Capitol Attack—A Minor Detail or A Major Mishap
Over the 200-year history of the United States Capitol, the Building has been the target of violence numerous times. On January 6, 2021 a large mob stormed the building in an attempt to dissuade law makers from their duty of certifying the Electoral College votes. As you may already know, the attack resulted in a handful of fatalities and thousands of others being sought in an effort to hold them accountable for the destruction and violence. What you may not have noticed, since it was notably more subdued, was the blatant breach of private documentation—government paperwork if you will that was compromised as a part of the mayhem.
A Clean Desk Policy Can Save You from a Data Breach Nightmare
The now infamous man, Richard Barnett, gained access to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office. The popular image of him with his feet on her desk has rapidly circulated the internet as an illustration of the events that unfolded inside the Capitol. Barnett and other crazed rioters rummaged through Pelosi’s private documents and vandalized her belongings. Regardless of your politics I am sure we can agree that Pelosi has access to extremely confidential information. Information that affects the future of America and Americans. Her office was undoubtedly a goldmine for anyone who took the time to review all that loose paper.
After escaping the riot, he reported to the press to brag about his crimes. While holding Pelosi’s letterhead, Barnett told The New York Times “I wrote her a nasty note, put my feet up on her desk”. He then waved the document around like a war medal, and proceeded to tell the press that whilst being pepper sprayed by the police he said “‘I paid for this, it’s mine”, and subsequently left the building.
In light of all the things that went wrong on January 6th we may be tempted to ignore the small detail of some printed files and documentation being accessed by looters. But that would be negligent. Businesses and governmental offices alike are accountable for all the sensitive information they possess. Failure to protect and when finished destroy paperwork that contains almost any identifier of a person breaks the law and carries a punishment. The regulatory environment we live in is getting more strict—not less.
Implementing a clean desk policy is the first step in protecting you and your business from a breach. It’s pretty unrealistic that an angry mob will storm into your office and steal your sensitive documents; but physical data breaches occur more often than you might think. Leaving paperwork on your desk leaves you and your company vulnerable. If paperwork you fail to safeguard falls into the wrong hands and gets traced back to you there are a number of ramifications including being fined and or losing valuable clients. Whether you’ve got a rogue employee, someone up to no good on your janitorial staff, or simply a curious visitor at your office; leaving paper documents laying around when you are not present is a recipe for disaster.
Start a clean desk policy by outlining an easy-to-follow process. You and your team will get in the habit of keeping paper documents secure and disposing of the ones you no longer need in locked containers destined for shredding. Below are a few tips on how to be proactive to a physical data breach:
- Start at the top; the management team must lead by example if they want their team to comply.
- Have lockable storage for paper documents as an added layer of protection.
- Shred all paper documents you no longer need. You can click here to find a convenient shredding service that works best for you.
- Display daily reminders to tidy up before leaving the office.
There are many ways to implement a clean desk policy in your office. Identify a plan that works best for your team and get started. Learn from House speaker Pelosi’s mistake. Keep your desk paper free when you are not present and you will significantly reduce the chances of a a physical data breach.