Converging security technologies

November 2007 Access Control & Identity Management

The convergence of physical and logical security technologies has come a long way, with the IT industry coming to terms with voice/data/video convergence, and the security industry taking advantage of the narrowing of the gap between traditional security systems and newer IT technologies.

Konrad Weinert, sales leader – Africa at Honeywell Systems Group, offers a breakdown of 'convergence':

What is convergence?

* Interfacing of mission critical systems

- Zero time provisioning and de-provisioning.

- Employees continue to use the tools that they have always used.

- Event correlation and forensics.

* One card solutions for physical accessIT

- Leverage investments.

- Reduced total cost of ownership.

* Software controlled process

- User self-service web portals with e-mail notifications.

- Automation with audit trails (eg compliance ready).

- Risk management.

How do you protect your information?

* Over 85% of a company’s value is in its information.

* Over 122 countries are actively trying to steal technology secrets and intellectual property.

* Over 54 000 serious computer attacks have been reported in the last minute.

* In the last minute six people had their identities stolen.

* Corporate crime and espionage cost a total of R10,5 trillion annually.

What is the revenue loss?

* In a recent issue of Executive Legal Advisor Magazine an article title 'Failure to Protect Employees From Terrorism May Lead to Liability' the following statements appeared, stating: “Directors and company officers have an obligation to use good judgment to protect the company and its shareholders. If they fail to draft an effective plan before a foreseeable crisis, shareholders could sue for the lost value of their investment.”

Safeguard physical and logical assets

* Secure access and provisioning solution for high security requirements.

* Control users access across disparate systems.

* Reduce cost and increase productivity by simplifying the complex privilege assigning processes.

* Manage identity information across multiple systems.

* Making IT managers happy:

- Automatically synchronise user data and passwords across multiple facilities and systems.

- Maintain a single point of management for all users.

- Update role changes and terminate user access.

* End result = tighter security controls across all organisational systems.

Physical and IT security convergence resolved

Most of South Africa’s large corporations are well aware of the potential of convergent technologies. From the mining industry to the financial sector, many enterprises have their future adoption of these technologies mapped out. And Richard Creighton, national technical leader at ADI International, says the company has seen some major success in financial institutes that have converged their physical and logical security solutions. At the very least, even those companies that have not made concrete plans are able to envisage the business benefits convergence can deliver.

Creighton believes that in the financial market, convergent technologies will not only improve security processes, but will also assist in meeting corporate governance objectives, adding that there are also cost benefits. Efficiently designed security systems making full use of the latest converged solutions will, at the very least, reduce the number of physical guards required while increasing the scope of monitoring systems and the reaction time of officials.

Converged security will also affect companies’ internal IT security and identity management processes. By linking users’ identities to building management, the overall security of the enterprise can be substantially improved. A user will not be able to log onto the system if they have not already entered the building, for example.

According to Creighton, the biggest corporate constraint to the migration to converged security solutions is the ‘purse factor’. The benefits are understood, but the costs of moving to the new solutions are frightening to some.

Weinert and Creighton agree that there is still an education process that many companies need to go through to fully understand the concept. “It is often difficult in the beginning, as traditionally the parts of the whole converged solution have been owned by different departments,” explains Weinert. “Some responsibilities fell under security, some under HR and then some under IT. What we have found works, is to have one person take on the role of risk manager in the project – someone who understands the business process of the company, and what the company wants to achieve by converging the security solution.”

Once the decision to embark on a migration has been made, however, Creighton warns that change management and not cost is likely to be the most important aspect of the project. “Even with all the benefits convergence brings, there will still be changes in traditional processes that need to be transferred to staff, which will also need training in the new tools. Moreover, ensuring staff members are kept in the loop and motivated to adopt the new system is also a critical task.”

As mentioned above, many companies have already made the move to offering clients converged security solutions, unfortunately these are in the minority. Creighton warns that too many of today’s security companies are technically inclined and take the approach of wiring up systems and considering their jobs done. Making the move to understanding and incorporating the advantages of IT security solutions into their offerings is generally not on the cards.

This is unfortunate because both camps (the physical and IT security worlds) will increasingly rely on each other as the march to security convergence advances. Customers will soon realise that the lack of IT connectivity and communications skills (for example) needed to integrate security systems into the corporate networking backbone will result in inferior performance and will be forced to look for other partners with the requisite skills to assist them.

The move to converged security systems is still in its infancy. A few companies are leading the field, supported by a few vendors that have made the necessary internal changes to support them. The mass market is still some way away from adopting converged technologies as the migration will be costly and require substantial integration skills, especially for companies relying on legacy systems.

Those companies able to start fresh, however, without older systems and resellers they need to drag into the 21st century are at an advantage. Converged products do have a higher purchase price, but the financial and productivity returns in the medium and long term easily cover the higher initial costs.

The move to converged security solutions is a winning deal on all sides. Customers can be sure of a return on investment, improved services and greater control, while service providers can expand their range of offerings and hence their businesses. There will, of course, be a lot more talk about convergence in the future, but this is merely a reflection of the uncertainty at the beginning of a tremendous change in the security industry that will affect everyone sooner rather than later.

For more information contact Konrad Weinert, sales leader - Africa, Honeywell Systems Group, +27 (0)11 695 8016, www.honeywell.com/security/emea



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