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  • 22 February 2024
  • 13 min read

Securing Your Physical Workspace from Cyber Security Threats: Refocusing Physical Security from Tailgating to Clear Desk Policies to Disposal Policies and More

Clear desk policies, physical storage policies, mitigating tailgating risks, the perils of office layouts and more in this comprehensive deep dive on securing your workspace from cyber security threats.
HEADER Physical security

Often when we talk about cyber security, the focus falls on digital defences against virtual threats. However, overlooking the physical aspect of cyber security can leave organisations vulnerable to a myriad of risks.

From tailgating attacks to the improper storage of passwords, the physical workspace can serve as an entry point for cyber adversaries. In this article, we delve into the importance of fortifying physical security measures and integrating them into comprehensive cyber security awareness and training programs.

Clear Desk Policy: Maintaining Order for Enhanced Security

What is it?

A Clear Desk Policy is a foundational principle in physical security that mandates employees to keep their workstations free from any sensitive or confidential information when they are not actively working. This policy applies to both physical documents and digital information, requiring employees to securely lock their computers when stepping away from their desks.

Clear Desk Policy

Which departments must have a clear desk policy?

While all employees are responsible for adhering to the Clear Desk Policy, certain individuals or departments may be at higher risk due to the nature of their roles or access to sensitive information. These may include:

  • Finance and Accounting: Departments handling financial transactions, payroll information, or sensitive customer data are prime targets for cyber criminals seeking valuable financial information.
  • Human Resources: HR departments often deal with sensitive employee data, including personal information, salary details, and performance evaluations, making them attractive targets for identity theft or fraud.
  • Executive Management: Executives and senior management personnel may possess access to strategic plans, intellectual property, or confidential business agreements, making them high-value targets for corporate espionage or targeted attacks.

What cyber threats does this policy counter?

Implementing a Clear Desk Policy serves as a proactive measure against a multitude of cyber threats. Leaving sensitive information exposed on desks or screens invites potential adversaries to gather intelligence through unauthorised access or visual reconnaissance. Cyber threats countered by this policy include:

  • Unauthorised Access: When sensitive documents or login credentials are left unattended, unauthorised individuals may gain access to confidential information, compromising data integrity and confidentiality.
  • Social Engineering Attacks: Visual cues such as sticky notes with passwords or confidential information can be exploited by attackers engaging in social engineering tactics, increasing the risk of phishing attacks or impersonation.
  • Data Breaches: Unsecured documents or devices provide easy targets for opportunistic attackers seeking to steal valuable data, potentially resulting in costly data breaches and regulatory fines.

How to apply a clear desk policy?

To effectively implement a Clear Desk Policy, organisations should consider the following steps:

  • Policy Development: Clearly define the policy's objectives, scope, and guidelines in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, including IT, security, and human resources departments.
  • Employee Training: Conduct comprehensive training sessions to educate employees about the importance of maintaining a clear desk and the potential consequences of non-compliance. TSC produces clear, succinct and engaging materials to this effect.
  • Physical Measures: Provide employees with secure storage solutions such as lockable cabinets or drawers to store sensitive documents when not in use.
  • Digital Security: Encourage employees to lock their computers or activate screen savers with password protection when they are away from their desks to prevent unauthorised access.
  • Regular Audits: Establish procedures for regular audits or spot checks to ensure compliance with the policy and address any violations promptly.

Compliance and Regulatory Considerations

  • A Clear Desk Policy aligns with various regulatory requirements and industry standards aimed at protecting sensitive information and maintaining data privacy. Compliance with regulations such as GDPR, HIPAA, or PCI DSS mandates organisations to implement appropriate safeguards to protect personal or confidential data from unauthorised access or disclosure. Non-compliance with these regulations can result in severe penalties, including fines and legal consequences.

Optimising Physical Office Layout for Enhanced Cyber security

The physical layout of an office plays a crucial role in determining the level of security and resilience against cyber threats. Poorly designed office spaces can inadvertently introduce vulnerabilities and create opportunities for unauthorised access, espionage, or sabotage. Understanding the potential security gaps associated with office layout and implementing appropriate solutions is paramount in fortifying cyber security defences.

Physical Office Layout Security

How can this lead to security gaps and cyber threats?

