I got a little reminder this Saturday of just how hard data protection can be. There is a concept that somehow you can circle the wagons around your critical data and prevent it from being misused or stolen. The concept is OK and the technology is fast catching up but in practice very few organizations are taking all of the steps they need to protect their data. As we have chronicled here there are weekly disclosures of lost or stolen laptops but the riskier side of deliberate theft often goes unreported because often the loss is not even noticed.
When I worked in the mechanical engineering field I heard the stories of military design shops that had “clean desk” policies: when you left work each evening you could have nothing on your desk top. Designers would have heavy cloths they would pull over their drafting tables. The threat was cleaning staff. I assume that was a carry over from World War II and even a cold war practice. Today we rarely see that level of paranoia, although, perhaps we should.
I dropped by the liquidation sale at the old Kmart world headquarters in Troy Michigan. They are selling off hundreds of old Steelcase filing cabinets, desks, and chairs. They are also selling old office equipment (anyone want a BayNetworks switch?) and supplies that include rubber stamps. One in particular caught my attention. It was for stamping deposits. It said “PAY TO THE ORDER OF STANDARD FEDERAL SAVINGS FOR DEPOSIT ONLY KMART CORPORATION General Account 591910001-X
I can remember that so well because I stamped my hand with it. I then walked past two security guards and left the building. So, don’t forget. There are many places that you store critical information. Not just laptops. This might be a whole new use for palm readers.