooperation between CSOs, CIOs, CISOs and their colleagues on the physical side to adopt solutions that more effectively manage identities across the enterprise and scale to accommodate shifting business practices and changing threat vectors.

Our society is in the midst of growing pains caused by rapid growth in the fields of IP, wireless, cloud-based infrastructures and software-based systems. As our society continues to grow, age and learn more about the capabilities in access control, the future of cybersecurity will lie in how intelligently vulnerabilities can be mitigated, simultaneously opening up and enclosing vital networks that guard the world’s most sensitive information.