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Convergence the driving force behind business security in Africa

Africa's security market getting down to business.

When it comes to corporate security, both physical and virtual, there is a global shift towards convergence of systems to combat escalating threats.

Feedback from experts in cyber security and access control suggests that the security market, including that of Africa, has reached a level of maturity and opportunity knocks for service providers, solution developers, end users... but also criminals.

Guillaume Lefevre, vice president marketing development and sales for access control/OEM products at security solutions specialist Morpho, within the Safran group, together with the company's sales manager Nicolas Garcia, attended the Securex event hosted at Gallagher Estate in Johannesburg in May.

Aside from being impressed with the calibre of attendees and the quality of what was showcased, they believe the event accurately reflected Africa's mature security space, and a market of stakeholders who have a great deal more interest and focus on the business of security.

Lefevre and Garcia say biometric technology and the vulnerability of intellectual property are key characteristics of the broader security market and among the main reasons for the focus on converged systems.

Today, there is a growing need to link access control systems to that which is implemented to safeguard networks.

The hope is that this collaborative approach will intensify protection against the most serious threats facing businesses in Africa – which, according to Lefevre and Garcia, include hacking, from an IT point of view, and identity theft.

"These are the type of problems because the means of identification is not really secure... as we move forward as a society, people become aware of that and organisations are trying to secure their networks," Garcia says.

The tech race

When it comes to security, there is the notion that businesses constantly have to play catch-up with cyber criminals to ensure that they have the very best technology in place to counter attacks. This is a fact of life within the industry says Lefevre and it is something that underpins the development of security strategies.

"It is a race between the hacker and industry," says Lefevre.

"You cannot pretend that one solution that you have is unbreakable... every one is breakable, it is just a matter of time and resources, that's for sure. That being said, as an industry we need to also innovate, to come up with things that are more difficult or less accessible, I would say, in terms of technology," he explained.

In terms of technology and R&D investment, which area of security – physical/ access control or cyber – shows the most activity?

Lefevre's view is that currently these are two separate streams, but today the trend is to want to combine the same platform and not separate logical access strategy from a physical one.

"So that essentially you protect access to strategic assets – they could be virtual assets or physical assets," he said.

From an African point of view, the message of convergence continues to be preached and the concept is slowly but surely being realised.

In practice, as Garcia explains, the market is looking more closely at scenarios in which employees cannot gain access to their workstations and effectively link up their digital world with their workstations unless they are physically onsite at the office and have been processed through the company's access control system.

This eliminates the risk of remote connectivity, hacking and unauthorised access. Another example is where employees who have not logged off completely from their PCs are unable to leave their work premises – they cannot exit.

As to the implications of these scenarios in markets that are leaning towards mobility and anywhere, anytime access and connectivity, Garcia explains that the company's solutions are all IP/network-based which means that they can be tailored to suit requirements as part of a company's IT infrastructure and requirements.

Garcia emphasises that these are descriptions of how solutions could be integrated into the workplace. "We rely on partners, worldwide, to integrate our technology within their solutions. So typically, your access control companies would take our readers, our STKs and integrate all of that with their platform."

Garcia adds that the decision over what security solution to integrate depends on what it is that has to be protected – investment strategy, quantities and direction will differ substantially between a startup business and that of a government agency, for example.

Security solution vendors are aware of the fact that the market is following the major IT trends including cloud adoption and biometric application (especially fingerprint identification) to enhance access control.

Garcia says South Africa has a track record of quick adoption of technology and a high level of awareness of trends and relevant solutions.

In Africa, depending on the region, there is still a reactive approach to security, he continues.

However, as a result of incidents around the world, today there is an understanding that no region is immune to security issues and there is greater urgency today to equip key sectors with security solutions.

Despite the need to up levels of investment by companies, according to Lefevre, in general, there is a definite value attached to security strategies – particularly that which encompasses a holistic view of security and the need to protect strategic assets.

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