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How physical security can help protect your data

In today's business environment, information security is a concern for almost everyone. According to a recent survey from the UK government, as many as one in three (33 per cent) of the country's small and medium-sized enterprises have fallen victim to data breaches.

Meanwhile, cyber attacks like the ones on Target, eBay and Sony have shown just how much reputational damage and service disruption a large-scale incident can cause.

As such, organisations are looking to a range of technologies to assist in protecting their customer data and intellectual property against information security threats: access controls, intrusion detection and prevention systems, antivirus software, and so on. These solutions take a high degree of technical know-how to use effectively, but can usually stop hackers from gaining remote access to private networks and stealing data over the internet.

How physical security can help protect your data

However, this isn't the only way that organisations can be implicated in data protection failures. Not all threats to information assets start with hackers on the other side of the world: they also sometimes find their origin in poor physical security on the business' own premises.

Here are some of the ways that breaches can occur as a result of internal risks and process errors, and how physical security can help protect your data.

The loss and theft of devices

Even in an age of cloud computing, organisations often hold much of their most sensitive data locally. Confidential files and folders could easily be stored on USB sticks, which are trivial for opportunistic thieves to swipe from workers' pockets and lockers; they could be located on the hard drives of laptop and desktop computers, which are often grabbed in burglaries; and they could sit in an on-premise server room, which if broken into would potentially provide criminals with hundreds if not thousands of mission-critical records.

As such, organisations must make sure their physical security provisions - including locks, CCTV and alarm systems, and guards - are commensurate to the value of their data as well as their equipment.

Exposed printouts and faxes

Not all data spends its entire lifespan in digital form. It's often most convenient for organisations to commit information to paper: when producing reports and communicating knowledge back to customers and partners, for example.

This is a frequently overlooked security risk, and not just because paper records are susceptible to loss and theft. Printing and faxing often attracts careless behaviour, with employees regularly allowing sensitive and regulated information to stack up in printer trays in publicly accessible areas. Printers and fax machines should always be stored in secure locations, preventing unauthorised access to this data by keeping it behind lock and key.

Position of computer screens

Finally, it may seem unlikely, but the way you position the computer screens in your office can have an impact on the security of your data. The relative locations of open doors, windows and public areas could all affect whether or not on-screen information is safe from prying eyes. Observing a worker's day-to-day actions at their computer may well furnish criminals with all they need to effect a more serious data breach, whether it's committed remotely or involves a physical burglary.

 

Posted by Julie Tucker

Image courtesy of Thinkstock

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