Several factors contribute to security gaps in the physical office layout:

  • Visibility of Screens: Workstations positioned in open or high-traffic areas expose screens to potential visual eavesdropping, allowing unauthorised individuals to view sensitive information or login credentials.
  • Proximity to Entrances and Exits: Workstations located near entrances or exits are susceptible to unauthorised access or tailgating attacks, where individuals gain entry by following closely behind authorised personnel without proper authentication.
  • Inadequate Access Controls: Lack of access controls, such as card readers or biometric scanners, at entry points or restricted areas increases the risk of unauthorised individuals gaining physical access to sensitive information or infrastructure.
  • Insufficient Surveillance: Inadequate surveillance coverage or blind spots in security camera placement limits the ability to monitor and detect suspicious activities or security breaches effectively.

What solutions can fortify your physical screen location and office layout cyber security?

To mitigate security risks associated with office layout and enhance cyber security resilience, organisations can implement the following solutions:

  • Screen Privacy Measures: Install privacy filters or screen shields on monitors to restrict viewing angles and prevent unauthorised individuals from observing on-screen content. Alternatively, orient workstations away from high-traffic areas or install physical barriers to limit visibility.
  • Access Control Systems: Deploy access control systems, such as keycard readers, PIN pads, or biometric scanners, at entry points and sensitive areas to restrict access to authorised personnel only. Implementing multi-factor authentication further enhances security by requiring multiple forms of identification for entry.
  • Physical Barriers and Deterrents: Utilise physical barriers such as turnstiles, barriers, or security gates to control pedestrian traffic and deter unauthorised access. Incorporate signage and visual cues to communicate security policies and deter potential intruders.
  • Surveillance and Monitoring: Deploy surveillance cameras strategically to provide comprehensive coverage of office spaces, entry points, and critical infrastructure. Implement motion detection and alerting mechanisms to notify security personnel of suspicious activities or unauthorised access attempts in real-time.
  • Security Awareness Training: Educate employees about the importance of maintaining vigilance and adhering to security protocols in physical spaces. Encourage reporting of any security incidents, suspicious activities, or policy violations to relevant authorities promptly.
  • Regular Security Audits and Assessments: Conduct regular security audits and assessments of office layouts to identify potential vulnerabilities, gaps, or areas for improvement. Engage security professionals or consultants to provide insights and recommendations for enhancing cyber security resilience. TSC’s SABR (Security Awareness and Behaviour Research) tool is fantastic at doing just that.

By addressing security gaps in the physical office layout and implementing appropriate solutions, organisations can strengthen their cyber security defences and minimise the risk of unauthorised access, data breaches, or other cyber threats originating from the physical environment. Proactive measures, combined with ongoing monitoring, training, and assessment, are essential in maintaining a secure and resilient workplace conducive to business operations and safeguarding sensitive information assets.

Implementing a Lock Screen Policy: Safeguarding Digital Assets

What is it?

A lock screen policy is a foundational component of cyber security that dictates the automatic locking of computer screens after a period of inactivity. This policy serves as a critical safeguard against unauthorised access to sensitive information and mitigates various cyber threats originating from physical workspaces.

Locked Computer Screen

What cyber threats does this policy counter?

The implementation of a lock screen policy addresses several cyber threats, including:

  • Unauthorised Access: Locking computer screens prevents unauthorised individuals from accessing sensitive data or systems when employees are away from their workstations. This mitigates the risk of data breaches, espionage, or sabotage by intruders with physical access to the workspace.
  • Data Leakage: Unattended, unlocked screens present opportunities for data leakage or inadvertent exposure of confidential information. By automatically locking screens, organisations minimise the risk of accidental data disclosure and maintain data confidentiality.
  • Social Engineering Attacks: Locked screens act as a barrier against social engineering attacks, where malicious actors exploit unsecured devices to gain access to sensitive systems or manipulate unsuspecting users. A lock screen policy reduces the likelihood of unauthorised access by requiring authentication before granting access to the device.

How to apply a Lock Screen Policy?

To effectively apply a lock screen policy within an organisation, the following steps are recommended:

  • Policy Development: Define the objectives, scope, and parameters of the lock screen policy in alignment with organisational security requirements and best practices. Specify the duration of inactivity before screens automatically lock and establish exceptions or overrides where necessary.
  • User Education and Awareness: Conduct comprehensive training sessions to educate employees about the importance of locking screens when stepping away from their workstations. Emphasise the role of every individual in maintaining data security and confidentiality through adherence to the lock screen policy.
  • Automated Locking Mechanisms: Configure computers and devices to automatically lock screens after a specified period of inactivity. Utilise built-in features or third-party software solutions to enforce consistent application of the lock screen policy across the organisation.
  • Authentication Requirements: Require users to authenticate themselves (e.g., via password, PIN, biometric scan) to unlock screens and regain access to their devices. Implement strong authentication measures to prevent unauthorised individuals from bypassing the lock screen and gaining access to sensitive information.

