The Top 3 Misconceptions About Cyber Security & Access Control

Plus advice from the experts on how best to tackle this ongoing issue.

by Karen Hodgson, SDM Magazine

If you don’t think cyber security is an issue today you are dead wrong. But even if you think you are on top of things, chances are you — or your customers — still harbor some misconceptions, particularly when it comes to access control systems.

According to Terry Gold, founder of D6 Research, a research and consulting company dedicated to cyber security and the physical security industry, there is still a lot the security industry gets wrong, particularly when it comes to understanding actual hackers and their motivations and methods. (See online exclusive, “Think Like a Hacker to Better Understand Cyber Security.”) But he has seen promising movement.

“D6 Research has been seeing a slow but progressive change in sentiment over the past couple of years,” he says. “I sense a movement where 2018 is the year of the security industry to reach consensus that it’s no longer acceptable to be dismissive of cyber security.”

It is a progression, agrees Bill Bozeman, CPP, president and CEO, PSA Security Network, Westminster, Colo. “Originally when we started on our soapbox, it was denial. Now we are past that stage, which is good…. Everyone became aware simultaneously that this is an issue and now it is in the action level. We have gone from denial to awareness to action. We are much better off now than two years ago.”

Despite this, there is still a perception in the security industry that access control is somehow a little less at risk — and that is just not true, say the experts.

“Access control is generally one portion of an organization’s comprehensive protection plan that incorporates additional pieces, such as fire, intrusion, video surveillance and video management, to name a few,” says Eric Widlitz, vice president, North America sales, Vanderbilt, Parsippany, N.J. “However, the safety of a business is only as strong as its weakest link.”

Let’s take a look at some of the top misconceptions, with some advice for each.

1. Access control is not as vulnerable as some of the other security systems

Many people have this impression, but while it may seem that way, it’s simply not the case.

Ryan Zatolokin, business development manager, senior technologist, Axis Communications Inc., Chelmsford, Mass., says in some ways access control systems can even be more vulnerable because video systems historically get changed out for newer models more frequently than access control systems. “It is a misconception that video is more at risk. All networked devices are at risk…. Not one is inherently more at risk than the other. The concerns with access control are the same as with video — those older systems that aren’t maintained. [But] there are legacy access control systems running today that may have a Windows 95 box actually controlling a board in the closet. That to me is scary.”

Legacy systems are very vulnerable, says Matt Barnette, president, Mercury Security, part of HID Global, Long Beach, Calif. “All of these panels are network devices so by default if you are installing it on the network you are potentially opening up a gateway for someone to hack in.”

Even that might not be enough, Gold cautions. “One of the biggest misconceptions is that cyber security is primarily about network security. This is only one aspect; there are many others not even related that can undermine everything. Even if a network is completely secure, once someone gets in, then what? Strategy needs to have depth in so many areas. Attackers know this.”

Derek Arcuri, product marketing manager, Genetec Inc., Montreal, agrees. “We hear people saying, ‘So what if someone hacks my IP connected lights or HVAC? They will make my lights turn off? Big deal.’ It is a big misconception that the technology in question is the only victim. In reality it is everything that is connected to that system. Think of the entire network in terms of every single server or edge device that comes in contact with that access control system.”

Access control has been an afterthought, but that is changing, says integrator Colin DePree, sales manager, Pro-Tec Design, Minnetonka, Minn. “We are a lot further along on cyber security from the video platform perspective, but now we are starting to see OSDP and cloud-based access platforms that are forcing us to understand cyber hygiene and having those conversations [on the access control side].”

2. It is mainly someone else’s problem.

Cyber security is not a one-stop problem/solution. “Both end users and integrators tend to think it is someone else’s problem,” Zatolokin says. “They might think IT is taking care of it, or the security department is taking care of it. Often there is just not enough communication around this.”

Sometimes it is a matter of not knowing what you don’t know, DePree says. “There can be a lack of urgency or knowledge of what we can do and how we can improve. Sometimes it is an over-reliance on the manufacturers, thinking it is their equipment so it is their responsibility. In reality it is all of our responsibility.”

DePree adds that the real problem is communication. “There is a partnership needed between the customer, the integrator and the manufacturer. If every single one is doing their part in cyber security, it can work. But if the manufacturer says they are doing their part yet they are not communicating or teaching or training the integrator on what they should be doing; or the integrator says they know about cyber and they put the best-rated access control system on, but don’t know what settings they should be using; or on the customer side they say they are just putting access control in and their network is secure, then all three think they are doing a good job, but in reality there has to be continuity and communication through all three of those layers. It has to be a cooperative effort.”

3.Cyber security is too complicated — or too simple.

Many security integrators are so overwhelmed by the issue of cyber security they truly don’t know where to start; while others see it as a problem that can be “fixed.” Although there is no doubt that the issue of cyber security is real and complex, there are always ways to tackle tough issues.

“Sometimes people want something that will solve all their problems,” Zatolokin says. They want some specific magical feature that will make that system secure or a magic box you can put on a network to make it secure.” He has also seen the opposite reaction.

“When I talk to IT background people it is a short, concise conversation. If not, it could be a sky-is-falling conversation. Every risk can be mitigated.”

Widlitz says, “With cyber security, you must act everyday. It is not something where you can say, ‘We’re safe; we’re secure; let’s forget about it.’”

Read the original article at SDM Magazine.