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Ryan Schonfeld, HiveWatch: “many threats blur the line between the physical and the virtual”

We’re used to cyberattacks taking place in the digital space, and the consequences impacting the real, physical world. But what we fail to realize is that many of these cyberattacks begin in the physical space, too.

Just like Virtual Private Networks rely on physical servers all over the world to deliver the service, the security systems of various organizations rely on access control which is, in big parts, still operated and overseen by humans who walk through physical doors. Because of this, making an effort to ensure not only the digital, but also physical security of a business is extremely important.

To discuss this in a little more detail, Cybernews sat down with Ryan Schonfeld, Founder & CEO of HiveWatch, a cloud-based SaaS platform that works with existing disparate security systems to consolidate data, and reduce false alarms.

Tell us about your story. What did the development of HiveWatch look like?

I started my career as a law enforcement officer in Montgomery County, MD, with my “feet on the street.” From there, I began my corporate career working with one of the largest security services companies in the world, managing sites and guard staff – which was my first look at the inefficiencies and redundancies of security. After that, I was working at a Fortune 500 company in their Global Security & Safety Technology Group when really I started to tire of hearing the phrase "because that's the way it's always been done” from security professionals and leadership. After starting a successful consulting practice and later founding my GSOC-as-a-Service company, RAS Watch (now HiveWatch’s vGSOC), I saw the need for a SaaS platform to help make security leaders more aware, more connected, more proactive, and more informed. The result is HiveWatch.

Can you introduce us to your Security Fusion Platform™? What are its key features?

HiveWatch is a Security Fusion Platform™ that works with existing security systems, enabling users to reduce noise and add an intelligent orchestration layer to help companies manage their current security programs. Key features include:

  • Noise Reduction: Using Multi-sensor Resolution™, HiveWatch is able to increase sensor accuracy, reduce false alerts, detect new threat vectors and automate support tickets for faulty sensors.
  • Connect Disparate Systems: HiveWatch’s differentiated architecture means there’s no need to rip and place current security technology systems. Scale and aggregate data from existing access control or video surveillance systems.
  • Increase Operational Efficiency: Add a level of orchestration to your existing security programs with operator and guard response performance metrics, while collecting data to power predictive threat models.
  • Quick Deployment: Speed matters when it comes to security. HiveWatch is a cloud-native SaaS platform with simplified integrations, enabling both distributed and virtual GSOCs. With all of this, your business can be up and running quickly.
  • Elevate Communication: As a cloud-native solution, HiveWatch can effectively be used for local, virtual, or distributed GSOCs. HiveWatch provides security leadership with a centralized place to understand the performance of their physical security people and technologies so they can execute quick reactions to incidents, resolve noisy events, and detect new threats.

In your opinion, which industries should put more attention to their physical security?

All of them! While it may sound like a joke, I’m serious. In today’s climate, businesses ranging from corporate giants to small family shops are struggling to combat an uptick of multi-faceted security threats. These attacks often come from numerous directions and have specifically worsened since the onset of the pandemic. Many of these threats are physical and they rely on actual people to approach a facility or employee. Things are getting even more complicated with a distributed workforce. We also know that many of today’s threats take place online, carried out by actors that are never seen or heard. Many threats, however, blur the line between the physical and virtual. That being said, most organizations are not well prepared to defend themselves against these looming physical attacks. Instead of utilizing integrated security technologies, they try to solve their problems with unscalable and expensive human operations, guards, and/or disparate systems which create noise and inefficiencies, to monitor these threats.

Meanwhile, forward-thinking organizations are investing heavily in their cybersecurity efforts by implementing smart software designed to detect and remediate all manners of online threats. Security operations centers (SOCs) and network operations centers (NOCs) staffed with cybersecurity analysts that surveil supplemental threats and catch data anomalies are now commonplace.

The strongest approach to securing the assets of a business is through Security Fusion – the unification of these siloed physical and cybersecurity systems that allows for the analysis of data, program design, team performance, and the monitoring of those disparate systems. To provide maximum protection of people, assets, facilities, and brand, your cybersecurity (both IT and network security) and your physical security systems need to share data and communicate effectively. Security Fusion helps organizations bring all of their security teams to the same level. Today, it’s likely your SOC and NOC are several levels ahead of the GSOC your physical security team is running.

How did the recent global events affect your field of work? Have you noticed any new security issues arise as a result?

The COVID-19 pandemic really exacerbated and highlighted a lot of the physical security’s inefficiencies. When COVID hit, companies all over the world needed to pivot - and quickly - before things got out of hand. This really expedited a lot of innovation, including digital transformation and the adoption of cloud systems and strategies, that have been needed in the industry for at least a decade, if not more.

Since March 2020 there’s been an overall increase in crime, including trending “flash mob” style robberies, homicides, and hate crimes to name a few. With this, security technology needed to grow and innovate to keep up with the steady progression. In addition to this, hybrid work models created a distributed workforce, which has increased the complexity and urgency of detecting and responding appropriately to a security breach in a timely manner.

What are the most common techniques that threat actors use nowadays to sneak into restricted areas?

A huge one is tailgating (one person following behind another who has access). It can easily be detected, but with it happening so often innocently, it can go unnoticed. Another is taking someone else's physical badge. This happens between coworkers (someone forgot a badge and asks to borrow their friend’s) and can definitely cause issues.

What physical security measures would you consider essential for companies nowadays?

It seems simple but not all companies are doing it: access control and cameras. But that’s really not where it should end. They need to be monitored not only for device health (it’s no good if it isn’t working!) but activity too. While I realize monitoring these can be incredibly expensive and take up a lot of resources, there are other options, like a virtual GSOC, that are much more affordable. I will also reiterate over and over again that throwing more guards at a location is not your answer.

What other aspects of our daily lives do you hope to see enhanced by technology in the near future?

I really hate putting away my laundry - can someone get on a tool for that!? But in all seriousness, it’s time for a physical security technology that orchestrates and analyzes data as you do in cybersecurity, and that's what we’re building with HiveWatch.

What are some of the security tools you believe everyone should use nowadays?

I’ll start by saying that HiveWatch is platform-agnostic, and our software can work with any security tool on the market. That being said, I’m personally a huge fan of what Ava Technologies, OpenPath, and Camio have been bringing to the table lately!

Share with us, what’s next for HiveWatch?

We’re going to keep growing! We’re hiring like crazy and have just moved into a beautiful new office in El Segundo, California. We’re continuing to grow our engineering team to add new product features and enhancements, as well as a customer service team to make sure each of our customers gets the 24/7 direct help they deserve.

One thing that will always ring true for HiveWatch is that we’ll never truly be “done” building our software. We’ll always innovate and look to make security more intelligent and keep teams more informed. HiveWatch is here to help security teams pivot from chasing threats to preventing them. With better communication, more insights, and less “noise,” we are modernizing what it means for businesses and their employees to truly feel safe.

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