The Need for Physical Computer Security

by : Michael Fairbanks

Imagine showing up to the office one morning to the chilling reality of having been a victim of theft. Laptop computers are missing, LCD monitors gone and, most disturbingly, the space where the file server is vastly empty. Not only are you faced with the loss of expensive and valuable equipment, but also the critical data you are accountable for has now been compromised. Theft of valuable and sensitive computer equipment can have extreme repercussions and costs to businesses, individuals, and the general public.

You hear it all the time but never imagine it will happen to you. Unfortunately, computer theft and tampering is real and occurs more often than most people realize. As technologies improve and computers become even more lightweight and mobile, the risk of theft and security intrusions also increases. Unsecured laptops and other computer equipment are easy targets for theft in any office or public environment. Whether it is a school, private office, airport or library, there is the potential for computer theft and tampering from both external and internal threats.

According to a 2006 study by the Ponemon Institute, there was an 81% increase in the number of computers reporting stolen laptops containing sensitive information. A survey conducted by the FBI in the same year reported that 47% of computer security professionals reported a laptop theft in the past twelve months. At the office of American International Group, a file server and several laptop computers were stolen and compromised the private data of over 970,000 potential customers. While traveling, an Equifax company laptop was stolen from an employee risking personal information including employee names and social security numbers.

Well, maybe this will only affect business travelers and high traffic office environments? Nope. Computer theft can happen anywhere from a presentation hall to your very own home. An ING US employee found this out when a company computer was stolen from their home exposing the personal identities of over 13,000 employees and retirees in the District of Columbia. Similarly, an employee of the Department of Veteran Affairs had a company laptop stolen from home compromising the personal information of 26.5 million US war veterans.

How do you protect yourself and your valuable equipment? Often it is just common sense, but there are many computer security solutions available to safeguard your equipment and data. At any computer workstation, a computer cable lock could be enough to prevent a laptop, printer, or monitor from being stolen. Computer security cables, computer locks, and laptop locks are all cost effective solutions that could easily deter a thief and motivate them to move on to other, easier targets. One major retailer in the US has already invested in new computer security locks throughout their chain to comply with PCI data security standards. For file servers and larger computer hardware, complete computer enclosures and computer lockers can also effectively secure equipment from theft and tampering.

It is better to ere on the side of caution and safeguard your computer equipment than risk losing everything. Thinking that computer theft will never happen to you only makes it harder to deal with if it ever does. By taking some time to consider computer security options, you protect your valuable equipment and the data within it.