Information security - physical threats

Information security - physical threats

When it comes to data security, we tend to focus our attention on technical threats such as hacking or malware and it's easy to overlook the physical threats. But these threats are very real.

They range from passive threats – such as shoulder surfing, eavesdropping and tailgating – to more active threats – such as ‘dumpster diving’ (searching through garbage) and blatant theft.

Whether at work, at home, or out and about, it’s important to be aware of the threats and protect yourself and your belongings.

Here are our top tips for keeping yourself safe, wherever you may be:

At work

  • Lock your office door and windows when you leave, even for short periods.
  • Keep a clear desk policy placing paperwork in lockable cabinets.
  • Keep bags and wallets secure, preferably locked in a drawer or cabinet. Or carry them with you at all times.
  • Use secure disposal methods for paperwork and electronic storage media.
  • Use network file shares rather than your C drive.
  • Challenge anyone you do not recognise or who is not displaying suitable ID.
  • Watch out for unknown individuals tailgating you through secure entries.

At home

  • Keep doors and windows locked, particularly when you are not at home, and ensure any gates/boundaries are in good repair.
  • Fit (and use) an intruder alarm and consider CCTV.
  • Use a cross cut shredder before disposing of documents containing sensitive information.
  • Take care with how you dispose of packaging that might advertise expensive items you have purchased; remove address labels and dispose of them separately.
  • If you live in a flat, be vigilant with who you let into common areas.
  • Consider investing in a domestic fire extinguisher.
  • Security mark high value items.
  • Consult your insurance company about comprehensive cover, if you don’t already have it.

Out and about

  • Ensure your devices are encrypted and locked with a password, a pin, or biometrics.
  • Don’t display your cash, cards or devices unnecessarily and be vigilant of would-be thieves.
  • Ensure your car or bicycle is secured before leaving it unattended, even for short periods.
  • Don’t give out sensitive information such as passwords or card details over the phone.
  • Be vigilant of shoulder surfers trying to obtain your pin or log in credentials.


Author: Security Team, Digital and Information Services

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