As physical security is an important aspect of information security (it is one of the 10 domains on theCISSP
exam), I am often asked for “interesting” physical security advice. I decided to share the following tips, because, while there is plenty of safety advice on the Internet, these ten suggestions
seem to be not well known, even though they may be highly beneficial with little tradeoff when applied correctly. Not all of them apply to everyone or in every situation, but, in some cases, they could save your life or the life of someone else whom you love:
1. Keep your car keys on your night table. If like millions of Americans, your key-fob contains a panic alert button, and your car is in range of your bedroom, pressing the panic button will cause the horn to blast and the headlights to flash — potentially saving lives during a home invasion by scaring criminals away, alerting neighbors to the fact that an emergency situation is unfolding, and helping police to more quickly find your home.
2. Set the home address on your GPS to an address (or fake address) near your home, but not to your actual home address. If someone breaks into your car while you are away from home, you don’t want him or her robbing your home or calling friends in your area to do so. Of course, your address may appear on paperwork in the car as well – but those are less likely than electronics to get swiped during a quick break-in. (Ideally, one should always lock a glove compartment, but doing so can be a pain.) Also, make sure that you have remote wipe capabilities set up for your smartphone – which likely has your home address along with other more sensitive information on it – so that if it is stolen you can erase its contents.
3. Be careful what information you share on social media. Specifically, do not publicly post check-ins to distant locales or respond to invitations to future events that involve all residents of your home – you may be letting the entire world know that your home will be empty and a prime target for robbery, or that you will arrive home late at night and, therefore, will be a good target for attack. Posting information about your children’s schedules in a manner that is world-readable may also increase the chances that they will be targeted by people with bad intentions. (For full disclosure: My new firm, SecureMySocial
, will be releasing technology soon that automates warnings to people if they share information online that puts them at risk.)
4. Lock up any prescription medications in your possession that are likely to be desired by drug addicts; do not store such drugs in medicine cabinets that are accessible by visitors. You do not know the curiosities or addictions of everyone who visits your home; leaving such drugs in locations from which they can be stolen can lead to serious problems. Even other residents of your home may pose a risk in this regard.
5. If you are in hotel room whose door has a peephole without a cover, place a crumpled tissue in the peephole so that nobody can see in. Peephole one-way technology is not foolproof.
6. If you receive a call from your credit card company about potential fraud on your account, hang up and call the number printed on the back of your card. If you are in a hotel and get a call to your room from its staff about a problem with your credit card or regarding the need to enter your room for a repair or any other reason – hang up and call back. The same holds true for any call that you receive from a party asking for any private information or for you to take a risky action – always hang up and call back at a pre-known, definitely authentic, number. Likewise, never give any information to someone who reaches you at a “wrong number;” people could be targeting you for identity theft or worse.
7. Cameras are recording everywhere. Block people’s view of your hand when entering alarm codes, PIN numbers, etc. It is amazing that in the era of Google GOOGL +15.53%
Glass people do not realize that people can be recording them – even from distances (via telephone/zoom/hi-resolution image, etc.). Even your own smartphone’s camera may be recording you when you do not expect it
– so, if you do not wish to be recorded, cover it when not in use. Likewise check any ATM machine that you use for added-on cameras or “skimming technology” – if the card reader appears to have been tampered with find another machine.
8. Never rely on door chain locks for safety. They can usually be circumvented with ease.
9. Despite news stories that inevitably air before hurricanes hit about people stocking up on flashlights and candles, never use a candle for light during a power failure caused by a wind-related condition such as a hurricane until after the weather has passed. If a window were to break (as can happen from strong wind) or wind were somehow else able to enter your home and knock over a candle, the situation could go from bad to horrific. Even without the wind issue, candles can be dangerous, especially if there are children in the home and/or if candles are carried; exercise caution.
10. If you have physical car keys, carry them in your hand when walking in a parking lot. This reduces the amount of time it takes to get into your car and to start it, reducing your exposure to attack. Furthermore, a physical key held in the palm of a fist and protruding between the knuckles can serve as a makeshift weapon in case of emergency.