Top Physical Security Threats (and How to Prepare for Them)

Date: Apr-07-2022

Author: Kim Brown

When it comes to physical security, individuals, security staff, and managers all have important roles to play. Regardless of your role, being educated about risks, as well as best security practices, will help minimize threats and breaches.

Physical security is synonymous with personal security. It has to do with keeping people and property safe and free from danger. There are some “common knowledge” things that we can all do, such as refusing to attend to strangers, and locking doors if you’re the last one out of an office or building. But strategizing against current physical security threats is more intricate than that.

A post-Covid-19 analysis reported that most business organizations in the US and the world would need to improve their physical security by 40% to catch up with the trend in the world of work. Hiring security guards as well as installing video cameras is a good start. Companies that have recently done this demonstrate that they see the importance of augmenting security to support their company and their bottom line.

So, what are some of the top physical security threats right now? And how can we prepare for them?

While there are more than a few items to consider, some of the most prevalent physical security threats include:

  • Social engineering
  • Theft
  • Terrorism
  • Tailgating

Each of these security threats has distinct and comprehensive methods that can be put in place to minimize them.

Social engineering

This is a common yet underrated physical security threat. It is best explained as a situation where a person gets to know someone else, usually a staff member, on an informal or casual level. They aren’t trying to make a new friend though; they are after security information to aid the perpetuation of criminal activities. They often won’t commit crimes themselves. They’ll pass the information they collect to someone else.

Social engineers will meet with targets in different social settings. They discuss things over a bottle of wine, or a few beers at a sports event. They may even target residential buildings. This means that social engineers may talk with an insider to get information about their residence too. Social engineers do not appear as such until they are caught.

How to minimize this threat

To combat this nefarious physical security threat, staff should be trained on the importance of confidentiality. That is to say, they need to learn that office information is meant to be kept confidential. As a plus, they shouldn’t discuss security processes for entering their workplace. Family members and friends, and those within residential buildings, should be careful about what they say in public, particularly when it’s sensitive or private.


This is also known as burglary. It is another recurring physical security threat that people are prone to. People steal all types of things. Some criminals might target busy retail stores and try to steal food, small accessories, small electronics and clothes. Others will try to infiltrate businesses or schools so that they can take valuables such as money, documents, IT devices like laptops and desktop computers, or even jewellery. It is a common crime and needs additional security attention to curb. Some stores experience regular theft, which causes them to lose significant revenue.

How to minimize this threat

In a bid to prevent cases of theft, facilities managers or individual companies should subscribe to the service of a security management company. In this light, they will be assigned efficient and able-bodied security guards who will have the interest and safety of the inhabitants at heart and do their job efficiently. Depending on the type of company, getting a trained dog may also be useful, especially if you manage a construction site or warehouse. A sentry dog is most often used to guard the outside of these types of properties. The dog is free to walk around on its own without instruction from an owner. Sentry dogs are trained to attack anyone who trespasses, and can provide companies an additional layer of protection.

Another recommended safety tip for the prevention of theft is physical barriers. Knowledge-based companies may have a special locked room for equipment, and locked cabinets for documents. Large retail stores keep small tech items behind locked cases. Shoppers must ask a staff member if they want to purchase one of the items in the transparent cases.

Experts also recommend the installation of CCTV cameras in strategic locations. Combining two or more of these security measures may translate to an environment where theft is very difficult to get away with.


This is a deliberate act of violence done to create public fear through the suffering of the victims. Terrorism can happen anywhere, and can be carried out by anyone. This physical security threat has the capability of taking the lives of many and causing long-term trauma and suffering for others. The economic losses and sociocultural effects of terrorism are also incredibly significant.

How to minimize this threat

Corporate culture and values influence the content of disaster preparedness plans and the effectiveness with which plans and training are communicated and understood throughout a corporation. If safety is a widely recognized corporate value, then preparedness training may be better embedded in corporate safety training, and be better received by staff.

Companies or buildings can also initiate targeted knowledge dissemination programs for corporate leadership and staff who work in the building. Educational programs should foster integrated disaster planning for human continuity, and include knowledge about organizational and behavioral responses to terrorism.

Corporate security should already be established, and these professionals should have the knowledge and interest for a leadership role for human continuity preparedness. Guards must understand how to build a community of safety in order to enhance their ability to perform in this capacity.


Tailgating is when a guest or stranger closely follows someone to gain entry to a building or floor which requires authorization to enter. Usually, a person will need an ID card, code, or fob to get through a set of doors or barriers. The person without the proper credentials will essentially sneak into the area behind the person who is entering legitimately.

Tailgating is a problem for businesses, residential buildings, and even transit corporations.

How to minimize this threat

To solve this security problem, business organizations that use security doors and locks should also install anti-tailgating systems that will prevent tailgaters from accessing their space. There are systems that will count the number of people passing through a barrier at one time, and set off alarms if two or more people are detected. There are also two-door systems where the second door is only opened if there is one person waiting to enter. It will not open if two people are detected.

Security guards can also be positioned at entry points to discourage people from tailgating.


Physical security threats are always evolving. As prevention strategies become more sophisticated, so too do the plans to evade barriers. As such, companies must continue to evaluate their current physical security protections, and assess their utility.

If this is not your strong point, there are always companies that are skilled in assessing current security measures and designing custom plans for your unique circumstances.