Physical Security – Lock it up!

All should take an interest in protecting their own property and personal information.  As a member of the University community, you also have a responsibility to protect the privacy and security of the University's property and information placed in your care.

Whether we are talking about an office computer, portable electronic devices, or print outs of sensitive data,  care must be taken to properly secure and protect them.

For workstations and laptops, make sure that you have a secure password or passphrase set, and enable a screen saver that requires a password.  All workstations or laptops used for University business should be encrypted to protect the data on them from theft.  If it is in an area vulnerable to theft, consider a cable lock to lock it to the desk.  Most desktop and laptop computers have built-in slots made to connect a cable lock. These locks are available at most computer stores.  Smaller laptops or other devices can also be secured when not in use by storing them in a locked desk drawer or cabinet.

Other portable devices, such as USB drives, can also be encrypted.  They should also be physically secured when not in use, for example in a locked drawer or cabinet.

Remember to secure your backups also, with encryption as well as physical security measures.  They contain the same data as your laptop, desktop, or portable devices you are backing up!

General tips:

  • Never leave your laptop or portable devices in a public place, even for "just a minute".   Many thefts on campus happen while the person is away for just a few minutes, often just in the office next door or across the hall.
  • If you must leave your laptop or portable devices in your car, store them in the trunk, under a seat, or covered up, and do so before you reach your destination so potential thieves don't see you hiding them.  Make sure your car is locked!
  • Avoid setting your laptop or portable devices on the floor, as that is an easy way to forget or loss track of it.  If you have to set it on the floor, try to place it between your feet or against your leg so you will remain aware of it.
  • Use a low-key bag or case for your laptop or devices.  Avoid expensive looking bags or cases that scream out what it is to thieves.
  • Differentiate your device.  Unique looking devices are less likely targets.  It's less likely that someone will steal your device and say they thought it belonged to them if your device looks unique. Sometimes these markings make it harder to resell, so they're less likely to be stolen. Use a permanent marking, engraving, or tamper-resistant commercial tags.
  • Enable any ant-theft, tracking or remote wipe software available on your devices, so if they are stolen you can try to track them or delete their data.
  • Don't leave sensitive information lying around for others to see or take, including on your screen, on printers, scanners, copiers or fax machines.
  • Use a paper shredder when throwing out paper copies containing sensitive information.

Immediately report missing or stolen devices to the appropriate authorities.  See our previous blog article "What to Do If Your Computer or Device is Lost or Stolen" for information about how to report missing or stolen devices.

Written by Eric Rostetter, Senior System Administrator
Questions or comments? The best and easiest way to contact us is via the CNS Help Desk form.

See also: Security