Published On: Mon, Oct 30th, 2017

Physical Security in a Digital World

In an increasingly digital world it’s easy to forget that some of the biggest threats we face are physical rather than virtual. You’re still more likely to have your wallet, phone or laptop simply stolen then you are to be individually targeted by a hacker, but it’s still best to take precautions against both.

photo/ Gerd Altmann via pixabay


Using your smartphone to take photographs of all your important documents and credit cards is a great idea and can save huge amounts of time should you become the victim of a theft, but if your phone itself is stolen, you may be providing a criminal with all the information they need to empty your bank accounts. Instead of keeping the pictures on your phone, store them in a secure cloud storage service. You should also backup the data on your phone and computer on a regular basis so that your potential losses are kept to a minimum.

Most smartphones now feature remote locate and remote erase features as standard, but they may not be switched on by default so ensure they have been activated before you leave the house. You can also choose how many times people are able to attempt to guess your passcode or pattern lock before the device locks itself. Keep this number as low as you are comfortable with.


Perhaps the most common physical threat to your electronic items is simply that of breakage. Dropping a smartphone or laptop computer on a hard surface will often result in catastrophic damage. Touchscreen devices may fail to work, leading to the loss of important, irreplaceable data.

If you travel regularly, many low-cost carriers are restricting the amount of hand luggage passengers can take into the cabin, which means your larger electronic devices may end up in the hold where they could be damaged by the weight of other bags or rough handling. Ensure you have adequate insurance to cover you under such circumstances as not all policies will provide a pay-out.

Should the worst happen, the good news is that, even in cases of extreme physical damage, it’s unlikely that all is lost. Finding a reputable firm that provides digital forensic services, most commonly associated with litigation or criminal cases, can be a lifesaver. The same techniques that are used to extract hidden files for legal matters can also be used to retrieve files from damaged or corrupted computer files.

Hidden Threats

Phones and other electronic devices tend to lose the ability to hold charge the older they become. Increasingly, many public areas include charging facilities. While the majority of these are safe, some have been compromised by fraudsters who use them to install malware or viruses. The safest way to charge your phone or tablet is by using your own equipment and plugging it directly into a wall socket.

There have also been concerns about hackers using Bluetooth to breach the security of devices in public places. For this reason, you should try to get into the habit of switching off your Bluetooth signal unless you’re actually making use of it. In addition to better security, you’ll also enjoy longer battery life.

Author: Carol Trehearn

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