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Cybersecurity in 2023: what physical security customers should know

Cybersecurity in 2023: what physical security customers should know
Although there is an increased awareness about the cybersecurity of physical security devices, many customers still remain unaware of the implications and the steps they should take.
With physical security and surveillance devices becoming IP-based, we see an increasing number of cybersecurity attacks targeting them. Most major manufacturers of surveillance cameras, access control devices, and other related devices are forced to work round-the-clock to find vulnerabilities in their systems before hackers and offer patches.
Although there is an increased awareness about the cybersecurity of physical security devices, many customers still remain unaware of the implications and the steps they should take. This article explores the major threats now and how to protect against them.

Biggest cybersecurity threats

A crucial concern is the increasing sophistication and organized nature of cyberattacks. Gone are the days when hackers were just overenthusiastic geeks experimenting with their systems. With more technology advancements like cloud-based storage and applications coming in, the chances of data breach increase.
“Some of the biggest cybersecurity threats to physical security devices include different areas including network breaches, device vulnerabilities, malware, and phishing,” explains Luis Corrons, Security Evangelist at Avast. “In terms of network breaches, unauthorized access to the network on which the devices are connected can allow attackers to control or disrupt the devices.”
If device software or hardware is outdated with unpatched vulnerabilities, attackers can easily exploit them and gain access. Also, malware can be installed on the devices to gain control of them or steal sensitive information. Attackers can also use phishing tactics to trick users into providing login credentials or other sensitive information, which can then be used to gain access to the devices.

Cybersecurity trends in recent times

According to Check Point Research (CPR), global cyberattacks increased 38 percent in 2022 from the previous year. The increase was driven by smaller, more agile attackers and gangs taking advantage of collaboration tools used for remote working and education institutions that moved to online classes after the pandemic.
“We have seen ransomware use complicated methods of partial encryption more and more,” Corrons pointed out. “For instance, ransomware would only encrypt the beginning or the end of a file or blocks of files to avoid detection. Also, the past year, we saw a decrease in ransomware attacks in the first quarter of the year, which was likely due to the war in Ukraine, where many ransomware operators and affiliates operate from.”
The war caused a rift within one of the big ransomware gangs, Conti, which included Russian and Ukrainian members. This resulted in a temporary decline of Conti ransomware, but there was an increase again from the second quarter in 2022. Corrons added that they also see ransomware gangs now increasingly exfiltrating data from enterprises, threatening to publish sensitive files, and then deleting or corrupting the files rather than encrypting them.

7 cybersecurity tips for physical security customers

There are a number of steps that can be taken to enhance and strengthen the cybersecurity of physical security devices. If you are in the process of acquiring the devices, make sure the company producing them is known and reliable, and learn what the lifecycle of the product you are going to purchase is and for how long it will receive security updates. If you already have the devices, then Corrons suggests the following measures.
  1. Keep software and firmware up to date

Manufacturers often release updates to address known vulnerabilities in their devices. Keep all devices updated to the latest version to ensure that they are protected against known threats.
  1. Use strong passwords

Probably the most common advice but surprisingly often ignored. Use strong, unique passwords for all devices. Avoid using easily guessed or common words for passwords. A frequent problem is not changing default passwords or resorting to the same passwords for several accounts and devices. Given the option, always enable two-factor authentication.
  1. Use encryption

Use encryption to protect the data transmitted between devices and the network. This will make it much harder for attackers to intercept and read sensitive data.
  1. Limit network access

Limit the number of devices that have access to the network and segment the network to further limit access. This will make it harder for attackers to gain access to the devices.
  1. Use firewalls and intrusion detection/prevention systems

Use firewalls and intrusion detection/prevention systems to block unauthorized access to the devices and detect any suspicious activity. Ensure you use cybersecurity products from proven, reputed brands.
  1. Conduct regular security audits

Regularly conduct security audits to identify and address any vulnerabilities in the devices and systems. In many instances, customers realize a device malfunction only after a security incident. Don’t let this happen to you.
  1. Train employees

Cybersecurity training should be a part of physical security teams at organizations. Train employees to be aware of potential security threats and how to respond to them. Being prepared is one of the best ways to protect yourself.

Final word

The chances of hackers taking advantage of weak links in physical security systems are increasing. But a related point to note is how cyberattacks can take down physical security altogether. For instance, a ransomware attack on a US prison in January 2022 made surveillance cameras and automatic doors inoperable. Incidents of home security and other cameras being hacked into and streamed online are not uncommon.
For the customer, ensuring the use of devices from reputed brands is the first step. This, along with the seven steps mentioned in this article, will go a long way in ensuring security against cyberattacks.
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