Government and its related entities are the biggest consumers of security in both its physical and electronic forms. It is also a fact that most of this consumption is rather uncoordinated and inefficient due to various reasons that cascade from a lack of knowledge about the real as well as potential risks and threats, to a lack of knowledge of what products, solutions and services are available in the market.
A need for comprehensive and well-constructed security strategies for these institutions is more profound now than it has ever been in the past. This is due to present day security threats that are common knowledge to governments throughout the world: the prevalence of terrorism in any form (more prevalent to some governments than others), cyber-related crime, identity theft, etc. These necessitate a paradigm shift as to how government entities have handled the aspect of security in the past. It can no longer be business as usual and security can longer be relegated to the status of a peripheral service.
There is a heightened level of awareness to security issues, hence the reclassification of institutions and the promulgation of what is termed a National Keypoints strategy and related legislature in South Africa. This is one strategy that was designed to ensure that a certain level of security and protection of classified institutions, information, people etc. is achieved over and above what has been the norm.
One must congratulate such efforts from government as indeed we have seen some change in certain instances where the regulations are adhered to.
The reality on the ground, however, is that not a lot has changed. Physical and electronic security solutions are still fragmented, there is little if any coordination between systems and people, basic identity management is ignored, unauthorised movements are still the order of the day and surveillance and perimeter systems are at most as asleep as most guards are on night duty.
I have walked in many such buildings, arrived at certain offices high up in the building without any system or person questioning my movement. I have accidentally met people in elevators that I should actually not have met if an elevator access control system was in place, for example.
I have driven out of many parking lots of such buildings through a boom that is standing open, walked through a turnstile that is on free-flow, walked right past a dysfunctional luggage scanner, past many metal detectors that don’t work, given access by a friendly security guard without any checks, to black camera display monitors, to control rooms where operators are reading newspapers because there is nothing to watch or do. I am certain that many industry colleagues can attest to some of these experiences.
The solution to most of these inefficiencies lies in partnerships between security stakeholders within government institutions and the relevant private sector role players. The security industry should be given a chance to participate in finding lasting solutions instead of being viewed otherwise.
The correct mix and match of solutions must be designed and implemented, but most importantly, the relationships that are created at implementation must be maintained post implementation to ensure that strategies deliver what was intended. Furthermore they must be maintained and monitored to ensure they offer value for money for the client as well as security for valuable assets, which include people, buildings and equipment, as well as information.
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