Safeguarding Secrets:

The Importance of Physical Access Control At the Office and Remote Locations

(Part 2 of 7 of our series “Demystifying Corporate Espionage”)

In the world of corporate espionage, where small moves can be the difference between victory and check-mate, understanding the diverse nature of the threat is paramount.

This week, we are exploring the nuance of physical access control. In this post-COVID world, the work environment has evolved to incorporate remote and hybrid setups. From homes to hotels, shared work spaces to coffee shops – the threat-landscape of corporate espionage has broadened dramatically. The question is, is your business ready?

Physical access control is the first line of deterrents to corporate espionage.

Lets review what protects your employees and intellectual property at the office.

Physical access control is the first line of defense against corporate espionage, employing elements such as keycard systems, biometric scanners, and surveillance cameras to limit unauthorized entry.

These elements are not without their flaws, however.

Here are some common ways that security is bypassed and exploited at the office:

  1. Social Engineering: Spies manipulate individuals with legitimate access by posing as maintenance or delivery personnel, exploiting the human element to gain unauthorized entry.

    Example: “I’m here to fix the HVAC system on the fifth floor. The office manager called for urgent maintenance.”
  2. Tailgating and Piggybacking: Classic moves involve slipping through access points behind authorized persons or blending in with employees, capitalizing on the courtesy of holding doors open.

    Example: Casually walking behind an employee entering a secured area, appearing as though part of the same team.
  3. Keycard Cloning: Technical prowess comes into play with keycard cloning, where spies may clone access cards or use sophisticated devices to duplicate legitimate access credentials.
  4. Evasion of Surveillance: Techniques to bypass or manipulate surveillance systems include exploiting blind spots, disabling cameras, or using disguises to evade identification.

    Example: Wearing a uniform resembling maintenance staff to blend in with surroundings and avoid suspicion.

Now that we’ve brought awareness to these threats, we can take steps to prevent them.

Because every environment, every office space and every office culture is different, what may be effective threat management for one company may look completely from another. There are a few common aspects, however, that most business will benefit from paying attention to.

Strategies to Fortify Physical Access Control:

  1. Employee Education: Vigilance against social engineering and not sharing access credentials are crucial aspects of employee training.
  2. Multi-Factor Authentication: Combining access cards with biometric verification or passwords with secure tokens adds an extra layer of security.
  3. Regular Audits and Testing: Periodic audits of access logs and testing system effectiveness to proactively identify vulnerabilities (“RedTeaming”).
  4. Tailgating Awareness: Fostering a culture of awareness and curiosity that encourages employees to challenge or report individuals without proper credentials.
  5. Surveillance System Enhancement: Upgrading and optimizing surveillance systems, addressing blind spots, and ensuring continuous monitoring of critical areas.

Thats great for folks that work at a single physical office location, but what about the growing workforce that uses home, apartment, or public wifi? What about the keyboard warriors indundating coffee shops around the world?

“But I work from [not-the-office]
and it is totally secure!”

Have you heard or even thought this before? What about these?

“That won’t happen to me.” “Nobody knows who I am or what I work on.”

Its easy to become complacent with security while you put in your ear buds, sip on your latte, and hack away at expense reports on your shiny laptop.

I get it. You are focused. In the zone. You have important things to do, and so does everyone else around you! Who would possibly be paying attention to you?

As the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s stolen IP.

Okay, that isn’t the actual quote but here is the rub. Does your company have competitors? How about intellectual property? Trade secrets? Does your work involve sensitive material? Financial disclosures? Healthcare records? Personally identifiable information?

We are in an age where information is currency and we should be treating it like gold.

Information is the currency of the day, but the exchange rate isn’t always clear. A piece of information may have little significance to you, but it may have great significance to someone else and be the thing that makes them, or their business come out on top.

Physical Access Control takes a different but equally important role in the remote-work environment when it comes to preventing corporate espionage.

As remote work continues to grow in popularity, the significance of physical access control remains crucial.

More locations to work from means higher potential of leaked information.

In a landscape where remote work blurs the boundaries between professional, public and personal spaces, corporate espionage has more opportunities than ever before.

Employees must be empowered to take physical security seriously.

Employees must play a pivotal role in safeguarding themselves and any sensitive materials, whether working from a hotel room, on the road, a coffee shop, or the home office.

The responsibility for physical security falls not only on security personnel but also on every employee as workforces become more dispersed. Employees must recognize their role as the first line of defense, regardless of their work location.

Your remote office will dictate how you can best secure your data.

Adapting to the world of remote work, corporate spies are able to exploit new vulnerabilities. Social engineering tactics, and cyber threats extend to virtual and public interactions, emphasizing the importance of securing access credentials and maintaining diligence in the remote work space.

Strategies for the New Normal

  1. Vigilance: Educate employees on the risks of social engineering and cyber threats as they travel or work in non-office spaces.
  2. Home Office Security: Encourage employees to treat their home offices with the same level of security consciousness, implementing access control measures and securing work devices.
  3. Multi-Layered Authentication: Implement systems that require multi-layered authentication for enhanced security.
  4. Vulnerability Assessments: Perform vulnerability assessments and keep employees informed about potential threats from competitors or criminal organizations.
  5. Employee Training Programs: Develop comprehensive training programs addressing physical security concerns in remote settings, equipping employees with the knowledge to identify, respond to and report potential threats.

In conclusion, even as the working landscape has evolved significantly, physical access control remains a crucial consideration in preventing corporate espionage.

As the chessboard of physical access control evolves to meet the challenges of both in-person and remote work scenarios, so too must security policies and practices. By understanding the strategies employed by corporate spies and empowering employees to take physical security seriously, organizations can create a robust defense against espionage threats.

Join us in our next post about “Open Source Intelligence (OSINT)” and its role in Corporate Espionage.

Each week we will demystify more of the methods and techniques used in corporate espionage and provide you with skills and strategies to fortify your business against these covert threats.

One response to “Safeguarding Secrets:”

  1. […] reference to the the previous post, information is currency and should be treated as such. As such, it can be helpful to effectively […]