Lock it down: Don’t forget physical security for your business

Anthony Caruana
9 September, 2014
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Physical security, cameras, macworld australiaAfter last week’s naked celebrity iCloud photo hacking scandal, it’s tempting for businesses to reengage their focus on securing computer systems. Chances are, someone will be paying more attention to the strength of passwords, processes for password resets, firewall rules and other parts of the systems security puzzle.

But what about physical security?

It’s still important to think about how your offices and stores are secured and what measures you have in place to deter would-be thieves.

Like any security measure, it is almost impossible to prevent every possible theft. You’re really in the business of risk management and mitigation. That means evaluating the points of potential weakness and putting in place reasonable steps that mitigates the risk without placing barriers in place to operating your business.

Start with the basics

It sounds pretty basic but good locks are important. High quality deadbolts and other locks aren’t cheap but they are important.

Although they might not deter a determined thief, they will make an opportunistic one think twice and move on.

Also, make sure your staff are alert to some of the risks. Leaving laptops out on desks, unsecured, overnight is a bad idea.


As far as physical security goes, there have been huge advancements in security cameras over recent years. It took some time but the security and surveillance industry caught up with and surpassed the commercial camera market.

If you’re shopping around for security cameras – avoid analogue cameras. The new wave of cameras are called “IP cameras”. They connect to your network over Ethernet and can usually be powered over that connection using Power over Ethernet, or PoE.

The new cameras are able to catch much larger fields of vision than older ones at a high resolution. This translates to needing potentially fewer cameras as each camera can see more. It also means that when you need to review the footage you’ll be able to zoom into objects that are further away and see more detail than older analogue cameras could deliver.

Audio recording is also available now and you’ll find that cameras no longer need to be recording all the time. Most are capable of automatically activating when there’s movement or sound and start recording. They can also send alerts to your smartphone via apps or email, and let you see what’s happening by streaming video to you wherever you are so you can alert the authorities without worrying about calling them out on a false alarm.

There was a time when installation of cameras was a complex and costly exercise. But the new generation of cameras can be easily installed without needing a expert. As long as you can run an Ethernet cable from a PoE-enabled switch to the camera you’ll be in business.

For indoor cameras, it’s worth investing in devices that can capture images in the dark. There are many models available that can shoot in the dark using infrared lighting. The result is black and white image that can be useful.

However, the latest cameras to hit the security market don’t require infrared. They can capture images in almost pitch-black conditions and deliver a clear image by the use of sophisticated software and highly sensitive image sensors.

The images above are the same location shot through an iPhone with a new generation security camera that can shoot clear images in the dark.


Device tracking

There are lots of services out there that let you track your gear in the event that it’s stolen.

Apple has its Find my iPhone and Find my Mac services but there are others as well. Some require that you attach a permanent label to your device so that, in the event the device is stolen, it will be permanently marked. We’ve seen labels that, once removed, leave an indelible bar code on the device that can’t be removed.

Again – the aim here is deterrence. A determined thief might still steal the device but if you can discourage opportunists then you’re mitigating the risk.

Encrypt your hard drives

One last thing – encrypt your hard drives. Disk performance is at such a level now that the overhead of encryption is almost imperceptible.

OS X includes File Vault, which can be enabled in System Preferences. Turn it on so that in the event your computer is stolen, the data on the drive can’t be accessed if it’s removed from the rest of the computer.

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