Thanks to technology, the world we live in today can be quite a simple one. For instance, home appliances such as TVs, heating systems, air conditioners, and lighting systems can now be controlled remotely using smart devices. We can also grocery shop, buy concert tickets, rent a movie, and order pizza via smartphones without having to leave the house.

The dark side of the coin in this fast-growing, technology-driven world, however, is the threat of cyberattack. The danger of cybercriminals is genuine. Last year, a ring of hackers called the Carbanak gang was discovered by the Kaspersky Lab, where it was reported the ring had stolen over $1 billion from financial institutions around the globe.

Cybersecurity

With this in mind, vulnerability testing of your security solutions is a must. A security vulnerability in a product is a pattern of conditions in the design of the system that is unable to prevent an attack resulting. This will result in perversions of the system such as mishandling, deleting, altering, or extracting data.

With more connectivity over the internet, IP physical security systems can be vulnerable to attacks. Hacking an IP security system can take place through a variety of forms, some being quite simple. For example, in a brute-force attack, a hacker just "guesses" passwords. Given that most people choose easy-to-remember passwords, many can be deduced via simple algorithms.

Denial-of-Service Cyberattacks A standard method of cyber attack is a Denial-of-Service

Another standard method of attack is a Denial-of-Service. Here the offender attempts to overload the system by flooding the target with excessive demands and prevent legitimate requests from being carried out. This effectively makes it impossible to stop the attack by blocking a single source.

For instance, if a Denial-of-Service were to barrage and sink a Vanderbilt SPC panel successfully, the panel wouldn’t send any alarms. The Denial-of-Service would cause the panel to reset, rendering the alarm silent.

So, from this point-of-view, vulnerability testing is a must, and Vanderbilt always incorporates this into the development phase of products from day one onward. This thought process includes analysis of the type of cyberattacks that can potentially attack, breach, and disable a system. You then have the option to try and hack your product from within the organization or hire a third party professional group to attempt to do it for you.

Identifying and Tackling Security Vulnerabilities

Essentially, this form of testing puts the product through its paces, and once weaknesses are exposed, they can be patched up, and the cycle of attack-and-defense can take place again until eventually, a watertight ship is in place and ready for market.

This is standard practice as even the Pentagon brought in hackers to help identify more than 100 security vulnerabilities in their systems. Reportedly, hackers that could locate security issues were awarded up to $15,000 each, with approximately 1,400 hackers taking part in the project.

While approaches like the Pentagon’s might seem dramatic, given the cash incentives they put up for grabs, when you consider how much people depend on online channels in today’s interconnected world, any security breach could lead to a devastating loss in customer confidence and therefore revenue.

Vulnerability and Security Testing

Testing is the critical discipline that helps identify where corrective measures need to be taken to rectify gaps in security

Testing is the critical discipline that helps identify where corrective measures need to be taken to rectify gaps in security. The more extensive an organization’s security testing approaches are, the better are its chances of succeeding in an increasingly volatile technology landscape.

Due to the practice of vulnerability testing, Vanderbilt has been able to change their thought process when approaching the design and development of security systems, in particular, SPC. This intruder detection system has been designed so that should an attack penetrate, such as Denial-of-Service, the system has multiple communication paths available as a backup.

SPC Intrusion Detection System

Therefore, if one server is flooded and taken down, the system can immediately switch to a backup server and then change communication paths to bypass the attack and ensure messages still operate successfully. So, the system will remain operational, and it will still be able to communicate out, but it will start to shut down elements of itself to protect the system from further damage in the attack.

Unfortunately, vulnerability testing isn’t something that can just be tried and tested for in the development phase and then forgotten about. Cyberattacks must also be prepared for long after the product is released to market.

This is because, as technology continues to advance, so too do would-be hackers innovation in creating methods and means to tackle and take down a security system. As such, Vanderbilt creates regular firmware updates to keep a product in the field readily prepared to revoke the latest critical bugs that can flood the market, such as the recent Meltdown and Specter bugs.

