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holistic security

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

Holistic security is an approach that seeks to integrate all the elements designed to safeguard an organization, considering them as a complex and interconnected system. The ultimate purpose of holistic security is continuous protection across all attack surfaces: the totality of all physical, software, network and human exposure.

Based on systems thinking, holistic security involves consideration of how any security system's constituent parts interrelate and work within the context of larger systems. A holistic approach can be applied to almost anything that requires security be it a person, a computer, a network, a building or a property, but must always be considered within the broader context.

The integration of different levels and types of security enables a more comprehensive understanding of vulnerabilities and more comprehensive protection against a variety of threats.

For security to be considered holistic, a number of requirements must be met. First, separate areas of security must be applied together:  locks, for example, in the physical environment and security software in the virtual environment. Holistic security also demands that systems and devices be compatible and interoperable.

Employees, also an integral part of the system, need to be trained. All employees should be encouraged to provide feedback and suggestions and identify any security holes they detect. Security policies and procedures must be clearly understood by all personnel and those who will be working with the security system should have input to its implementation.  

Holistic security is increasingly crucial in light of the developing Internet of Things (IoT).  IoT security is complicated by the huge numbers of non-computing devices and other objects (things) being outfitted with networking and data transfer capabilities. Because these systems often communicate over the internet and/or interface with other networks, it’s essential that they and their extended environments are secured.

This was last updated in February 2017

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