Today, organizations across a range of industries contend with a number of cybersecurity dilemmas, and logical security controls may be the answer to a number of these issues. For example, how can small and mid-sized businesses keep pace with industry giants when it comes to cybersecurity? How do you protect your enterprise’s online assets with an increasingly remote workforce? How do you invest in and expand your digital environment while maintaining careful control over who in your organization can access given information?
On the one hand, businesses have often prioritized physical security. This entails controlling who enters an office, who has access to data centers, and what to do in the event of a physical breach. However, while this is an important part of protecting an enterprise’s infrastructure, it’s just one piece of what should be a comprehensive security apparatus—especially as businesses need next-generation cybersecurity strategies to protect proprietary information and secure their networks.
This is where logical security controls come in. Logical security refers to practices that give system administrators control over who within an organization has access to which resources and for what purpose. As businesses generate more information at an increasing pace—incredibly, 90% of the data in the world has been created within the past two years—it’s incumbent upon IT teams, key decision-makers, and other stakeholders to protect proprietary information with the most advanced technology possible.
However, maintaining logical security over the modern enterprise is easier said than done. With 77% of businesses maintaining at least one component of their computing infrastructure in the cloud, it can be challenging to maintain control and guarantee security over access to assets that may not even be managed within your facilities. Despite these obstacles, it’s vital that enterprises make these investments—as the cost of cybercrime around the world has soared to more than $600 billion.
Logical access control is the means by which organizations implement security constraints over proprietary data and broader digital environments. Various logical access control measures at the individual and team levels make up a broader logical security policy at the organizational level. By regulating access in this way, a business can prevent any single user from having too much control over an entire enterprise’s digital assets.
Some logical security practices will already be familiar even to those without an extensive IT background. For example, the passwords and passcodes you use to access your computer, your phone, and your favorite websites and online services are all instances of logical access control. In this process, the right username and password combination verify your permission to access certain functions within an organization as a user, employee, or client. This type of authentication—password authentication—is just one of a growing number of logical access controls.
Authentication is one of the most popular logical security measures in the cybersecurity space. However, authentication strategies are getting more advanced every year as it becomes clear that traditional password authentication is no longer enough against the range of threats businesses face. These more advanced strategies add additional steps to the authentication process, helping enterprise networks verify with greater certainty the identity of users attempting to access system resources.
Token authentication is one of these measures. In this model, security tokens provide users with a number that changes on a given timeline—typically every minute. As part of a log-on process, enterprise systems will prompt users for the token and match it against internal mechanisms to ensure the token is correct. Two-factor authentication (2FA) is another emerging area of logical security. In addition to a username and password, users might have to provide answers to security questions or confirm a PIN sent to a separate device or app.
In addition to types of authentication—which can even include biometric measures—there are other logical security measures available. For example, user segmentation allows system administrators to control the areas of the organization's network that individual users can access. This ensures that in the event of a user’s account being compromised in some way, the attacker won’t be able to wreak havoc across the organization’s entire network.
Traditionally, logical and physical security access have been different animals. While logical security control involves everything discussed above, physical access refers to the measures that organizations take to protect their actual facilities. This may involve ID cards for employees, physical or electronic locks on hardware or on certain areas of an office, and CCTV systems to monitor entrances, exits, and access points to data centers or other critical locations. However, physical access can also entail forced entry onto a computer by direct means, such as using system install discs.
Boiled down, this means that physical access controls who can enter offices and engage with assets in-person while logical access controls who can enter networks and engage with assets while mediated by a computer or other device. However, as you and your clients might predict, this separation isn’t as clear-cut as it once was.
Indeed, as technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) bring our physical environment and infrastructure online, the distinction between what’s connected to the internet and what’s not will become more difficult to articulate. This means that cybersecurity and physical security professionals will need to collaborate going forward in order to coordinate efforts and streamline next-generation solutions.
While physical threats may include theft, vandalism, and environmental damage, logical threats are those that may damage your software systems, data, or network without actually damaging your hardware. Viruses, DoS attacks, phishing, and Trojans are all examples of logical threats that can be inadvertently downloaded or spread through the use of flash drives. In a worst-case scenario, an attack doesn’t just affect a single device, but spreads across a network, scraping sensitive data or shutting down operating systems.
As mentioned above, logical threats are evolving and their relation to physical threats are becoming more complex. If IoT tech is just as vulnerable as traditional computing resources—and it is—then our responses to threats and the precautions we take will need to become more complex in turn. Although there are a number of logical security measures you can take to protect against these threats, user actions are not enough to ensure against the loss of business data. Strong authentication and other best practices are just another security layer on top of what should be a robust security platform. With the right protection, you can better prevent outside attacks that pose significant threats to your business information.