Data Security Strategy A robust data security strategy must involve recognition of your product’s potential weaknesses

A robust data security strategy must involve recognition of your product’s potential weaknesses. With IP physical security systems, it is now an endless game of cat and mouse in staying ahead of the latest threats and hacking innovations. Therefore, vulnerability testing is a valuable weapon in your overall defensive arsenal. As well, as vulnerability testing its systems, Vanderbilt has various other forms of obstacles and barriers to deter and deceive would-be hackers.

The groundwork for many of the cloud’s security worries is that organizations are ceding control of their data and depending on cloud service providers to preserve it for them. But cloud encryption delivers additional levels of defense, providing a useful antidote to this anxiety.

FlexC Communications Protocol

FlexC, Vanderbilt’s communications protocol, was built from the ground up solely with cybersecurity in mind. The protocol is a bespoke design that ensures everything is encrypted, all communications are monitored, and multiple types of attack are considered for defensive purposes to provide the best security possible.

So, essentially what this means is, that this makes our cloud security extremely secure. The encryption used by FlexC communications between panels and the cloud is an AES 256-bit SSL encryption – basically, a 128-digit number that would need to be decoded to breach.

Cloud Security

By encrypting anything before you send it to the cloud, it adds an extra cushion of control and power over that data

By encrypting anything before you send it to the cloud, it adds an extra cushion of control and power over that data. It not only provides an added defensive structure around a company's information, but it also adds peace of mind to the equation when relaying this data to the cloud.

With cybersecurity, you must act every week. It is not something where you can say, “we’re safe, we’re secure, let’s forget about it.” Every time you release a product or release an update, you must centralize your mindset on cybersecurity. Vanderbilt’s fundamental way of approaching this issue is to stay in the mindset of assuming someone is currently trying to attack one of our systems.

SPC Connect

So, when you look at the way our security solutions, like SPC Connect, are designed, you will see that they are built with that mentality in mind. To conclude, people have a misconception that vulnerability announcements are a terrible thing. However, on the contrary, they can and should be viewed as a positive thing.

Having an environment within the software industry of open disclosures only means that we can learn from mistakes, we can see how hackers are attempting to breach systems, and ultimately, it can help us stay ahead of the curve and one-step clear of hackers’ latest intentions. Finally, when system vulnerabilities are reported, it just means that vulnerability testing down the line will improve; the bar will continue to rise.

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Water Plant Attack Emphasizes Cyber’s Impact On Physical Security
Water Plant Attack Emphasizes Cyber’s Impact On Physical Security

At an Oldsmar, Fla., water treatment facility on Feb. 5, an operator watched a computer screen as someone remotely accessed the system monitoring the water supply and increased the amount of sodium hydroxide from 100 parts per million to 11,100 parts per million. The chemical, also known as lye, is used in small concentrations to control acidity in the water. In larger concentrations, the compound is poisonous – the same corrosive chemical used to eat away at clogged drains. The impact of cybersecurity attacks The incident is the latest example of how cybersecurity attacks can translate into real-world, physical security consequences – even deadly ones.Cybersecurity attacks on small municipal water systems have been a concern among security professionals for years. The computer system was set up to allow remote access only to authorized users. The source of the unauthorized access is unknown. However, the attacker was only in the system for 3 to 5 minutes, and an operator corrected the concentration back to 100 parts per million soon after. It would have taken a day or more for contaminated water to enter the system. In the end, the city’s water supply was not affected. There were other safeguards in place that would have prevented contaminated water from entering the city’s water supply, which serves around 15,000 residents. The remote access used for the attack was disabled pending an investigation by the FBI, Secret Service and Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. On Feb. 2, a compilation of breached usernames and passwords, known as COMB for “Compilation of Many Breaches,” was leaked online. COMB contains 3.2 billion unique email/password pairs. It was later discovered that the breach included the credentials for the Oldsmar water plant. Water plant attacks feared for years Cybersecurity attacks on small municipal water systems have been a concern among security professionals for years. Florida’s Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted that the attempt to poison the water supply should be treated as a “matter of national security.” “The incident at the Oldsmar water treatment plant is a reminder that our nation’s critical infrastructure is continually at risk; not only from nation-state attackers, but also from malicious actors with unknown motives and goals,” comments Mieng Lim, VP of Product Management at Digital Defense Inc., a provider of vulnerability management and threat assessment solutions.The attack on Oldsmar’s water treatment system shows how critical national infrastructure is increasingly becoming a target for hackers as organizations bring systems online “Our dependency on critical infrastructure – power grids, utilities, water supplies, communications, financial services, emergency services, etc. – on a daily basis emphasizes the need to ensure the systems are defended against any adversary,” Mieng Lim adds. “Proactive security measures are crucial to safeguard critical infrastructure systems when perimeter defenses have been compromised or circumvented. We have to get back to the basics – re-evaluate and rebuild security protections from the ground up.” "This event reinforces the increasing need to authenticate not only users, but the devices and machine identities that are authorized to connect to an organization's network,” adds Chris Hickman, Chief Security Officer at digital identity security vendor Keyfactor. “If your only line of protection is user authentication, it will be compromised. It's not necessarily about who connects to the system, but what that user can access once they're inside. "If the network could have authenticated the validity of the device connecting to the network, the connection would have failed because hackers rarely have possession of authorized devices. This and other cases of hijacked user credentials can be limited or mitigated if devices are issued strong, crypto-derived, unique credentials like a digital certificate. In this case, it looks like the network had trust in the user credential but not in the validity of the device itself. Unfortunately, this kind of scenario is what can happen when zero trust is your end state, not your beginning point." “The attack on Oldsmar’s water treatment system shows how critical national infrastructure is increasingly becoming a target for hackers as organizations bring systems online for the first time as part of digital transformation projects,” says Gareth Williams, Vice President - Secure Communications & Information Systems, Thales UK. “While the move towards greater automation and connected switches and control systems brings unprecedented opportunities, it is not without risk, as anything that is brought online immediately becomes a target to be hacked.” Operational technology to mitigate attacks Williams advises organizations to approach Operational Technology as its own entity and put in place procedures that mitigate against the impact of an attack that could ultimately cost lives. This means understanding what is connected, who has access to it and what else might be at risk should that system be compromised, he says. “Once that is established, they can secure access through protocols like access management and fail-safe systems.”  “The cyberattack against the water supply in Oldsmar should come as a wakeup call,” says Saryu Nayyar, CEO, Gurucul.  “Cybersecurity professionals have been talking about infrastructure vulnerabilities for years, detailing the potential for attacks like this, and this is a near perfect example of what we have been warning about,” she says.  Although this attack was not successful, there is little doubt a skilled attacker could execute a similar infrastructure attack with more destructive results, says Nayyar. Organizations tasked with operating and protecting critical public infrastructure must assume the worst and take more serious measures to protect their environments, she advises. Fortunately, there were backup systems in place in Oldsmar. What could have been a tragedy instead became a cautionary tale. Both physical security and cybersecurity professionals should pay attention.

Expert Roundup: Healthy Buildings, Blockchain, AI, Skilled Workers, And More
Expert Roundup: Healthy Buildings, Blockchain, AI, Skilled Workers, And More

Our Expert Panel Roundtable is an opinionated group. However, for a variety of reasons, we are sometimes guilty of not publishing their musings in a timely manner. At the end of 2020, we came across several interesting comments among those that were previously unpublished. Following is a catch-all collection of those responses, addressing some of the most current and important issues in the security marketplace in 2021.

Smart Offices: How Is Mobile ID Changing The Way We Access The Office?
Smart Offices: How Is Mobile ID Changing The Way We Access The Office?

If you’re a security or facilities manager, you may already be aware of the quiet revolution that’s taking place across businesses and organizations up and down the country. By the end of 2020, 20% of all ID and access control systems featured mobile capability, and this is set to increase by a further 34% over the next three years. There’s no doubt that using a smartphone or mobile device in place of traditional credential and access control is a growing trend that’s only been sped up by the pandemic. It’s true that many businesses are still very much focused on remote working, although many are now starting to implement new-and-improved strategies that are better suited to protect the workforce moving forward. Mobile ID systems As the next normal becomes clearer, businesses will be reviewing procedures such as access control, occupancy monitoring, reducing touch points, and tracking visitors. Mobile ID systems are ideally suited to this task. But what are the key reasons for considering such a setup in 2021? But why is this new technology so well-suited to future-proof your physical access system, and why is it becoming so popular? Eradicating outdated legacy credentials Have you seen just how vulnerable outdated Proximity card technology can be? Low-frequency 125kHz cards can be cloned in a matter of seconds with the use of cheap, readily available tools. Despite their weaknesses, they are still used by a huge majority of businesses – big and small. All smartphones include two industry-standard features that make them perfect for operating a secure, contactless credential Replacing such a system with a mobile-enabled system is one of the best ways to increase security ten-fold. Thanks to a cloud-based infrastructure, mobile ID offers best-in-class security and cryptography. All smartphones include two industry-standard features that make them perfect for operating a secure, contactless credential. Bluetooth Smart and NFC (Near Field Communication) make them the best product to operate such a credential via a secure app. If you’re looking for best-in-class security in 2021, mobile access is most definitely the way forward. Removing touch points across the business Reducing touch points and the adoption of touchless facilities has become a key priority for businesses in the wake of COVID-19. Even as businesses start to return to the office and operate a home/office split, it will be imperative that unnecessary contact is kept to an absolute minimum between staff. The traditional issuance of identification and access control credentials can pose problems in this regard. Facility and security managers who are responsible for onboarding and processing ID have done the process face to face. Mobile access makes it possible to carry this process out without people coming into direct content. First, the security manager has access to a secure portal, allowing them to create, manage and edit credentials anywhere. They can upload and remotely transfer mobile ID and access control credentials directly to users’ smartphones over the air. Via the secure app, users can view and see their credentials and immediately begin using it for ID and access control by simply placing their smartphone over card readers. Enabling a more flexible way of working The way in which we work has changed for good. Even as people more people return to the office in 2021, a majority of businesses will be operating a home/office split indefinitely. This once again reinforces the need for a smarter, more adaptable onboarding system. Implementing mobile ID is the perfect way of doing this: over-the-air delivery of credentials and security data is now a given, helping businesses create the perfect balance between the home and the office. No longer do people have to come into the office for the onboarding process. Increasing convenience and user experience More often businesses are realising the value mobile ID can have for enhancing the work experience as well as security Ok, so mobile ID is the perfect way of increasing security and adapting workplaces to a post-COVID way of working. And we’ve not even touched on the most obvious advantage yet: Convenience. How many times have you forgotten your ID card? We’re sure it’s more times than you forget your smartphone. These powerful processors have become intertwined with the way we carry out tasks on a daily basis. They’re so vital that people will soon notice if they’ve forgotten it. From an employee’s perspective, mobile ID and access control is simple, convenient, and extremely user-friendly. More and more businesses are realizing the value mobile ID can have for enhancing the work experience as well as security. From the employer’s perspective, mobile ID means it’s easier for administrators to manage access and credentials. Future-proofing access control now will ensure that in the longer term, mobile ID is well worth the investment. The annual expenditure of printing ID cards and purchasing credentials can be vast, while reissuance costs can also quickly add up for larger organizations. These issues are a thing of the past for businesses using mobile ID. Mobile ID perfect tool for 2021 and beyond Until mobile ID, new and improved credentials’ main focus was on increasing security. Mobile ID not only delivers that, but it also provides a more convenient way of accessing the office in a way that’s perfectly suited to returning to the office in 2021. If there was ever a time to upgrade, now is the time. Summing up, mobile access is changing the way we access the office by: Eliminating weak links in security systems such as outdated legacy card technologies Eradicating the need for touch points across multiple areas of the workplace Enabling a smarter, more flexible approach to onboarding Increasing convenience – for both employers and employees.