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Is Your Church Secure As Its Digital Equipment Returns?

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Since his knees were extending beyond the handlebars on his current bike, I made the decision last weekend to purchase a new bicycle for my son. As we drove together through town I was astonished by all the auto traffic that I had not experienced in a long time. Also, parking lots were full again. Things seemed to be returning to “normal.” As a business owner myself I know firsthand there have been many challenges for companies to get to this point, and while we are not exactly at a “normal” stage, we are getting closer. Seeing people out and working and shopping brought a smile to my face. As states across the country slowly begin to ease lockdowns and regulations: businesses, schools, and churches are tasked with new challenges as they begin to balance all the new and changing-by-the-day mandates. For many, conforming to new opening regulations may include requiring face masks, social distancing between workers and staff, temperature checks and the regular disinfecting of shared surfaces. But here’s a vital question: Are organizations also putting the same level of thought and precaution into the safety and security of their digital equipment returns?

It’s been a while: employee, staff, and student laptops, chrome books and mobile devices have been out of the hands of their respective tech departments. While we would like to believe that these systems were strictly used for business-only purposes in secure environments, we know better. Or to the opposite point, as the device-users we may assume that digital equipment returns will be immediately wiped by the IT team, and per personnel and time constraints, we also know this may not the case either.

Here are a couple of recommendations for staff and students returning borrowed mobile devices:

  • Properly log off your device wherever necessary, because leaving your credentials stored would allow the next user full access to your accounts if the system is not professionally restored.
  • Delete your personal files—including deleting them from the Recycle Bin.
  • Reset the browser to the default settings to clear stored passwords, history, etc.
  • Remember to remove plugged devices: USB flash drives, SD card

Or perhaps your tech team is receiving borrowed digital equipment returns back into the network for the first time:

  • Advise all applicable employees and staff to back up and save all data to the network or cloud storage prior to returning so files are accessible from the office as well.
  • Whenever possible, re-format the system back to the core system image.
  • If that’s not possible, scan the device for malware, adware and other problematic applications. (Typically, I usually advise a quick scan of the system, but upon initial return in our current Corona-situation, I would suggest the thorough scan.)
  • Verify that all Operating system and 3rd party software patches have been applied.
  • Reset the browser to the default settings to clear stored passwords, history, etc.
  • Provide a new, highly secure device
  • Remember to check for plugged devices that may remain, such as USB flash drives or SD cards.

Whether you are returning to work, church, or school, or if you’re bringing your device back in, or if you are the one receiving digital equipment returns after an unprecedented and extended time out: there are prudent steps to take to ensure the safety of both sides and all devices.

The mandates for personal protection and distancing are being made clear by most institutions, but the protection of our devices is another area that we should also have steps in place to ensure safety for our information, devices and our networks. We do not want to be a vulnerable vector for any virus on any level—human or machine. Both physical and digital safety preparations are critical. Let’s do our part to lay the groundwork for a safer tomorrow.

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Steven Sundermeier is the Owner of ThirtySeven4, a nationally-respected cyber security firm. You can visit his website at http://www.thirtyseven4.com/