What Is Physical Security?

By John Clay
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Computer physical security is a methodology for safeguarding computer systems, peripherals and all assets that form these systems. It is as important as data protection, which is usually implemented through antivirus, firewall and encryption software applications.

Unfortunately, most home computer users have their PCs sitting on a desk, powered up and unlocked. Or they leave their precious $2000 laptop sitting on the kitchen table, easily within view of anyone passing by a window. It would only take a thief a matter of a few seconds to smash that window, enter the house and walk away with that expensive laptop. In addition, they would now have access to all of the personal information and financial data, which could be used to steal a person’s identity. The cost to repair this damage goes way beyond the price of a window and a laptop.

Restrict Access

It's not unheard of for small businesses to place their network servers in hallways or reception areas, accessible to malicious attacks, curious children and spilled drinks. The motto here should be: out of sight, out of mind. Large corporations realize the value of their information, whether proprietary or personal. Considering this, they confine their computer servers to air-conditioned, locked rooms, with access provided to only a few trusted individuals, usually system admins. Doing so protects the heart of their systems from theft and damage.

Lock It Up

Lock the desktop: There are locking lugs available for purchase that install on the case. This prevents a thief from removing the system cover and discretely walking away with your hard drive, which contains everything they need to steal your livelihood. Also suggested is the use of a cable lock to secure both the monitor and the computer case from theft.
Lock the laptop: Similar to locks for desktop computers, there are also cable locks that are made of hardened steel that can be bought to secure a laptop to office furniture. Some have combination-style locks, others require a key. The locking mechanism installs into a port on the laptop, and the other end securely attaches to the desk, which makes removal difficult. Should a thief forcibly remove this mechanism, it would cause visible damage to the side of the computer, making reselling difficult; as it would be apparent it was taken by force. For older portable computers that don’t have such a port, there are systems that employ attaching a hardened pad to the exterior using a super strong adhesive. Again, forcibly removing this would cause noticeable damage.
Lock the system: This is something that costs nothing and takes less than a second to implement. Lock your computer system when you’re not using it. On Windows XP, merely pressing the “Windows” key and the letter “L” keeps you safe and locks out the system. Other operating systems use different shortcut keys, but the method is similar and just as quick.

Protect Your Lifelines

A typical household computer system usually consists of a few computers, a cable modem, a router and network cabling running throughout the home. When you use network cabling, make sure the wires are properly hidden against the wall to prevent anyone from tripping on them and causing damage. If you use wireless networking, which is becoming more of the standard, make sure to use the most current encryption technology, with a strong password to secure the router. Lastly, keep the modem and router out of reach of small children, and out of common areas.

Keeping your computer and information safe using encryption software, antivirus, antispyware and a firewall is important and necessary in today’s online world. Often overlooked is the fact that it is way too easy for someone to just walk away with your computer. Physical security is easy and inexpensive, considering the peace of mind that it brings.

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