Security in the Aftermath

Not too long ago was a very sad and embarrassing day for the US. The US capital was breached and rioters had hours inside without authorities. Ignoring the reasons and politics behind the event, think about the security of the building and systems after the criminals were removed from the building.

Someone else brought up this point, which I think is fair. Can you trust any system in the building? Keyloggers, cameras, who knows what devices might have been planted. As a friend noted, anything with a plug should be thrown out. Who knows what might have been replaced or altered to create a security vulnerability.

I haven’t had intruders in an office, but I have had to evacuate offices and returned to find unsecured systems. I’ve seen unlocked computers, when there were law enforcement or fire department staff walking around unsupervised. I doubt they did anything, and certainly never heard of any breach, but it is something to think about before you have to deal with the event.

Have you thought about this or had to deal with this situation? Are you ready to audit systems and ensure nothing happened? Forget about spy devices, though those are certainly possibilities in this day of hot-plug USB keyboards, what about someone accessing information? If someone left a machine unlocked, would you think to check the history of the machine? Look at sites visited or emails sent? I don’t know I’ve ever thought about this, though in today’s world, this is something to consider. We are seeing some crazy types of attacks on systems, and I suspect it will continue to get worse.

I learned a long time ago to lock my machine when I leave for any reason. A large group of administrators took delight in changing configurations, wallpaper, even sending embarrassing emails from unlocked machines to the group. After making a couple mistakes, it became a habit to lock a machine before you stood up for any reason.

Most of us won’t deal with criminals walking around our office space, but we certainly should be careful and aware that unsupervised people around privileged systems is always a bad idea. I used to hate taking out the trash from a computer room I worked in, but I now appreciate that allowing cleaning staff into that space might not have been a good idea in a nuclear power plant.

Steve Jones

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