What’s Physical Access?

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Physical access security is important to prevent unauthorized access to IT systems. Measures include locks, biometric identification, security guards, cameras, and exterior security measures. Access control systems need to be properly secured as they can be vulnerable to hacking. Security layers can reduce the risk of a breach.

Physical access security prevents people from coming into direct contact with IT systems and components. It’s a major security issue, as all the technical access controls in the world can’t eliminate some problems, such as someone walking into an office and taking a hard drive. There are a number of measures that security professionals can use to limit physical access and keep systems secure. These may include the use of locks, biometric identification and security guards in facilities with sensitive equipment.

If someone can gain physical access to a location with secured computer components, that person may be able to breach security and obtain information. Sometimes this can be as simple as checking a desk drawer for a password someone might have written down. The hacker could also install keystroke loggers and use various cracking attempts on the computer system to obtain the data. If these measures fail, hackers can simply take the computer itself and work on it in another location.

A basic measure of physical access is a lockable door, with access restricted to authorized personnel only. Server rooms and similar facilities can always be locked to protect them. People may be able to enter with a key or card. Some facilities use biometrics to make sure people don’t gain access by stealing cards or forging credentials used to open a lock. This simple access control can be very effective in some facilities.

The cameras can be used to monitor sensitive areas where physical access is an issue. Guards can remotely observe signs of suspicious activity, and cameras can even be reviewed after a break-in to gather intelligence. Additionally, facilities may place guards near a room with sensitive computer equipment, or around the building in general, to make it impossible for anyone without the right credentials to gain entry. Other exterior security measures may include fences, window alarms, and guard dogs, depending on the facility and its needs.
It is possible to interface between physical access and computer security. Many access control systems use a network to communicate information, as seen with biometric and electronic credentials. These same systems can be vulnerable to hacking and need to be properly secured. Human guards aren’t infallible for a different reason; they could be bribed, blackmailed, or overpowered by someone who wants to join a facility. Security layers can reduce the risk of a breach by creating automatic security systems.

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