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Safe Computing

Physical Security

A system's physical security is one of the most overlooked areas of safety. If your equipment is lost or stolen you lose both it and your data, as well as running the risk of having someone access sensitive personal and work information. Given enough time, any system can be broken into - securing it physically is the best way to prevent this!

To protect a computer, always keep it physically secure by locking the room it's in or using a locking cable if the computer can be easily moved. Portable devices such as phones, tablets, external drives and USB keys should not be left out where they can be easily seen when not in use, and locked away in a drawer or cabinet if you are not around. Columbia and CUMC have requirements for physical security that must be met to adequately protect data and equipment.

Software that attempts to locate lost or stolen computers can also be installed; Columbia has a site license to let faculty, staff and students install PhoneHome (compatible with both Windows and Macintosh) for free. Macintosh computers have a native program called Find my Mac that can be enabled. Be sure to read all information before installing any security program so you are familiar with how it operates, PhoneHome may require assistance to remove since it is designed to be undetectable. Computers with pre-boot authentication enabled may not be able to use tracking programs that require network connectivity.

Columbia's Department of Public Safety offers a number of great services to help protect computers, mobile devices, and other equipment from being stolen:

  • Discounts to any Columbia Department, Employee or Student for laptop locks
  • Engraving of systems (including mobile devices) that are then also registered with the NYPD
  • Free surveys for CU departments that want to purchase computer locks

Please contact the Department of Public Safety at (212) 854-8513 for more information regarding these services.

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Last updated 4/18/2018