CSOs creating cultural change

The convergence of physical and IT security is driving the appointment of chief security officers (CSOs) within the enterprise, a new title that is creating cultural change, the senior cyber-security consultant at Pinkerton Australia, Atif Ahmad, said this week.

Speaking at the Australian Security Industry Association conference in Sydney, Ahmad said some organisations are struggling with the appointment of a CSO because the skills required for the job cover a broad spectrum of both physical and IT security, as well as an understanding of risk management and strong business skills.

For some companies, he said, it is a bit awkward appointing the IT manager as CSO because of a lack of physical security experience which means that often someone outside the organisation is appointed.

In the past, Ahmad said, there was a fundamental separation of IT and physical security with separate budgets, resources, personnel and skill sets.

"As an example, each door has an access control point and whoever had a key had access, which was authentication by possession," he said. It has moved on now to authentication by knowledge using pin numbers or combination pads.

"And now IT has added authentication by characteristic with a swipe card."

Threats are also more sophisticated in both physical and IT domains.

It goes both ways, he said, IT attacks can cause physical damage and visa versa.

"Technology demands sophisticated infrastructure. As an example, if an organisation was to buy CCTV as a method of physical security, it's not just about setting up the camera, it is about total infrastructure integration," Ahmad said.

In recognition of the convergence of IT and physical security, Computer Associates technology services - data protection group senior consultant Chris Thomas said the Open Security Exchange has been established.

He said the Exchange was formed in April this year to promote the use of security best practice for the protection of physical and IT assets.

Other members of the Exchange include smartcard maker Gemplus and Software House, a security software company and subsidiary of Tyco Fire & Security.

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