Studies suggest that over 68% of all South African companies have had computers stolen at some point. Unfortunately, companies that are identified as soft targets by syndicates often fall prey to repeated attacks because the criminals know that new computer equipment is issued within a few days.
Even school computer labs have become targets for criminals, with thousands of computers stolen from hundreds of Gauteng and Western Cape schools in the last five years.
Although computer criminals prefer to operate at night when the chances of confrontation with office employees and security staff are reduced, computer theft and robbery during the day, when security measures are less stringent, is escalating. In these instances, employees and security guards are often threatened with violence or attacked by criminals.
According to Auto and General Business Insurance’s general manager, Anthony Jackson, “Computer theft and robbery is a major problem in South Africa. Criminals target computers and laptops because they are easily accessible and easy to dispose of, on the illegal market.
“Unfortunately, the higher incidence of daytime theft and robbery has led to an increase in violence associated with computer crime. So, it’s no longer only about protecting equipment from criminals, it’s also about safeguarding employees.
“Companies need to be vigilant and aware of the possibility of attacks by computer thieves at all times, even during the day. They must also do everything possible to avoid being identified as soft targets by criminals who traditionally seek a quick in and out.
“This requires implementing a combination of security measures such as, amongst others, good quality perimeter fencing, lighting, external passives, infrareds and beams, CCTV systems, intruder detection systems, solid locks, glass protection (against smash and grab) and well-trained guards.”
He adds that organisations also need to have stringent information security measures and backup procedures in place to protect critical business data – the loss of which can cost companies money, affect business continuity, damage the companies reputation and impact client confidence.
“It is also important for companies to ensure that they have adequate business insurance cover in place to protect them financially in the event of a loss,” says Jackson.
Auto and General offers the following tips for preventing computer theft:
� Mark computers and laptops in a permanent way, through the use of microdots, engraving or other means, to entrench and secure their identity. This negatively affects their resale value on the illegal market and is therefore a deterrent for thieves.
� Keep an up-to-date inventory of all computer equipment. The list should include the make and description, serial number and the purchase date, place and price of each item. This can help prevent internal theft and will help the police and insurance companies should a burglary occur.
� Station computers and high-value equipment away from windows on the ground floor.
� Attach or anchor computers to furniture or something solid with security plates.
� Store laptops in high-security cabinets or in a safe when not in use.
� Fit alarms to computers. Some of these fit inside computers and sound if the equipment is moved. Others, called ‘loop’ alarms have a cable which passes through the equipment and which sounds if it is broken.
� Make sure all employees know not to leave laptops unattended and in full view.
� Employees should be encouraged to take laptops home or lock them up safely at the end of the working day.