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Physical Security

Using Anti-Virus software and ensuring that your machine has the most current software updates are effective means at protecting your data from internet-borne threats. However, this does not prevent someone from physically accessing your computer.

You can guard against malicious and unintentional damage to data by controlling access so only authorized people can read, edit or use it. To reduce the risk to data loss from physical threats it is recommended that the following precautions be practiced. 

  • Ensure that computers automatically lock after a period of idle:  Configure your screen saver to lock after a short period of idle and require a password to unlock.
    • Windows 7: 
      1. Open Control Panel.
      2. Select Personalization, then click on the "Screen Saver".
      3. Enter the maximum idle time before screen locks in minutes in the "Wait" box. Recommended to be as short as reasonable, but not longer than 60-minutes. 
      4. Click on the On resume, display logon screen option, and click "Apply".
    • Windows 10:  
      1. Right-click on your Windows 10 desktop, and select Personalize, then click on "Lock screen" in the left pane.
      2. Scroll down the Lock Screen settings and click on "Screen Saver Settings".
      3. Enter the maximum idle time before screen locks in minutes in the "Wait" box. Recommended to be as short as reasonable, but not longer than 60-minutes. 
      4. Click on the On resume, display logon screen option, and click "Apply".
    • Mac:
      1. From the Apple menu, select System Preferences, then click on the "Desktop and Screen Saver".
      2. Click the "Screen Saver" tab, then enter the "Start after" period to be as short as reasonable, but not longer than 60-minutes.
      3. From the Apple menu, select System Preferences, then click "Security & Privacy", then the "General" tab.
      4. Check the Require password after sleep or screen saver begins option.
      5. Close the system preference window.
  • Do not assume physical privacy will ensure information security even in locked or non-public areas. 
  • Keep sensitive data on central files stores rather than on local desktops or laptops which can be more easily stolen.   
  • If you are away from your computer for an extended time, simply log out of your operating system or power off your computer.
  • Examine your computer system. If your system has been altered without your knowledge, do not use it. Be aware of any new devices plugged into your computer or keyboard.
  • When disposing of your personal devices, ensure that data is properly wiped. This includes mobile devices, USB storage media, CDs, memory cards, portable hard drives, desktops, and laptops.
  • Keep computers in a locked cabinet or cable locked if in a publicly assessable area.
  • Hardcopies containing sensitive information should be kept in locked storage, and make a habit of turning documents face down.
  • Minimize the amount of printing. Paper copies can lead to information breaches. Also, ensure sensitive documents are properly disposed of by shredding.
  • Exercise caution when using public terminals.
  • Do not use found physical media such as a USB stick that is not yours.
  • Minimize use of portable media such as CDs, memory sticks, portable hard drives as they are vulnerable to loss or damage.