Compliance and Regulatory Considerations

  • A lock screen policy is often mandated or recommended by various regulatory standards and industry frameworks to ensure data security and compliance. Compliance requirements such as GDPR, HIPAA, PCI DSS, and Sarbanes-Oxley emphasise the importance of implementing controls to protect sensitive information from unauthorised access or disclosure. Adherence to a lock screen policy demonstrates organisational commitment to safeguarding data privacy and integrity, thereby facilitating compliance with regulatory obligations.

A lock screen policy is a fundamental security measure that safeguards digital assets and mitigates cyber threats originating from physical workspaces. By implementing and enforcing this policy effectively, organisations can reduce the risk of unauthorised access, data breaches, and social engineering attacks, while also demonstrating compliance with regulatory requirements and industry standards.

Understanding Tailgating Attacks: Fortifying Physical Security

What is it?

Tailgating, also known as piggybacking, is a physical security breach in which an unauthorised individual gains access to a secured area by closely following an authorised person through a controlled entry point. This deceptive tactic exploits human behaviour and trust, posing significant risks to organisational security.

Physical tailgating or piggybacking

What cyber threats does tailgating create?

Tailgating attacks introduce several cyber threats and consequences:

  • Unauthorised Access: By bypassing access controls or security checkpoints, tailgaters gain entry to restricted areas, compromising the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of sensitive information and assets.
  • Data Theft: Once inside secured premises, tailgaters may exploit opportunities to steal physical or digital assets, including confidential documents, proprietary information, or electronic devices, leading to data breaches or intellectual property theft.
  • Social Engineering Exploitation: Tailgating serves as a precursor to social engineering attacks, where unauthorised individuals exploit gained access to manipulate employees, gather intelligence, or perpetrate further security breaches through deception or coercion.

Which employees are most at risk of tailgating attacks?

While all organisations are vulnerable to tailgating attacks, certain individuals or scenarios are at heightened risk:

  • Employees with Badge Access: Individuals with access badges or keycards are prime targets for tailgating attempts, particularly if they are less vigilant or accustomed to holding doors open for others out of courtesy or habit.
  • High-Security Environments: Organisations operating in high-security environments, such as government facilities, financial institutions, or research laboratories, face increased risks of tailgating due to the value of assets and information stored within their premises.
  • Remote or Unmanned Entry Points: Entry points with limited surveillance or human oversight, such as remote entrances, loading docks, or emergency exits, are susceptible to exploitation by tailgaters seeking to circumvent main security checkpoints.

How can you mitigate tailgating attacks?

To mitigate the risks associated with tailgating attacks, organisations can implement the following strategies:

  • Security Awareness Training: Educate employees about the risks of tailgating and the importance of strict adherence to access control policies. Encourage employees to challenge unfamiliar individuals attempting to gain entry without proper authorisation.
  • Physical Barriers and Deterrents: Install physical barriers such as turnstiles, security gates, or mantraps at entry points to enforce controlled access and prevent unauthorised individuals from tailgating their way into secured areas.
  • Access Control Technologies: Deploy access control technologies such as biometric scanners, facial recognition systems, or multi-factor authentication to verify individuals' identities and prevent unauthorised access through tailgating.
  • Security Personnel Vigilance: Train security personnel to remain vigilant and attentive to potential tailgating attempts. Implement procedures for verifying individuals' identities and challenging suspicious behaviour or unauthorised access.
  • Surveillance and Monitoring: Utilise surveillance cameras and monitoring systems to observe entry points and detect tailgating attempts in real-time. Implement alarm systems or alerts to notify security personnel of unauthorised access or breaches.

By adopting a multi-faceted approach to physical security and implementing robust measures to mitigate tailgating risks, organisations can enhance their resilience against unauthorised access and protect sensitive information and assets from exploitation or compromise. Proactive efforts in security awareness, technology deployment, and personnel training are essential in fostering a culture of security and deterring potential tailgating threats.

Enhancing IoT/Mobile Device Security: Mitigating Risks in a Connected World

The proliferation of Internet of Things (IoT) devices and mobile technologies has revolutionised the way we interact with the digital world. However, the widespread adoption of these devices also introduces new security challenges and vulnerabilities, posing significant risks to individuals and organisations alike.

