Definition

physical security

Physical security is the protection of personnel, hardware, programs, networks, and data from physical circumstances and events that could cause serious losses or damage to an enterprise, agency, or institution. This includes protection from fire, natural disasters, burglary, theft, vandalism, and terrorism.

Physical security is often overlooked (and its importance underestimated) in favor of more technical and dramatic issues such as hacking, viruses, Trojans, and spyware. However, breaches of physical security can be carried out with little or no technical knowledge on the part of an attacker. Moreover, accidents and natural disasters are a part of everyday life, and in the long term, are inevitable.

There are three main components to physical security. First, obstacles can be placed in the way of potential attackers and sites can be hardened against accidents and environmental disasters. Such measures can include multiple locks, fencing, walls, fireproof safes, and water sprinklers. Second, surveillance and notification systems can be put in place, such as lighting, heat sensors, smoke detectors, intrusion detectors, alarms, and cameras. Third, methods can be implemented to apprehend attackers (preferably before any damage has been done) and to recover quickly from accidents, fires, or natural disasters.

This was last updated in December 2005
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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