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EACH YEAR QUALITY OFFICE equipment becomes more compact, lighter, and more expensive. Businesspeople concerned about what it would cost to replace the equipment--and the information stored in it--are not taking chances with its safety. They are physically securing the equipment to make sure it does not leave the office.

This natural concern to protect valuable equipment and irreplaceable information has created a booming office security industry. The market for computer-related security products alone is expected to be more than $1 billion by 1993, according to the research firm Frost & Sullivan Inc. Although a variety of security options is available, the preferred method for protecting equipment is to lock it down to a desktop surface.

Adhesive pad lock-down products have been in use for nearly two decades and have become commonplace in government agencies and industrial offices that house computers and other office equipment. And, due to the increased installation of personal computers (PCs), financial, educational, and medical institutions have also adopted these products because of their proven track record and cost-effectiveness.

When the pioneer lock-down product, the anchor pad, was first developed in 1972, it could be adhered to a desk or tabletop with the help of a vacuum pump and later moved without harming the furniture surface. However, the adhesive pads did not provide enough protection against such standard thieves' tools as crowbars and screwdrivers.

The best anchoring devices now use adhesive pads and specially designed steel harnesses that provide virtually unbeatable protection for computers, telephones, printers, and other office equipment. They are easily installed, can be removed only by an authorized user, and still leave no marks on any surfaces.

This method is effective because thieves avoid a strong anchoring system and look for something that is not adequately protected. If they do decide to challenge a secured piece of equipment, a quality lock-down security system will usually keep the equipment safe.

For example, Columbus High School in Downey, CA, had lost $16,000 worth of computer equipment to thieves despite having an entry alarm system. When thieves struck back six months later, they were surprised to find anchoring devices on every computer and peripheral component. According to Columbus High School Principal Kenneth Mueller, thieves tried to use the same crowbar they opened the door with on an adhesive pad lock-down device. After minutes of trying, the thieves left empty-handed, and the computer and peripheral components remained at the school. ANYONE CONSIDERING ANCHORING AS an office security option should watch for certain features that make anchoring more effective. For example, tests have shown that the larger the footprint of the adhesive, the greater the security it provides. An adhesive pad covering the footprint of the base of a PC is going to secure that computer more effectively than two or three adhesive strips will.

Anchoring devices are more effective when the foam tape of the adhesive pad is fairly thick. As few desk surfaces are perfectly smooth, a thicker foam pad gives more, filling in the furniture's contours. The result is a stronger contact between the adhesive pad and the surface.

Testing by the National Bureau of Standards (now the National Institute of Standards and Technology) has led to a further improvement, a patented feature at the edges of adhesive pads that prevents them from being severed with tools such as a cutting wire. Many security devices that involve adhesive pads do not have this feature.

Pressure-sensitive adhesive technology is being used correctly when the item to be secured sits directly on top of the securing equipment. An example of improper use is pressure-sensitive adapter feet, such as those often used with cable devices. They tend to fall off and are easily defeated. A permanent adhesive material is much stronger--so much so that it is now used by cable manufacturers who previously offered pressure-sensitive adapter feet.

AS OFFICE CRIME--AND COMPUTER crime in particular--costs American businesses billions of dollars annually, people charged with protecting irreplaceable, confidential data and office equipment should consider their security needs and options carefully before choosing a system. With so much depending on the selection, comparison shopping is in order.

Other than anchoring devices, office security equipment generally falls into one of three categories: security cabinets, bolting devices, or cable systems. While all are somewhat effective, they have disadvantages that make them less desirable than a good adhesive-based system.

Security cabinets are useful in that they hide equipment from potential thieves; protect components from dust and dirt; and provide space for storage of records, computer disks, and other valuable information in one location. However, they are usually more expensive than other security options (prices range from $500 to $1,500), and some designs make servicing difficult or inhibit ventilation, which increases the chances of overheating.

A bolt-down system will vary in the amount of strength it can provide. While often thought of as a logical way of securing equipment, the bolting process requires drilling both the furniture and the equipment. This method also does not offer portability for someone who may want to move equipment to a different location or remove equipment for servicing.

Cable systems are economical (about $30 to $80) and are most useful when security risks are limited because most can be cut or slipped off equipment easily. In addition, cable systems are also the least aesthetically pleasing equipment security option.

The San Francisco office of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) researched all the available physical security options thoroughly before making a purchasing decision. "We evaluated a security system where cables wrap around the CPU [central processing unit] to secure it," said David Henderson, computer systems analyst at the EPA office. "In our test of the cable system, one of our staff pulled the CPU off the desk with his bare hands in about five seconds. That's no protection," he said.

Adhesive-based security systems cost from $50 to $300 and provide up to 6,000 lb. of resistance. As these systems have been proven more effective, their popularity grows. According to the Bureau of Building Market Research's 1988 Computer Crime Survey, although 34 percent of the respondents currently use storage devices of some kind, 30 percent use anchoring devices, and another 26 percent plan to use adhesive-based security within the next three years.

Physical security of office equipment is important because a good system serves as a deterrent to crime. Hardening a target keeps thieves away, protecting office equipment and any information that might be stored within. And, for the most effective security, consider hardening that target with a proven, tested method--anchoring devices.

About the Author . . . Paul M. Gassaway, CPP, is president of Anchor Pad International of Ventura, CA. He is a member of ASIS.
COPYRIGHT 1989 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:special section - Computer-Information Security: Getting the Protection You Need; physical security for computer equipment
Author:Gassaway, Paul M.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Mar 1, 1989
Previous Article:Rx for micros.
Next Article:Hardening the hardware.

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