Computers are very attractive to a thief.

The theft of a computer can have far reaching implications for a business. It’s not just the replacement of the hardware that is the key issue, nor the interruption to the business until it is replaced. It is the fact that any person could have your data and use it for their own commercial advantage.

The Targets

The main targets are:-

· The File Server

The heart of your network is very costly to purchase and often critical to a core business function. It is therefore worth taking extra precautions to protect this one item of equipment.

· The Personal Computer

There are many examples of thieves not stealing the entire unit, but simply stealing the valuable components within (RAM, SIMMs, processors, hard drives). It is suspected that staff theft is also responsible for the loss of certain components, especially memory chips (“Chip Dipping”).

The Laptop

A very portable and valuable piece of property, easily identified by a thief when carried in a public place. Hide its designer case in a plastic carrier bag. The handles can be carried together quite easily. If you have a long walk from a car park to the office, consider dropping your laptop off at reception or returning in your car to collect it on your way home.

Be vigilant in the vicinity of airports and railway stations. Obviously, these points are also for personal safety reasons.

· The Peripherals

Computer accessories (especially colour and laser printers) may not be as critical to your business as a computer, but they are very attractive to a thief. The sight of a desirable printer in the reception area or through an office window may attract unwelcome attention.

Physical Solutions

Always ensure keys are removed from lockable computer cases. There are a number of extra security devices that can physically restrain the computer.

Briefly, these include:-

· Cable Ties

A cheap, low security restraint which attaches the equipment to either furniture, the wall or floor (a minimum of 8mm diameter cable is recommended). In general, these do not protect the computer’s components, but they do deter the casual removal of an item whilst you are distracted.

· Security Screws

The replacement of existing computer cabinet screws will go some way to preventing “downgrades” of memory by employees, but the chip thief may still simply smash a way into the processor unit.

· Lock down Plates

Generally, locking the base of the computer to the desk is more secure than using cable devices. It must be stressed, however, that this device tends only to be effective when used as part of a general security package, eg to slow down a thief whilst an alarm is ringing.

This type of device tends not to protect the internal computer components.

· Entrapment Devices

These surround the whole computer processor unit, allowing it to be bolted down.

Some devices rely on self-adhesive plates to adhere to the desk, but they are only as good as the laminate on the desk.

Models are also available for securing laptops in vehicles or on a desk. Authorised removal is easy with a key.

The security standard LPS 1214 is applicable to entrapment devices tested by the Loss Prevention Council.

· Security Cabinets

These are basically lockable steel safes that house the processor unit, again bolted down for maximum protection.

This device probably offers the most secure environment and is therefore ideal for file servers and critical personal computers.

Computer Alarms

There are a number of electronic devices that can be installed around, or in, the computer:-

· Loop Alarms

These effectively connect the computer to either “a stand alone” alarm or an existing alarm system.

· Movement Sensors

Detecting movement of the computer, the alarm activates only when a unit is unplugged.
A common type fits into the expansion slot within the computer and contains various devices to detect movement.

It is always wise to check with your supplier that fitting a device will not invalidate any warranty.

· Proximity Alarms

These work on the principle that the alarm sounds when a computer is moved out of a protected area. They tend to be similar to a clothing store tagging system.

Whilst this type of alarm may be effective for detecting someone tampering with or stealing a computer during office hours, their effectiveness outside working hours is questionable.

· Network Monitoring

Where a network exists, it is possible to monitor all the connected computers. However, the systems must be monitored at all times so that a person knows when to respond to an attack

Data Security

Use a disk lock to prevent unauthorised copying or importing of data which may contain a virus. Make regular back-ups to minimise potential loss in case the worst scenario happens and ensure the back-ups are stored off site (at least 500 metres is preferred).

Remember that even if data is not destroyed in a disaster, access could be denied to all staff for as long as several weeks (as has been the case in recent bombings). Ensure that you comply with BS 10012:2009 (British Standard 10012:2009).

· Data Security Software

There are various companies that can provide ‘data recovery’ services. BS 1002 is a legal standard created to maintain the privacy of all sensitive personal information held by companies. It outlines how and when you may or may not use data and gives guidance on communicating with customers about their information.

his article is from ‘A Guide To Business Security‘ produced by Greater Manchester Police.