Almost everyone worries about computer security in one way or another.  Much is written about network security, of course, and lots of attention is payed to file and operating system security, often as it relates to viruses.

Security of your physical computing assets, however, is just as important, and perhaps more important.  If someone has physical access to one of your assets, say a desktop computer, laptop, server or router, then, given enough time, they can compromise that asset.  Without sufficient physical security, all of the time, attention and resources spent on other security matters can be wasted.

For example, someone who has physical access to a device that uses a hard drive can, in a sometimes surprisingly short period of time, clone a hard disk of your device, and then study that at their leisure at another location.  You might not even know anyone was there.   As another example, they could replace your passwords, giving the perpetrator access to all or a portion of your environment while locking you out at the same time.

It is a truism that you cannot hold out forever against someone who can gain physical access to your environment, and someone who has access can of course do untold damage simply by destroying computing assets.  However that does not mean that you cannot or should not take steps to protect your computing environment.  On the other hand, as with all things computer security, there is a risk/cost trade off (more on that in another upcoming blog).

So, if you haven’t done so in a while, it might be a good idea to take stock of the physical security of your computing environment, with respect to access and damage.

For access, you should consider questions like: Who has access to each device? Should the device protected by some sort of physical barrier to prevent access?  Are there multiple levels of physical security?   For example, if you are in a large corporation, your first layer of physical security might be a locked building with a guard. A second layer might be locating critical computing assets on a floor whose elevator requires a key to access that floor.  Finally, you might put particularly critical devices in a room whose door uses a keypad, fingerprint or even a retinal scanner, and log all access.

And don’t forget to consider that dropped ceiling or raised floor as you think about a high security area.  A locked door might not be as secure as you thought if someone can go over it via a dropped ceiling or under it via a raised floor.

Regarding damage, aside from a beserker with a sledge hammer, one big risk is fire. Of course, if the entire building burns down it isn’t likely that your computing assets will survive.  However, what if a smaller fire triggers the sprinkler system?  What will happen to your computers?

Naturally, the list of things that good physical security might entail is a lot longer than a short article can cover.  But this article can perhaps serve as a jumping off point to a review of the physical security of your computing assets.