Tag: locks

Better Business Security Over the Holidays


better business security

Closed and Shuttered for the Holidays

Thanksgiving is over;  Christmas shopping has started in earnest. And many of us are looking forward to some time off over the upcoming holidays.

Before dashing out and locking the door behind you, take a moment to consider the increased chance of criminal activity that takes place precisely during these next four to five weeks. (Increases are seen mostly in robbery – taking by force  —  and larceny – no force involved.) It’s worth a close look at better and better business security.

What should you as business owner* be doing to protect yourself and the company?

1-Review cyber security procedures with all employees.

It’s easy to get distracted – and attracted! – by online sales, personal schedules, party planning, etc. During this busy period, don’t get suckered into fraudulent requests for payment or funds transfer, pfishing emails, or using an unsecured hotspot (coffee shop!) for a quick business transaction. Don’t let your kid use the work computer you’ve brought home!

Cyber QuizHave a list of cyber security policies and go over it with everyone. (Your IT team should have prepared such a list. If not, here’s a basic business cyber security quiz we’ve put together, updated for 2018.)

2-Take another look at your physical surroundings with holiday security in mind.

Decorations — We go through these reminders every year for the residents who live in our community. They also work for better business security.

Put up safe decorations!  No live candles, period. Use outdoor–rated electrical wires for outdoor lighting. Don’t overload circuits. Keep cords out of high-traffic areas. Be sure holiday lights aren’t left burning overnight.

Locks and lighting – Holidays attract thieves. Be sure all your workplace security equipment is working: outdoor and emergency lights, locks and access control systems, panic buttons, surveillance cameras. Don’t forget to let your security company know your holiday schedule. And be sure to provide them with appropriate contact names and numbers (knowing that a lot of people will be out of town). (A lot of these surveillance items are being featured in special deals online this year. CLICK HERE for an Advisory that will help you figure out what you need so you can get the best prices. )

3-Keep people out of trouble.

We all tend to get excited during the holidays, and it’s easy to forget some of the basics. One prime example – letting strangers in or inviting friends into the building when they usually don’t belong there. As you lock up each night, check to be sure no one is lingering in restrooms, storage rooms, etc.

And if you’re hiring temporary employees during the holiday period, do criminal background checks on them before allowing them onto the team.

You may find it’s time to do a review of all aspects of security at the front door. Our Advisory about that topic is a popular one.

4-Review your policies for dealing with cash.

Lots of sales and lots of shopping mean people are carrying more cash than usual. Your business may be handling more end-of-year purchases than usual, whether cash or credit. Take steps to protect current business activity so you don’t come back to problems in January. Some suggestions for better business security involving cash:

  • Insist on careful credit card use.
  • Periodically remove extra cash from registers and put in a safe. (No safe? Consider installing one now. The Advisory about security at the front door mentions a couple of different model options.)
  • Don’t openly carry cash to the bank. And make deposits before it’s dark.
  • Check records for suspicious refunds, discounts, over rings, etc.
  • If you’re open longer hours than usual, be sure to keep back doors locked and alarmed. Keep parking lot lights on until after employees have left.

5-Protect the Company from a Holiday Party Disaster.

I suspect we’ve all heard the stories of companies being sued because at the holiday party, under the influence of alcohol, some employees act inappropriately, embarrassing photos get posted on Facebook, or a driver leaving the party under the influence is involved in an accident.

Every one of these incidents could result in a crushing lawsuit.

I attended a New Year’s party a couple of years ago that had some good ideas about better business security as it relates to employment law.

My friends (actually, my employer) hired a professional bar tender who poured the drinks and was prepared to stop pouring for people who had too much to drink. They closed the bar a good hour before the party was over and switched to serving coffee. When we came in the door, we were quizzed about designated drivers, and reminded that taxis would be available. And the party had some very important clients there, too, which kept the atmosphere more businesslike than it might have been otherwise. It was a great party that got repeated the next year!

After the holiday you deserve the chance to come back to work refreshed and ready for the new year. Good business security will help kick off 2019 that much more easily!

