Geospatial data is to today’s world what maps, compasses, and smoke signals once used to be. People are able to trace each other’s whereabouts, follow live updates on storms or traffic, and locate amenities in close proximity.
With businesses implementing more data-based AI solutions for everything from security to sales, cybersecurity experts have turned to geospatial data to shore up the lines of defense. While governments around the world have pressed new technology into service to deal with society’s current critical issues, it feels like the cybersecurity industry has yet to take full advantage of AI, even as the Pentagon recognizes the crucial role of data in the field of defense.
But how does geospatial data apply to cybersecurity?
In this article, we will lay out several ways geospatial data can help strengthen cybersecurity systems, and we will outline the challenges that using geospatial data presents.
Geospatial Data for National Defense
Implementing geospatial data into pre-existing security systems can be a seamless way to strengthen a company’s cybersecurity defense – or a nation’s. Platforms using geospatial data are already in use by national security agencies. Emergency management, national intelligence, infrastructure protection, and national defense platforms all rely on geospatial data to implement effective policies of protection.
By integrating live location information into sophisticated cybersecurity systems, national organizations can act quickly in response to current conditions, threats, and crises. The US Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) has determined that the virtual environment includes four distinct types of network layers. Each of these layers has core aspects, including data, network, device, and geographic layers, that can be located in space and time. This is where geospatial data comes in. By implementing defense systems that include mappable and traceable physical locations in the digital sphere, security experts can more effectively follow and track possible threats.
National defense systems use geospatial data to prioritize cyber threats by quickly creating a solution that integrates multiple intelligence information, analysis, information sharing, situational awareness, and all other existing data into a geospatial solution. This way, all platforms work together to reduce uncertainty in the face of a cyberattack.
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Encoded Office Space
More companies are now working with geospatial data to set safety and security parameters for their in-person and systematic access points. By creating a virtual “security fence” that borders certain safe areas, employees will be granted or prevented access to company databases that contain sensitive financial and employee records. While there are still tried and true access methods based on obscuring location, expect that hackers will have more trouble bypassing geospatial-equipped cybersecurity systems that implement a layer of security based on real time physical location as the technology’s use matures within the industry.
Plus, it allows company heads and IT security teams to track and maintain records of employees’ whereabouts and access points. With many cyberattacks arriving from internal sources, such as disgruntled former employees who have access to inside company information, maintaining a record of who has attempted to access company systems from which location can help fend off this type of attack.
With geospatial-equipped security systems, cybersecurity specialists can create particular whitelisted zones determined as safe. This “geo-fence” allows employees to access information and software from within a specific, predetermined office building or from a certain IP address.
Anyone who attempts access to company intel from a blacklisted area, or anywhere that falls outside the determined parameters, will be restricted and flag the system. Should any device enter or exit the geo-fence boundaries, the software will issue an alert, notifying security teams and/or company administrators. Thus, companies are able to extend the parameters of surveilled office space into the hybrid digital-physical sphere, by tracking digital access from physical locations.
Geospatial Data Tracking Challenges
While the addition of geospatial data indicators to cybersecurity systems can provide extra layers of security, it can also present various challenges. With companies collecting databases of geospatial data on employees, hackers seeking to gain access to sensitive data will not only be attempting access to people’s names, addresses, phone numbers, contact details, payroll records, and financial information, but also employees’ physical whereabouts.
Currently one of the most popular, widespread uses of secure geospatial data is from concerned parents who employ devices in the form of smartphone apps that keep track of the whereabouts of their children. The GPS signal allows parents to follow the live location of their children as they move throughout the world – just as employers can chart the movements of their employees using live GPS signals.
But these family tracking devices are particularly susceptible to security breaches, leading to open source access to private, sensitive, and potentially dangerous information. One such case occurred this year, with the hacking of a Smartwatch app that allowed parents to log in to a phone app and see where their children were, as tracked by a Smartwatch with GPS capabilities. When parents (located in countries across the world) logged in to the app, they were surprised to find that they were accidentally privy to sensitive information – names, locations, and even recorded voice messages – relating to other people’s children, in other parts of the globe. The same type of breach presents one major challenge to geospatial cybersecurity.
Secure From All Sides
As governments and forward-facing companies already know, utilizing the most contemporary, cutting-edge technology in terms of cybersecurity is key, particularly when new tech can address pre-existing weaknesses in the various lines of defense. By incorporating geographical, live location elements into security systems, it is possible to anticipate, prevent, and more quickly recover from cybersecurity threats.
Geospatial data can present more sensitive information for hackers to seek out, which may present a greater threat risk. Using geospatial data, however, cybersecurity systems can approach possible breaches from every angle. It’s no wonder, then, that cybersecurity experts want more.