POPIA Compliance – Physical Security Measures


In some ways it is simpler for criminals to physically steal the information they need as we often forget to secure such information. In addition, while physical attacks against your data are less common, when they do happen they can have far greater impact.

For example, let’s say a criminal wanted to break into your building and steal your information. One of the simplest ways to do this would not be break into the building at night but simply walk into it during the day. They can do this by pretending to be someone you trust, such as a repairman for the telephones or copier machines. These are people you expect to see and therefore trust. In fact, you may even be fooled into helping them, such as opening the door for
them or answering any questions they ask.


Physical security is often one of the most challenging risks to an organisation. This is because for an organisation to operate there are many different people coming into and leaving your facilities, including people who are not employees. To help protect your organisation against physical threats look at for the following:

  1. Disposing of Confidential Information: One of the simplest ways for a criminal to find confidential information is to simply look for it in your garbage. Often people do not think about the information they throw out, such as sensitive documents, printouts, or photographs. They simply assume that once something is thrown in the garbage, it is safely disposed of. Unfortunately that is not the case.
    Once you throw something out it goes through a long process. During each step of that process a criminal can find and recover your confidential information. In fact, this attack has become so common that there is even a term for it: ‘dumpster diving’. This is when the criminal (often at night) will search through an organisation’s garbage looking for any sensitive documents or information. To protect both yourself and your organisation ensure that any confidential information you dispose of, such as printed documents, is shredded or physically destroyed.
  2. Identification Badges: A possible attack to your organisation is a criminal pretending to be an employee, then simply walking into your building and stealing whatever they want. This is why you must require anyone inside your building to wear a badge identifying themselves, regardless if they are an employee, contractor, or visitor. One of the simplest ways to protect yourselves is to always stop and ask individuals without a badge to identify themselves. If they do not have a badge, kindly escort them to the front desk so they can register with security.
  3. Doors and Access Ways: If you open a door be sure to close the door behind you. This is especially true for doors that have locks, require badge access, or doors that lead outdoors. This ensures criminals cannot get in the building by a door left open by someone else. In addition, when you go through a door that requires an access card make sure anyone else that goes through that same door uses their access card also. A common attack for criminals is to simply follow you through the door behind you, pretending to be another employee. This attack is so common it is termed ‘drafting’.
  4. Clean Desk: Unfortunately, our security team is unable to catch all threats, sometimes criminals bypass security and gain access to your building. In addition, at times we may have unethical contractors or employees that are looking for things they do not have authorisation for. To protect against these types of attacks, be sure to lock up any sensitive information or valuable items when you leave your desk. In addition, do not leave any passwords in an unsecured area. If you have any passwords written down, they must be secured in a locked cabinet.
  5. Finally, if you are leaving your computer and it is left on, make sure the screen is locked and passwordprotected. Once again, this ensures that if anyone has gained unauthorised access to the building they cannot access your computer.
  6. Your Laptop: Unfortunately, criminals do not have to break into to your buildings in order to steal your information; sometimes your information goes to them. One of the most common ways we have our computers and information stolen is when you leave the office with your laptop. When traveling with a company laptop make sure you always have it secured with you, especially in very public places such as in hotel lobbies, restaurants, or airports. In addition, whenever you leave your laptop make sure it is secured. For example, if you leave your laptop in your car, lock it in the trunk; do not visibly leave it on the car seat where criminals can easily see and then steal it.

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