Our Worst Fear is
A Physical Attack

Following our recent survey of business security issues I’m not at all surprised to see that theft tops the list of security risks, with a staggering 53%* claiming that it’s ‘the greatest security threat to my business’. Theft is devastating to any business and the people responsible for security live in constant fear of the threat of a physical attack to people and property.

It’s not just the trauma of having premises broken into, and all the associated costs of repair, it’s also about the disruption to normal business operation and how theft affects the employees. It takes time to complete police reports, evaluate the extent of the damage and to ascertain exactly what has been stolen. It might be a theft motivated by physical asset removal like PCs, laptops and printers or it might be intellectual property theft. Whatever the motives of the perpetrators might be, theft is unpleasant and disruptive, and so it is little wonder that businesses are happy to invest in high quality security in order to mitigate the risk.

As part of our recent survey we asked our clients, contacts and prospects to provide feedback relating to their views on a wide range of security related topics. The survey results provide us with a useful insight into the aspects of security that are of most concern to businesses and their views on potential threats. These surveys are extremely useful as they not only help us to keep abreast of the important issues that concern our clients but they also help us to ensure we continue to focus on the things that need the most attention.

Interestingly, in most cases the fear related to property theft rather than IP (intellectual property) theft, which was only mentioned by 2% of respondents.

The following statistics show the full breakdown of the responses to the question “what is your businesses greatest security fear?”:

Theft – 51%
Vandalism – 23%
Anti-Social behaviour – 12%
Terrorism – 9%
IT – 3%
IP (Intellectual Property) – 2%

With theft being the highest rated threat in the survey, there are obviously a number of security measures that can be employed to reduce the incidence of theft including sophisticated alarm systems and security cameras; both these solutions are sensible options and serve a specific purpose. Based on our experience though, despite the technology that is currently available, it is the physical presence of guards that remains the most successful deterrent in terms of business premises theft. This is also the case for other risks identified in the survey. Whether it is vandalism, anti-social behaviour or even terrorism the physical presence of highly visible security guards seems to be a more successful strategy than other forms of security when it comes to mitigating the possibility of physical attack.

But it is about more than one form of deterrent, which is why it is so important for all businesses to have integrated security management systems. The term ‘Security Management’ covers a broad field of activities including asset management, physical security and human personal safety functions – all of which need to be addressed as part of an overall defence policy against attack. Security management entails the identification of an organisation’s information assets or IP, as well as the development, documentation and implementation of policies, standards, procedures and guidelines. These documents need to be clearly written, regularly updated to meet any new legislation and circulated to everyone in the organisation to read and sign, demonstrating that they fully understand what is required of them. It’s all about logging assets and assessing system vulnerabilities so that effective controls can be designed and then implemented.

In addition, whilst IT and Intellectual Property theft remain low in this particular survey, there is an increasing appreciation of the value of IP assets as organisations realise the value of the more ‘intangible’ elements of their business. Certainly in terms of an organisation’s ‘knowledge base’ things like patents, blueprints, contracts, design methodologies, manuals and strategy documents can have exceptional value to certain people and are an increasing target for theft. This is a much more significant threat to a business than a few broken windows caused by mindless vandalism. Protecting these types of IP requires complex security solutions which is why businesses should have an integrated and comprehensive strategy for all their security management needs.

Abbey Petkar

(The data used was collected by Magenta Security Services in the final quarter of 2009. Businesses surveyed included retailers, public authorities, recreational facilities and commercial buildings.)

*53% is the total of the Theft value (51%) and the IP Theft value (2%)

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