Friday, June 5, 2015

Tech: Why Physical Security is Important to your Data!

Physical Security... locking your doors is important, but it is so much more than that!  While most IT security focuses on technology, network connectivity, firewalls, antivirus, and patching, you cannot overlook the importance of physical security. From employees, teachers and staff members who leave the building with a laptop or tablet to your physical work location, everyone should be aware of their surroundings and take basic precautions to safeguard the equipment and data in their care. Here are some of these basic physical security best practices.

Situational Awareness 
Users should always be aware of where they are and who is around them.  Maintaining situational awareness of their surroundings at all times and paying attention to potential threats is key to keeping data safe. They should not talk loudly on the phone or with colleagues about sensitive topics when others are within earshot. They should not pull out their phone and pay more attention to it than to walking down the street or standing at a train platform. They should not set up their laptop where someone can easily grab it and run off, and a refractive screen filter may be in order for those who work on sensitive data out in the open.

Maintain Control
There will be times when users cannot maintain direct physical control of IT resources, such as when their laptop goes through the X-ray machine at the airport. But they can make an effort to always maintain visual contact with their equipment and ensure that they are not letting their laptop go through the X-ray machine until they are able to go through the metal detector too. Although many TSA agents will balk at this suggestion, it does not hurt to make a best effort.  Users should also ensure that any portable media that is not directly connected to their computer and within sight.  It should always be either in their pocket, or put away out of sight in their bag, which must remain within their control. It only takes a second for someone to grab a USB key or laptop and walk off with it. Don’t provide anyone with the opportunity to grab something of yours while you are not looking.

Accidents will happen and things will get stolen.  By encrypting all data on all portable storage and laptop hard drives, when something does grow wings and flies away, at least the sensitive data stored on the hardware will not be readily accessible to the new ‘owner.’ Make sure you use strong encryption, a strong password.  And never, ever write down your password on anything.  If you keep a list of passwords, choose an encrypted app on a secure device to store this information.

Organized Work AreaA clean office is a sign of a security-minded person. If you have stacks of papers, or worse, if your office is filled with a stack of old laptops -- you want to clean it up, now. If you don’t want the cleaning crew, visitors or co-workers to see what they should not, then don’t leave sensitive information on the desk. If you’re away from your computer, lock the screen, and if you have data on a whiteboard erase it before you leave or cover it so that it’s not visible to anyone outside your office and prying eyes.  Your organization should have a mandatory screen lock built in when a computer is left unused for a certain period of time.

Lock It Up
Sensitive documents, DVDs, portable drives, and USB keys should be locked in your desk at the end of the day. Your laptop bag should be locked in your trunk when you must travel with it, and MUST leave it in the car. Avoid doing so when it’s very hot… you don’t want to cook your laptop. When renting cars, make sure they come with a trunk so you can put things away out of sight. In a hotel, a cable lock helps ensure that your laptop is secure when you are using it and have left the room for dinner or time in the gym. The hotel’s cleaning service may be extremely honest and trustworthy, but they may not.  It is not unusual for them to leave the doors open while they are cleaning rooms.  It only takes a second to jump in, grab the laptop, and jump back out.

Don’t Advertise

While those bags with the company logo look really cool, they also advertise who you work for and what is in the bag.  It is important to have identifying information on your laptop and bag, but a discreet card in your bag and a sticker on the laptop is sufficient for that. The same goes for logo wear. When traveling, try to avoid wearing clothes or using bags with the logo of your company so that you are not calling attention to yourself. Sure, everyone will know what you have in your back pack, but without a logo you could be as much a student as a high-end consultant for a big name company. Most physical security involves common sense, situational awareness, and reducing the risk. Stay alert and don’t part with your laptop or files or memory sticks unless you really have to. Even then you can take precautions. Better safe than sorry!

Bruce holds a degree in Computer Science from Temple University, a Graduate Certificate in Biblical History from Liberty University and is working a Master Degree in American History at American Public University.  He has worked in educational and technology for over 18 years, specializes in building infrastructures for schools that work to support the mission of technology in education in the classroom.  He also has served as a classroom teacher in Computer Science, History and English classes.  

Bruce is the author of five books: Sands of TimeTowering Pines Volume One:Room 509The Star of ChristmasPhiladelphia Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel and The Insider's Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel -- with a new book, Learn the Basics: Digital Forensics, due soon. 

Follow Bruce's Novel releases by subscribing to his FREE newsletter!

Be sure to check out Bruce's Allentown Education Examiner Page, his Twitter and his Facebook!

No comments:

Post a Comment