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Physical Media Vulnerabilities: Types & Examples

Instructor: Lyna Griffin

Lyna has tutored undergraduate Information Management Systems and Database Development. She has a Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering and a Masters degree in Information Technology.

In this lesson, we will understand what kind of physical vulnerabilities, the media is susceptible to. We will explain in detail the different types of physical attacks that our data systems face today, and the methods that can be used to prevent them.

What is a Physical Vulnerability?

A Physical Vulnerability is defined as any flaw or weakness in a data system or its hosting environment that can enable a physical attack on the system. There are different types of physical security attacks to data systems. Today a lot of attention has been given to cyber security in terms of digital attacks with all sort of sophisticated devices, software, applications and monitoring systems designed and implemented to keep ahead of all manner of cyber attacks. Physical security however is equally important.

Physical Security Attacks

Attacks On Physical Locations

These include attacks on the physical premises hosting data systems including office buildings computer rooms, storage units and homes. A properly laid our security plan must be in place to protect all formats of information from theft, loss or destruction. The best software and intrusion monitoring tools can do little to prevent physical attacks, break-ins, physical thefts and destruction due to extreme weather conditions.

Prevention of Attacks on Physical Locations

Buildings, rooms and storage units must be properly secured by enforcing a security policy on key maintenance and handling. Security cameras and physical security guards add another layer of protection from intruders. Specially designed security rooms may lessen the effects from natural disasters. Strong password policies and encryption tools must be enforced on servers and removable storage devices.

Attacks on Communication Platforms

As much as we may operate the most sophisticated data systems we still rely on more simpler tools to compliment the use of these systems. Individuals and organisations must be conscious of the channels and modes of communication utilized in the environment. Most communication platforms such as Skype calls, conference calls, VoIP, social media calls and messaging systems are used on the same devices hosting sensitive data. These platforms are known to be vulnerable to hacking, monitoring and stealth snooping software.

Prevention of Attacks on Communication Platforms

Keeping abreast with known vulnerabilities when using these platforms is very important. Make sure devices are up to date and users employ vendor encrypted modes of communication. Users are trained on the proper use of emails and social networking platforms.

Cross Talk Attacks

Cross talk is a type of data interference which occurs when an electric or a magnetic field emanating from one circuit affects or interferes in some way with another signal adjacent or close to it. It is also known as Electromagnetic Interference (EMI). This is a very common phenomena in telephone circuitry. It could be a direct result of a physical attack on a system using specialized equipment or the effect of poor network design. In telephone circuitry, when cross talk occurs, two people having an on going conversation can also hear a conversation external to theirs over the same communication line. It also occurs in network circuits, micro circuitry found in computers as well as other audio equipment. Cross talk can expose highly sensitive information transmitted in a conversation.

Prevention of Cross Talk

Proper networking plans with adequate spacing of electromagnetic devices should be implemented. The use of components with adequate insulation casings or efficient EMI shielding will prevent these attacks. Protection of network and cabling from rain or water is also essential.

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