Mobile and IoT Device Security

What cyber threats does this create?

IoT/Mobile device security gaps can manifest in various forms, leading to potential cyber threats:

  • Vulnerabilities in Device Firmware and Software: Many IoT devices and mobile applications are built on insecure or outdated firmware/software, making them susceptible to exploitation by cybercriminals seeking to compromise device integrity or gain unauthorised access.
  • Insecure Network Connections: IoT devices often communicate over unsecured networks, such as public Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connections, increasing the risk of interception, eavesdropping, or man-in-the-middle attacks by malicious actors.
  • Data Privacy Concerns: Mobile devices and IoT sensors collect vast amounts of sensitive data, including personal information, location data, and behavioural patterns. Inadequate data encryption or storage practices may expose this information to unauthorised access or misuse, violating user privacy and regulatory compliance.
  • Lack of Device Management and Updates: Many IoT devices lack robust management capabilities or mechanisms for receiving security updates and patches. This leaves devices vulnerable to exploitation of known vulnerabilities or zero-day attacks, posing significant risks to network security and integrity.

Which employees are most at risk?

Certain individuals or scenarios are particularly vulnerable to IoT/mobile device security threats:

  • BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) Environments: Organisations allowing employees to use personal mobile devices for work-related tasks face increased risks of data breaches and unauthorised access. Personal devices may lack adequate security controls or be compromised by malware, placing sensitive corporate data at risk.
  • Smart Home Environments: Employees adopting smart home devices such as smart speakers, thermostats, or security cameras may inadvertently expose their home networks to cyber threats. Weak passwords, insecure configurations, or unpatched vulnerabilities in IoT devices can compromise home network security and personal privacy.
  • Critical Infrastructure and Industrial Systems: IoT devices deployed in critical infrastructure sectors, such as energy, healthcare, or transportation, are prime targets for cyber-attacks aiming to disrupt operations, compromise safety, or steal sensitive data. Exploitation of IoT vulnerabilities in industrial control systems can have catastrophic consequences for public safety and national security.

How to mitigate against this potential cyber threat creator?

To mitigate the risks associated with IoT/Mobile device security, organisations and individuals can implement the following solutions:

  • Device Authentication and Access Controls: Implement strong authentication mechanisms, such as biometric recognition or two-factor authentication, to verify users' identities and prevent unauthorised access to IoT devices or mobile applications.
  • Secure Network Architectures: Segment IoT devices and mobile endpoints into separate network segments or VLANs to limit their exposure to potential threats and mitigate lateral movement by attackers. Implement network encryption protocols such as WPA3 or VPNs to secure data in transit.
  • Regular Security Audits and Updates: Conduct periodic security audits of IoT devices and mobile applications to identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses. Promptly apply security patches and updates released by device manufacturers or software vendors to mitigate known security flaws and reduce the attack surface.
  • Data Encryption and Privacy Controls: Encrypt sensitive data stored on IoT devices or transmitted between mobile applications and backend servers to protect against unauthorised access or interception. Implement data anonymisation or pseudonymisation techniques to safeguard user privacy and comply with regulatory requirements.
  • Employee Training and Awareness: Educate employees about the risks associated with IoT/mobile device usage and the importance of adhering to security best practices. Provide training on recognising phishing attempts, avoiding suspicious links or downloads, and securely configuring IoT devices in home or work environments.
  • Vendor Risk Management: Prioritise IoT device and mobile application vendors that demonstrate a commitment to security by adhering to industry best practices, conducting security assessments, and promptly addressing reported vulnerabilities. Establish contractual agreements that outline security expectations and responsibilities.

Implementing a Comprehensive Physical Record Disposal Policy: Safeguarding Sensitive Information

What is it?

A Physical Record Disposal Policy outlines procedures for the secure disposal of physical documents and records containing sensitive or confidential information. This policy is essential for mitigating the risks of data breaches, identity theft, and unauthorised access resulting from improper disposal practices.

Digital and Physical Records Disposal Policy

Which cyber threats does this policy counter?

