Why You Need to Worry About Physical Network Security

When it comes to protecting your computer network, we spend a lot of time talking about hacking, viruses, and cybercrime. While it’s incredibly important to protect your business from digital attacks, you also need to think about the physical security of your network.
For most small businesses, your server is the center of your computer network. You could have all the digital protections in the world in place, but it wouldn’t matter someone with malicious intent could simply walk into your office and gain physical access to your server. That would be like giving them an all-access pass into your network and your business data.

What can an attacker do with physical access to your server?

In short: anything. With physical access, anyone with malicious intent can sabotage your business from the inside. Here are just a few of the most common possibilities:

Install Malicious Software

A competent hacker can easily install malware and viruses that slow your systems and business operations to a crawl. If they want a quick payout, they can install ransomware that will lock you out of your system if you don’t pay. Or, they can set up a backdoor into your server so they can remotely access it in the future, without you knowing. Hackers often use compromised servers to generate fake online click traffic, store stolen data, or even launch cyberattacks.

Send Spam Email

Ever wonder where all the spam in the world comes from? Many hackers don’t use their own computers, they use yours. With access to your email server, a hacker can send out spam email, which will probably get you blacklisted and may end up infecting your clients too. They’ll probably also steal email addresses from your employees, vendors, and clients while they’re about it.

Steal Business Data & Credentials

Any business has sensitive data that they need to protect. Imagine giving someone with malicious intent all your business’s financial data, bank account information, employee files, and customer records. Scary, right? A physically vulnerable server makes it easy for anyone to walk into your office and copy sensitive files onto a portable hard drive or USB. From there, they can use, sell, or publish the information, putting you in immense financial and probably legal danger.
If they’re after login credentials, they could install keylogging software across your network to steal usernames and passwords. Even worse, if you and your employees are among the 81% of Americans who re-use the same password on more than one account, you may find your personal account credentials compromised as well.

Alter or Destroy Your Data

Even someone with little or no technical skill can wreak havoc on your network if they have physical access to your server. One of the main reasons businesses lose critical data is because of accidental employee error. Now imagine the damage of someone intentionally going through your server and altering files, deleting folders, or wiping hard drives.
Finally, someone could simply destroy your server hardware physically. Computers can do a lot, but they’re pretty fragile when it comes to things like water. A single cup of coffee dumped down your server machine, for example, could spell doom for your network.
Remember, these are just a few of the ways that someone could abuse your network if they gained access. Krebs on Security has an informative graphic that summarizes even more things attackers could do if they compromise your network.
what a hacker can do with access to your PC

Tips to physically secure your server

Lock your servers in a separate room

In large corporations, data centers can be a practical Fort Knox in terms of security. As a small business, you’re probably not hiring armed guards to protect your server, but you do need to control access.
Keep your server and other equipment in its own dedicated room, even if it’s little more than a closet. Make sure to keep that room locked whenever it’s not in use, and limit access to a small number of people who need a key. Locks do you no good if they’re not used, or if everyone gets a key.

Use surveillance

Monitor your server room. Even with a locked room, someone could break in or – more likely – misuse their authorized access. In fact, an IBM survey reported that 55% of all network attacks involve company insiders or employees who have data center access.
Video cameras are a good way to keep an eye on your server room, and cameras are becoming cheaper and cheaper to implement. If possible, use ID badges, smart cards, or biometric identification for the locking mechanism on the room. That way, you can tell who accessed it and when and hopefully detect any suspicious activity.

Secure the devices within the room

technician working on a server

Especially if you have more than one server, consider mounting it in a rack or a cabinet. Not only do they save space, they can be locked separately and are often bolted to the floor to prevent theft.
If your server isn’t rack mounted, lock the computer case itself to prevent anyone from tampering with it, or removing a hard drive. After all, it’s much easier to make off with a small hard drive than a whole computer tower.

Ensure you have proper ventilation and cooling

Malicious attacks aside, your server and equipment are vulnerable to heat damage and fire. Again, because small business servers are often stored in closets, they can quickly overheat if the room doesn’t have proper ventilation and cooling.
Try to keep the room between 70 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit and the humidity between 45 and 50 percent. Your server room should also have a fire detector and fire extinguisher in case anything does overheat and start a fire.

Back it up

Backing up your data is one of the best ways to prevent catastrophe in the face of any network threat, physical or digital. Hopefully, you’ll never experience a data breach, hacker, or a natural disaster, but you can still lose critical business data if your hard drive dies and you don’t have that information backed up.
For optimal physical security, try to have a backup off-site as well. That way, if someone gains physical access to your server, they don’t have access to your backup as well. It also protects you in case of a natural disaster in either location.

Is your network secure?

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When it comes to securing your business’s computer network, you don’t want just anyone accessing your computer systems. You need a reliable and trustworthy resource to manage and protect your servers and infrastructure. If you need help, contact our experienced team – we’re here for you. Or, learn more about protecting your network with our free eBook: