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Physical security describes security measures that are designed to deny unauthorized access to facilities, equipment, and resources and to protect personnel and property from damage or harm (such as espionage, theft, or terrorist attacks).  Physical security involves the use of multiple layers of interdependent systems that can include CCTV surveillance, security guards, protective barriers, locks, access control, perimeter intrusion detection, deterrent systems, fire protection, and other systems designed to protect persons and property.

What is physical security?

Physical security protects personnel, property, data, and physical assets from actions and events that cause damage or loss to an organization. Businesses take physical security measures to safeguard equipment and buildings against security vulnerabilities, natural disasters, theft, vandalism, and terrorism.

Physical security maintenance is crucial to prevent the loss of resources and reduce the chances of attempted criminal activity.

Most modern workplaces understand the need to protect networks and data from cyber-attacks. However, cybersecurity often overshadows physical security, a basic necessity that ensures the smooth functioning of everyday on-site operations.

Importance of physical security

A break-in is not fun. Physical security in workplaces is as important as maintaining security in the comfort of your home, since many people spend up to and beyond 8 hours of their day.

Even if you and your business depend heavily on a robust IT infrastructure, your platforms require significant physical security measures to safeguard data, servers, and networks. Any virtual machine or cloud-based application is only as safe as its physical server and data center network.

Physical security ensures that the people and assets of an enterprise are safe from potential internal and external threats, such as physical deterrents and intruders. Leaving building perimeters and spaces vulnerable increases the likelihood of physical attacks, personnel accidents, and data losses.

Types of physical attacks include:

  • Accessing secure areas
  • Stealing or damaging business assets
  • Gaining unauthorized access to critical business and data applications
  • Uploading malware onto networks and systems

Regardless of the type and extent of the attack, physical security is critical when it comes to protecting sensitive material control areas. These include server rooms or data centers from on-site third parties. Keeping confidential information safe from internal members who don’t have the necessary access must also be a priority.

What are physical security controls?

A comprehensive physical security program outlines all the controls and components vital to protecting organizational assets. These controls include technology and specialized hardware to create layers of security that work in sync with cybersecurity policies to guard against threats.

Common physical security measures might be:

  • Building design and layout
  • Environmental controls (prediction and warning systems)
  • Emergency response alerts
  • Employee and security training
  • Intrusion detection (lockdown controls)
  • Fire protection

Developing a complete physical security system takes into account a variety of components to save the business from incurring losses due to asset damage and theft.

The four main principles to keep in mind when investing in security measures are deterrence, detection, delay, and response. Let’s dive into each of these and discuss how they relate to physical security best practices.


Components and physical barriers such as walls, doors, turnstiles, or revolving doors keep intruders away from buildings and secure areas.

Deterrence can also incorporate implementing technology like GPS tracking, access controls, and security cameras to discourage unauthorized personnel from attempting to enter the premises.


Once deterrents are installed, you must invest in detection measures to help identify potential threats. Having effective object detection systems prevents crimes before they happen.

Common detection components are sensors, alarms, breach detection mechanisms, and security notifications that disarm and isolate intruders’ activities.


Certain security systems are specifically designed to slow the entry of intruders by initiating a countdown once a security alert is sent out. The security system must be disarmed before the time runs out.

Other measures that delay unauthorized personnel from entering secure premises include key card requirements and verification to mitigate damage.


You have a security system and measures in place, but something bad happens anyway. So what do you do then?

You invest in security response components to minimize the breach’s or intrusion’s effects.

Physical security response methods include communication systems, perimeter lockdowns, and contacting emergency services and first responders such as law enforcement, paramedics, or firefighters.

How does physical security work?

Now that we’ve covered what physical security measures can look like, let’s answer the question, “But what is the purpose of physical security safeguards, and how do they really work?”

A framework tailored to a company’s needs must be developed to create successful physical security controls. A physical security program maintains business continuity, unifies physical and cybersecurity measures, and fights larger threats and unexpected challenges.

External physical security threats:

  • Theft
  • Vandalism
  • Natural catastrophes
  • Terrorism
  • Workplace violence

Internal physical security threats:

  • Data breaches
  • Unauthorized sharing of sensitive information
  • Easily identifiable authentication processes
  • Slow and limited incident responses

The three main components of a physical security plan are access control, surveillance, and testing. The framework’s success depends on implementing these components and monitoring them continuously.

Access control

One of the biggest aspects of physical security is limiting unauthorized physical access to certain assets and confidential operation areas. This restriction reduces the exposure of these assets to authorized persons only.

Investing in first-line physical security systems such as gates, walls, and doors that prevent break-ins and provide safety from natural disasters is the primary way to achieve access control. These systems can be modified per security needs to include additional locks, barbed wire, and ID scanners at entry points.

To improve access controls within the building, businesses can provide security access level permissions to each employee and security guard. Implementing biometric identification across the organization and multi-factor authentications for company devices and laptops offer further safety.


Ever get the feeling that you’re being watched? It’s not a good feeling, but surveillance equipment offers prevention and recovery against physical security incidents for businesses.

The biggest upside of using surveillance technology and personnel is that it provides visual evidence to monitor criminal activity and identify perpetrators. Examples of surveillance measures include sensors, notification systems, and closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras.

CCTVs are effective as they elicit caution in would-be vandals and burglars. Video surveillance software also effectively captures real-time evidence against unauthorized movement and entry.


Regular security testing is integral in understanding how a business can address criminal tactics. Establishing active testing protocols and extensive security policies improves the quality of physical security procedures.

Active also helps gauge how a company handles disasters. Developing a disaster recovery (DR) plan and evaluating its objectives and role assignments minimize the risk of mistakes. Disaster recovery-as-a-service (DRaaS) solutions give companies backup and disaster recovery services to protect applications, data, and network infrastructures.

physical security software

Physical security solutions help establishments monitor personnel movement, receive real-time security alerts, and file reports. They also provide detailed analytics and reporting capabilities from security teams.

Benefits of physical security technology:

  • Safeguards employees, data, and business sites
  • Prevents unauthorized access to premises and assets
  • Helps maintain trust and confidence with internal and external stakeholders
  • Works to mitigate damage caused by threats and disasters