A robust Physical Record Disposal Policy addresses various cyber threats and vulnerabilities associated with the mishandling of physical documents:

  • Data Breaches: Improper disposal of physical records can lead to data breaches if sensitive information falls into the wrong hands. Malicious actors may exploit discarded documents to gain access to personal, financial, or proprietary information, potentially compromising individuals' privacy and organisational security.
  • Identity Theft: Discarded documents containing personal or financial information, such as bank statements, tax forms, or medical records, pose a risk of identity theft. Cybercriminals may use stolen identities to commit fraud, obtain credit, or access restricted accounts, resulting in financial losses and reputational damage.
  • Regulatory Non-Compliance: Failure to properly dispose of physical records can result in non-compliance with data protection regulations, such as GDPR, HIPAA, or FACTA. Regulatory authorities impose strict requirements for the secure handling and disposal of sensitive information, and non-compliance may lead to fines, penalties, or legal sanctions.

How to implement a physical record disposal policy?

To apply a Physical Record Disposal Policy effectively, organisations should consider the following steps:

  • Policy Development: Develop a comprehensive policy that defines the procedures, responsibilities, and guidelines for the secure disposal of physical records. Specify the types of documents requiring secure disposal, acceptable disposal methods, and designated personnel responsible for implementation.
  • Secure Disposal Methods: Implement secure disposal methods such as shredding, incineration, or pulping to render physical records irrecoverable. Establish procedures for securely transporting and disposing of documents to minimise the risk of interception or theft during transit.
  • Employee Training and Awareness: Provide training to employees on the importance of proper record disposal practices and compliance with the organisation's disposal policy. Educate staff on identifying sensitive information, segregating documents for disposal, and adhering to security protocols throughout the disposal process.
  • Document Retention Schedule: Develop a document retention schedule that outlines the minimum retention periods for different types of records based on legal, regulatory, or business requirements. Establish procedures for timely disposal of expired or obsolete documents to reduce storage costs and minimise security risks.
  • Monitoring and Auditing: Implement monitoring and auditing mechanisms to ensure compliance with the Physical Record Disposal Policy. Conduct regular audits of disposal procedures, document disposal logs, and disposal equipment to identify any deviations or vulnerabilities requiring corrective action.

Compliance and regulatory considerations

  • A Physical Record Disposal Policy is essential for maintaining compliance with data protection regulations and industry standards. Compliance requirements such as GDPR, HIPAA, or Sarbanes-Oxley mandate organisations to implement appropriate safeguards for the secure handling and disposal of sensitive information. Adherence to a documented disposal policy demonstrates organisational commitment to data privacy and regulatory compliance, reducing the risk of regulatory violations and associated penalties.

A well-defined Physical Record Disposal Policy is critical for safeguarding sensitive information, mitigating cyber threats, and maintaining compliance with data protection regulations. By implementing secure disposal methods, providing employee training, and establishing monitoring mechanisms, organisations can effectively manage the disposal of physical records and protect against the risks of data breaches, identity theft, and regulatory non-compliance.


Securing the physical workspace is an integral component of comprehensive cyber security efforts. From implementing clear desk policies to educating employees about the risks of tailgating, organisations must address physical security vulnerabilities to mitigate cyber threats effectively. By integrating physical security measures into cyber security training and awareness programs, organisations can empower employees to contribute to a culture of security and defend against evolving cyber threats.

Working with the right partner

Partnering with a trusted cyber security training and awareness company, such as The Security Company Ltd. (TSC), is crucial. With 25 years of experience, TSC specialises in enhancing security behaviours, fostering a robust security culture, and raising awareness of threats and risks across global organisations.

The dynamic nature of cyber threats necessitates a comprehensive and adaptive cyber security strategy for UK law firms. By understanding the evolving threat landscape and investing in robust training and awareness initiatives, decision-makers can fortify their organisations against potential risks and cyberattacks.

At The Security Company, we specialise in boosting cyber awareness, targeted training, customised projects and role-based solutions. Through our tailored subscription services, targeted and customised eLearning and awareness materials and our behavioural assessments, we're committed to helping organisations like yours instil long-term, security-conscious behaviours.

Our method is distinct. We begin by diving deep into your team's current mindset, pinpointing lax behaviours, security gaps and departments in need of focus and attention. From there, we craft tailored solutions that encourage better cyber practices from your employees. With comprehensive training and seamless integration into your current systems, we're here to fortify your team against modern cyber threats and be your trusted cyber security and awareness partner.

Ready to take the next step?

We can help you to formulate an effective and comprehensive cyber security training and awareness program for your organisation year-round and be your dedicated partner for employee behaviour change and, ultimately, security culture change.

Do not hesitate to contact us for further information.

Written by
Nas Ali
Cyber security and awareness content creator focused on emerging threats and the next wave of cyber security risks like AI, deepfakes and tech 4.0 initiatives in order to build towards a more secure organisational culture.
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