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

* Occasionally I get an email from a reader saying something like, “I am not a business owner so I’m not interested in this topic.” Yes, some of these Advisories are addressed to business owners. But nearly all of them, just like this one, have implications for all the employees. If there’s a break-in, a theft, or a lawsuit at the place you work, it could easily become a disaster for the whole company, not just the owner! Please share these suggestions with your business’s owner if it makes sense.




Confident About the Security of Your Passwords?

Lock requiring password
So what’s the combination?

There is no such thing as complete security. All precautions and security devices are nothing more than time delays. You are not immune from hackers or malicious software bugs, identity thieves or unscrupulous “ransom ware” extortionists.

You can, however make yourself and your business a harder target and significantly reduce the likelihood that you will be a victim.

The first line of defense is usually the password.

At last count, I have close to 100 passwords I have to retain and use periodically, some more frequently than others and some more complex than others. Virginia has an equal portfolio with a few overlapping with mine. That’s too many unique and nonsensical combinations of numbers and characters to rely on memory alone.

We understand all too well how unlikely it is that you will approach your computer and on-line security with enthusiasm.

It’s just human nature to look for shortcuts.

I accept this and, in fact, I have some institutional experience that I’ll share with you that may help motivate you to reexamine how you approach this important subject. It’s not a long story, but it’s one I think you’ll find both entertaining and enlightening.

A true and embarrassing story of security shortcuts.

Some years ago, I was serving our country with the US Army as a Special Agent for Counterintelligence. I assure you that, while there were exciting times and even dangerous assignments, there were many more tasks that some (me included) would consider mundane and tedious. Among the latter was the responsibility of conducting periodic inspections of Army units in their handling, storing and protecting of classified information.

(And, yes, this required that we put on our expressionless “face” and make sure we came across as serious “spooks.”)

One thing we did that relieved the tediousness of these inspections was to ask early in the process to see how documents were stored. We also wanted to know who was in charge to “make sure” they had the proper level of clearance.

Storage in those days was typically in a bank of four-door file cabinets with a rod inserted through the handles, secured with an impressive Sargent-Greenleaf combination padlock at the top.

As part of our inspection, and always with the handful of personnel (including the Unit Commander, officers and non-coms in the “audience”) we would begin attempting to open the padlocks by turning the dials without anyone providing us with the actual combination/s.

Imagine, if you can, the looks of surprise and embarrassment on the faces of the soldiers as, one-by-one, we deftly opened most – and sometimes all – of the locks on the file cabinets.

“How in the hell did you do that?!?” was the typical reaction.

Actually, it was quite simple. Before the actual inspection, we examined the personnel records of the people in charge. We jotted down birthdays, wedding dates, serial numbers, etc. With few exceptions, we would find that at least half of the locks could be opened by treating these dates as combinations because they were an easy way for the people to remember the sequence of numbers.

In some of the more dramatic encounters where we opened ALL of the locks, it was usually where the same sequence of numbers was used on all the locks.

The point of this story is to illustrate that the convenient ways you create passwords is typical. Most “crackers,” if not “hackers,” will have search scripts that can readily break these normal code patterns.

Avoid normal code patterns as passwords!

There are a number of ways to pick passwords that will foil eager agents, friendly or not so friendly.  Here are three:

  1. Use a password generator. Typically, these programs will create totally random combinations of capital and lower case letters, numerals and symbols, often as long as 16 digits.
  2. Save these passwords so you can retrieve them, since you won’t be able to remember them. Password manager programs include Keeper, RoboForm and LastPass.
  3. Not happy with having all your passwords stored on your desktop? You can write them down on paper and store or seal it well away from prying eyes.

If these ideas seem too few, or too paltry, we recommend you click on Consumer Reports: 66 Ways to Protect your Privacy Right Now. In 14 pages it discusses passwords but also covers email, devices, privacy, software updates, two-factor authentication, PINs, travel, encryption, settings, wifi, phishing, and ransomware!

Joe Krueger
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. We continually update information like this, though we can’t beat the story about the padlocks! If you’re interested in security, check out this recent Advisory about Cyber Security Threats.