Security Starts with Keeping a Clean Desk

Lots of us don't think about the connection between having a clean desk and security. But our desk is actually a perfect spot to talk about security with our staff.

When a desk is busy and covered with paperwork or other miscellaneous items, it's very easy to forget to physically secure our laptops and desktops, and this makes the likelihood of someone just walking offer with our things high.

A dirty desk also makes it complicated to know if an item is actually missing, like an invoice or a receipt or a list prices or customer addresses. Therefore, a noisy desk also means that figuring out whether a theft even happened could be almost impossible, or at best, delayed. This lag makes it hard to not only recover what was lost, it makes it hard to pinpoint the culprit.

Encouraging staff to maintain a clean desk pays off in multiple ways. First, digital and paper assets will be more secure, and second, employees with clean desks are more apt to be productive, because they can quickly and safely access the tools and resources they need to work properly.

The following list presents 11 “messy desk” mistakes employees are prone to commit and which could cause damage to the company, the employee, fellow employees, clients and business partners. These are all bad habits for which to educate employees to stop:

  1. Leaving computer screens on without password protection: Anyone passing by has easy access to all the information on the device; be sure to lock down screen settings.
  2. Placing documents on the desk that could contain sensitive information: It’s best to keep them locked up in drawers and file cabinets.
  3. Forgetting to shred documents before they go into the trash or recycling bin: Any document may contain sensitive information; it’s best to shred everything rather than taking a risk.
  4. Failing to close file cabinets: This makes it easy for someone to steal sensitive information and more difficult to realize a theft has occurred.
  5. Setting mobile phones and USB drives out in the open: They likely contain sensitive business or personal information and are easy to pick up quickly without being caught in the act.
  6. Neglecting to erase notes on whiteboards: They often display confidential information on products, new ideas and proprietary business processes.
  7. Dropping backpacks out in the open: There’s often at least one device or folder with sensitive information inside.
  8. Writing user names and passwords on slips of paper or post-its: This is especially important given that user names and passwords are typically used to log in to more than one site.
  9. Leaving behind a key to a locked drawer: This makes it easy to come back later—perhaps after hours when no one is around—and access confidential files.
  10. Displaying calendars in the open or on the screen for all to see: Calendars often contain sensitive dates and/or information about customers, prospects and/or new products.
  11. Leaving wallets and credit cards out on the desk: This is more likely to impact the employee, but wallets may also possess corporate credit cards and security badges.

In today’s fast-paced world where employees are always on the go, it takes too much time to determine whether documents, USB drives, devices and other items contain sensitive information. The safe bet is to make sure everything is filed away and kept locked up or else properly destroyed.


About The Author

Client Success Manager for NSI