In the Digital Future, Cybersecurity is Physical Security

 2018-10-16 By: Elroy Yao

The notion of security becomes more diverse as the world gets more connected. Until the previous century, security may have been limited to only ensuring the safety and wholeness of a person or their belongings. From the birth of internet, security extends to not only the physical aspect, but also the digital.

As technology grows, the number of objects that need to be secured also grows and the resources needed to ensure security grows beyond human capabilities. In fact, the effort even becomes too economically unfeasible for humans to handle. This does not mean that the problems are to be left alone, but it must be handled differently. One solution that is possibly the most capable and economic is, of course AI. In many cases, AI is generally designed to excel in 1 task; although this trend might change in the future. The currently available AI models are great specialists, but terrible generalists.

So How Does AI Help in Security?

Common physical security solutions involves a security personnel monitoring a security feed during their shift, constantly inspecting for abnormalities. However, this solution is not ideal as humans can still miss abnormalities and problems will still happen despite the safeguards. A way to improve this situation is using AI in pattern recognition; an aspect made possible through machine and deep learning. This application can be used, for example to detect whether a person who enters a room is a resident or a stranger. Put in another way; whether a person is a legitimate tenant or a trespasser.

Many security applications of AI generally consist of recognizing, recording, and reporting; with the owner or authorities being the point of contact. AI based security solutions might also be combined with electronic locks to keep trespassers out or with loud speakers which will sound if a problem were to occur. However, further actions from AI solutions might not be possible due to possible legal issues. However, this situation might change in the future and further developments may allow AI based solutions to take a more direct action to ensure security.

Will Physical or Digital Security Benefit More?

As obvious as these applications are, physical security might not leverage the best aspects of AI. Cybersecurity may benefit more greatly from AI and its applications, especially as future cyberattacks may rely quite heavily on AI. A report published in February 2018 listed how AI can amplify the intensity & possibilities of attacks. Malicious agents can and will exploit more and more weaknesses, no matter how minute.

This turns AI's role in security into a matter of necessity rather than a luxury. In the future, perhaps a cyberwar between malicious agents and security companies can break out daily or even every microsecond. This cyberwar might not have direct victims, but millions of devices and billions of dollars will be at stake. This new form of warfare might even have indirect consequences depending on who was attacked and whether it was successful. The cyber-attack might not injure a person, but it can quite possibly interfere with any sort of connected system which will inevitably cause harm and damages more severely than previously possible.

For example, if a hospital or an airport were to be attacked, hundreds of people might be injured or even lose their lives. This possible problem is even magnified even further with AI involved. This type of situation is not yet a reality, but one thing is for sure: even DARPA was preparing for it by hosting the DARPA Cyber Grand Challenge in 2016.

The implication for DARPA might even be greater as more and more military equipment gets connected or internet enabled. Without a proper cybersecurity measure, the equipment which can be used for direct physical attacks might be utilized by malicious agents and in turn attack non-intended targets.

With these connected devices integrating deeper with human lives, their own structural and systemic security must be preserved to ensure they will do their jobs the way they must be done. Once their integrity is compromised, the problem will not stop at the digital world, but spread all the way to the physical world. The result is that once the world becomes completely connected, there will be a deeper connection between digital and physical security.


Physical and digital security can both benefit from AI applications. The question is whether AI will be a standard or an added value to the security applications. One thing to always remember is that AI as a tool can be used to enhance security; but at the same time, it can be used as a tool to attack or interfere with security. With connected devices getting more and more common, the separation between physical and cyber security might be blurred further or even united. In essence, for the connected future, AI enabled digital security will affect the AI enhanced physical security.

See More AI Applications in InnoVEX 2019

AI was one of the main topics of InnoVEX 2018 and has seen a diverse application in many industries; not only logistics and transportation. AI will also be an important aspect in InnoVEX 2019 which will also have a dedicated Theme Pavilion on AI. On October 31 2018, InnoVEX will hold a back-to-back Saloon networking events for both AI and Blockchain. Register now:

From Blockchain to Everything (October 31 2018 15:00-17:00 GMT+8)

Heading to the Future with AI (October 31 2018 17:30-20:00 GMT+8)