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A group of US technology firms have formed an alliance to develop better integration between physical and cyber security systems.

The stated aim of the Open Security Exchange (OSE), , is to develop best practices and vendor-neutral specifications to enable the straightforward integration of physical and cyber security systems. Lack of integration between these two aspects is said to constitute a significant security weakness in many organisations.

Russell M. Artzt, executive vice president of Computer Associates' (CA) eTrust security brand, said: "Most corporate security managers wouldn't dream of having separate security systems for their Windows and UNIX servers. Yet they often have no linkage between their building security systems and their cyber security systems.

"The Open Security Exchange is committed to remedying this situation by delivering an interoperability specification to support the effective integration of these diverse areas of security management."

The consortium comprises four providers of security solutions, including CA. The others are smartcard firm Gemplus, access control systems manufacturer HID Corporation, and physical security management systems supplier Tyco Fire & Security.

The OSE is said to be looking for other partners to join. BAE Systems North America, one of the top 10 suppliers to the U.S. Department of Defense, has just joined the consortium as a contributing member.

A recent report by US firm Pinkerton Consulting and Investigations showed that only 36 percent of its surveyed companies had formal procedures in place for collaboration between the physical and cyber security departments. The lack of security management results in increased exposure, limited situational awareness, poor accountability and higher operating costs.

The OSE says that converging physical and cyber security technology will eliminate gaps in security management. For example, without this integration, security teams may not be able to determine if someone is trying to use a computer system while its owner is not physically present in the building. This leaves organisations vulnerable to insider abuse from within, including theft of passwords.

The consortium has already published initial specifications for physical and cyber security management convergence that will focus on three areas: tying together the reporting of IT and physical security systems for audit purposes; increasing the effectiveness of physical security ID, like smartcards and security tokens; and improved access control to both types of systems to manage the extent of employee access.

It plans to submit the specifications to one of a number of industry standards bodies, but has yet to decide which one it will approach with the idea.

The idea of standards to ensure interoperability between physical and cyber security is probably one that will go down well with European companies, according to Brian O'Donnell, manager of enterprise risk services at Deloitte and Touche, Ireland. "It's very much on the agenda," he told ElectricNews.Net, along with greater efforts to tighten up security policies and procedures, as well as the technology."

© ENN

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