Data Governance
Securing the data centre

Securing the data centre


When devising a proper risk management for security, it is essential to identify the different threats which are being addressed.  In the case of physical security threats, these can be either environmental or human in nature.  Environmental threats cause extensive damage to the IT resources in case of fire, unstable electric power, humidity and excessive heat.  On the other, hand human related threats include theft, vandalism, accidental or intentional errors causing faults to the hardware and/or disruptions to the services.  Non-physical threats are defined as logical threats as they are not physically tangible, yet their damage is equally if not worse than physical threats.  Logical threats include corruption of systems, disruptive activity affecting information systems, unauthorized access or activity within the information systems and information loss.

The importance of dynamic systems

The utilization of dynamic systems as opposed to static ones allow greater flexibility and adoption to the ever changing security threats, especially the ones comprising asymmetric threats.  In order to effectively contribute to the organization’s risk management, physical and IT security need to converge together (Pathak, 2005).  Hence the convergence between physical and IT security controls is highly relevant in today’s risk and security management, especially for server rooms which are the backbone of the information system setup.  The biggest challenge to converge the physical and IT security is related to the different backgrounds of each team.  However, creating a governing body to implement “security policies, procedures, and deployments” (Carney, 2001) is necessary for actual value in risk management.   

Physical access control guidelines

After identifying the different threats from the physical and logical domains, a generic guideline to be adopted in order to secure a server room is presented in the below 2 tables.  The first table provides physical access control guidelines based on the existing literature and professional experience.  For both physical and logical control, the utilization of a role based mechanism should be in place (Osborn, Sandhu & Munawer, 2000) to ensure access at the necessary clearance level.

Physical control policy #1Facility monitoring – Through the implementation of CCTV in the external perimeter of the facility as well as on the outside and inside of each network room, all physical access is recorded.  Such CCTV footage needs to be stored in multiple locations at the same time and controlled via password and role based management.  Moreover, the recorded footage needs to be checked to ensure continuous optimal operations.
Physical control policy #2Physical access control – The facility and especially the network rooms need to be safeguarded with biometric access which normally involves a fingerprint scan and PIN code.  Similar to CCTV footage, the data for access control needs to be safeguarded by proper password and role based management.  
Physical control policy #3Alarm system – The network rooms need to have the necessary sensors to detect and alarm in case of any environmental threats originating from fire, humidity, temperature, or electric outage.  Such sensors need to be connected to centralized monitoring and accessed using password and role-based management.
Physical control policy #4Backup and disaster recovery plan – The networks and servers need to be backed up daily and stored in an off-site location.  Moreover the backups need to be validated via a Backup/Restore procedure.  Additionally a Disaster recovery plan should be in place in case of catastrophic events that can compromise the network room. 
Physical control policy #5To avoid that sensitive information or access is leaked after decommissioning hardware, an electronic disposal procedure for hardware and documents.
Table 1 – Physical access control guidelines

Logical access control guidelines

The logical access control guidelines presented in table 2 address the risk originating from tampering with the logical IT infrastructure, including the support systems utilized to address the physical access.

Logical control policy #1System authentication using password management and preferably with a multi-factor mechanism should be implemented on all IT equipment.   
Logical control policy #2A centralized log management solution with SIEM (security incident and event management) capabilities need to be in place to ensure that all events are recorded and accessible (Dave, Mahadevia & Trivedi, 2011).
Logical control policy #3In order to prevent internal and external cyber attacks such as trojans, viruses, malware or ransomware, all IT equipment needs to be equipped with anti-virus and anti-malwares software to mitigate such threats.
Logical control policy #4The network room needs physical and application-level firewall implementations for intrusion prevention and in-transit encryption
Logical control policy #5Implement a company-wide procedure for joiners/leavers, specifically for authorized employees who have access to server rooms whereby all IT passwords need to be refreshed and prompt disabling of user profile is imperative
Logical control policy #6Implement a company-wide procedure for Internet access authorized IT equipment, including approved computers and external devices/service (personal devices and cloud storage services). 
Table 2 – Logical access control guidelines

Final comments

Existing research in the access and logical control domains is not solely focused on improving the security mechanisms (Al-Hamdani, 2010; Gomaa, Badawy & Saad, 2010) but also on patterns that are considered irregular (Leong, Fong and Yan, 2007) thus creating alerting mechanisms also on abnormal behavior.  The proposed SECUAREA solution by Lopez, Redondo, Martinez, Ramiro, Hernandez, Bonilla and Breton (2007), utilizes RFID and wireless sensor network to authenticate users both at physical and logical access thus providing a convergence in physical and logical access control. 

The above guidelines provide a holistic governing and supporting body of policies, procedures and deployments, to properly manage the risks associated with access control in the physical and logical domains.


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