Physical Security: The New Frontier in Identity Management

February 12, 2007

Physical Security: The New Frontier in Identity Management

Risk management is a key focus for many executives today. And it’s the driving force behind many major investments companies make to achieve business goals, particularly regulatory compliance. It’s also a key factor in bringing together investments in IT security and those made for improving the physical security of company facilities.


Over the past few years, much has been made of the need to tie the identity of users of corporate systems to the applications that they use, and the information that is generated or utilized. These identities need to be correlated and matched across a wide range of information sources, from disparate in-house technology systems to electronic transactions among business partners.


For many years, the security of technology systems has been treated as an  isolated business requirement., But a sea change in occurring. We now realize that it is not sufficient to tie down access to IT assets if we do not control who is entering our buildings. This is leading to a convergence between IT and physical security and we are finally seeing the two, often separate disciplines, being brought under the same budget and the same central ownership.


In physical security, the need for effective identity management is clear. Every company wants to know who is accessing its premises, from employees entering via the main door to sensitive areas, such as warehouses where expensive products are stored. It is not sufficient to install cameras on perimeter fences to catch an intruder if no one is able to act on that information.

But, until recently, most physical security measures taken were based on outdated technology. Surveillance by analogue cameras requires the presence of attentive security guards. Entry to an office building has largely been controlled by requiring an employee to flash their photo ID at a guard on the front desk. In reality, no one really knew who was doing what.


There is still some way to go, but physical security technologies are evolving fast. Surveillance cameras are now being digitized, with added technology capabilities such as behavior mapping, allowing real-time surveillance of much wider areas without the need to rely on the tired eyes of a security guard.


Such technology can now also be integrated with physical sensors that can alert human resources to changes in conditions, such as when a door is opened by an intruder or when a temperature rises above a pre-set level. Not only that, but camera footage can now be effectively screened so that the identities of intruders can be gauged if physical security systems are integrated with IT identity management solutions.

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