Physical security is primarily concerned with restricting physical access by unauthorized people (commonly interpreted as intruders) to controlled facilities, although there are other considerations and situations in which physical security measures are valuable (for example, limiting access within a facility and/or to specific assets, and environmental controls to reduce physical incidents such as fires and floods).
Security inevitably incurs costs and, in reality, it can never be perfect or complete - in other words, security can reduce but cannot entirely eliminate risks. Given that controls are imperfect, strong physical security applies the principle of defense in depth using appropriate combinations of overlapping and complementary controls. For instance, physical access controls for protected facilities are generally intended to:
- deter potential intruders (e.g. warning signs and perimeter markings)
- distinguish authorized from unauthorized people (e.g. using keycards/access badges)
- delay, frustrate and ideally prevent intrusion attempts (e.g. strong walls, door locks, and safes)
- detect intrusions and monitor/record intruders (e.g. intruder alarms and CCTV systems)
- trigger appropriate incident responses (e.g. by security guards and police)