Cybersecurity, Emerging Issues in Security, Facility Security

Study: Physical Security Threats at Businesses Reach ‘Unsettling’ Pace Amid Intelligence Failures

As COVID-19 vaccinations continue, companies embrace hybrid work, employees return to the office, and the U.S. opens up, violence and physical threats to businesses are occurring at an unsettling, record-high pace. Furthermore, intelligence failures regularly occur at large U.S. companies, resulting in physical threats or harm and impacting business continuity.

These are some of the findings unveiled in the 2021 Mid-Year Outlook State of Protective Intelligence Report — The Escalating Physical Threat Landscape: A Clarion Call for Corporate Protective Intelligence, a new study commissioned by the Ontic Center for Protective Intelligence.

workplace violence

Ontic says the study showcases the collective perspectives of 300 physical security directors, physical security decision-makers, chief security officers, chief information officers, chief technology officers, chief information security officers, and IT leaders at U.S. companies on how physical security challenges and opportunities are unfolding in 2021 as the country emerges from the pandemic.

“Pent-up economic and political frustrations marked January 6 by the Capitol riot are being unleashed after months of limited in-person interactions, mass shootings have skyrocketed, and companies are experiencing an increase in physical threats as compared to the beginning of 2021,” says Fred Burton, Executive Director of the Ontic Center for Protective Intelligence. “And yet, as our study found, even as physical threats increasingly originate in the cyber world, CEOs are reluctant to believe their companies could be targets.”

Burton continues, “As the crippling of critical supply chains and infrastructure by cybercriminals earlier this year demonstrated, to keep all aspects of their business safe, with great urgency, companies must fund, integrate, and unify cybersecurity and physical security intelligence, assessment, mitigation, and operations across the enterprise.”

According to Ontic, key findings from the survey include the following:

  • Of the physical threats that resulted in harm or death at companies in 2021, nearly half (49%) of respondents think most or almost all could have been avoided if cybersecurity and physical security intelligence were unified so threats could be shared and actioned by cross-functional teams.
  • 55% of physical security and IT leaders say their CEO believes training employees so they are better prepared for potential workplace violence will create a culture of fear.
  • Over one-quarter (26%) of those surveyed say their company has never addressed the potential for workplace violence and employees would not know what to do if an active shooter entered their facilities.
  • 74% agree that they anticipate significant conflicts between management and employees regarding health and safety protocols, as well as work-from-home policies when businesses reopen.
  • 72% agree that their company has experienced physical security threats related to requiring employees to show proof of vaccination in order to return to the office.
  • Since the beginning of 2021, 58% of security and IT leaders say their company has received or investigated one physical threat (33%), between two and five physical threats (21%), or over six physical threats (4%) per week.
  • Since the beginning of 2021, as a result of intelligence failures, respondents say the following incidents have occurred at their company:
    • An insider abused authorized cyber access that led to property theft or supply chain damage (34%).
    • An employee was threatened and/or harmed while working at company facilities (33%) or working remotely (28%).
    • A former employee threatened and/or harmed current employees (25%).
    • Our CEO and/or family members received threats and/or were harmed when working from their private residence or while traveling (24%).
    • An active shooter event occurred at one of our locations (18%).
  • There is overwhelming agreement among both physical security (95% agree, including 45% who agree strongly) and IT professionals (95% agree, including 55% who agree strongly) that cybersecurity and physical security must be integrated; otherwise, cyber and physical threats will be missed.
  • 91% of respondents agree physical security needs a technology-driven industry standard for actively identifying, investigating, assessing, monitoring, and managing physical security threats, and 87% agree that now is the best time to invest in physical security digital transformation.

The full report is available here.