The "Physical" Security of Cybersecurity

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Looking out my office window, I’m enjoying watching the leaves fall from the trees.  Halloween has come and gone, tree colors have exploded; now the leaves are falling.  Daylight Savings Time has ended (contentment for those who loved the extra hour of sleep), and fall is in full-force.  All of this means that “the holidays” are upon us in full effect.  And with the holidays upon us, I thought I would take a moment or two and bring up the physical security aspects of our trade craft.  We get so focused on encryption, identity access management, secure data transmission, etc., that we forget we have a PHYSICAL security component to our craft.

As a former police officer for 20 years, the holidays brought with it happy times/sad times. People would go shopping for gifts.  They would load up their cars, and make one more store stop… and return to their car emptied of their newly purchased gifts.  They were in such a hurry, they forgot to lock the doors on the car when they ran inside.  Upon return, the car is empty.  Now is the time that we all need to take pause, and take stock of our SITUATIONAL AWARENESS.  That doesn’t just mean in the cyber-realm, but in our daily lives.

In the cyber-realm, breach stories have become commonplace.  Every week, you seem to hear the latest and greatest breach: Home Depot, Target, Anthem, Equifax.  We call each breach by the victim’s name; the “Target” breach, the “Equifax” breach, the “Yahoo” breach.  We can speak about each breach based on the circumstances surrounding the breach.  But what about our neighbor John’s home break-in?  Or what about Sally’s car window being smashed out, and her wallet stolen from the car?  Let’s take a moment and talk about some good physical security practices.

When you are running out and about this holiday season, remember to keep belongings hidden.  If you can, cover up your gifts in your vehicle.  Better yet, don’t stockpile all those gifts.  Make a few purchases, and get them home.  The less of a treasure-trove you appear, the less tempting a target you become.

Don’t make it easy for thieves to get to your belongings.  Lock your car doors, and turn on the alarms. Make sure you take your valuables with you, like your checkbook, your wallet, your cash.  Don’t leave that in the car.  Likewise, grab your phone and bring it with you.  Leaving it in the car is begging to have the windows broken, and your phone taken.

Speaking of your phone, do you have a lock on your phone?  Make sure you are enabling some type of lock on your phone, whether it’s a pin or your fingerprint.  Perhaps it’s your facial recognition, or your crazy swipe pattern.  Regardless, make sure your phone is secured when not in use.  Why?  We do so much with our phones nowadays, that an identity thief will have a heyday grabbing your phone.  Most of the time, we save our credentials on our mobile applications.  We make it as easy as possible to get into the application.  Yet we don’t secure our phone’s front door?

The adage of neighbors not locking their doors…that doesn’t work anymore.  Lock your doors to your house, both front and back.  I used to not think about it when I would be working in the backyard, yet my front door was unlocked.  Anyone could have come in and explored my house.  Lock the doors to the front.  Sure, I’ve grumbled when I walked to the front yard, decided I needed to run inside quickly, and was locked out.  But that also meant that casual observers could not just walk into my house as well.

Finally, when walking out and about this holiday season, keep your head on a swivel. Look around and know your surroundings.  The world has become more and more violent.  Don’t become an easy victim!  Know who is around you.  Know where your nearest exits are, and where potential hiding spots may be located. If in a bigger city, pay attention to fellow pedestrians.  Make eye contact with people that are close to you.  Thieves tend to avoid “hard targets”, especially if they feel they have been spotted by their potential victim. Stuff happens unexpectedly!  I’m not saying someone is going to go berserk and start a shooting rampage.  But you could be walking down the sidewalk, and a vehicle collision directs one of the cars up into the sidewalk where you are walking.  Did you have an escape path to get out of the way?  Or were you looking down at your feet, not paying attention to your surroundings?

Carry your purse close to you, out in front of you, with the zippers closed and a firm grip on it.  Carry bags in a similar fashion, and don’t let strangers get into your blind spot.  Avoid a confrontation if you can; it’s better to let the bag go then possibly end up in the ER with life threatening injuries because you had $20.00 in your purse.

It’s a shame that we’ve gotten to this point in life, but we need to realize that we are responsible for ourselves.  Take the time to practice good safety at home and out in the world.  While bits and bytes are most of our livelihood, let’s not forget the physical! Lock doors, hide valuables, maintain awareness!

Have a happy, and safe, holiday season this year!