Your essential guide to home office security

Now we’re all working from home, it’s on us to ensure we’re protecting our business assets. Scott Andrews tells us what we need to know to secure our home offices.

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Scott Andrews

Amberley Security

As we start 2021, it’s interesting to see how we’re taking the lessons learnt from 2020 forward. Like how working from home has proven to be a genuine option for many businesses.

For many, working from home is a more convenient option, it saves on the daily commute, there may be fewer distractions and you can wear your pjs (at least on the bottom half). But working from home has a hidden downside – security is now your responsibility.

If your business property and assets are stolen, that’s lost profit and a giant headache to replace them. But if your business data is stolen during a break in, not only will you struggle to carry on with your business, but it’s a data breach that the Information Commissioners Office has to be informed of.

So, whilst it’s vital that any home is secure, it’s even more vital that a Mumpreneur’s home is secure.

I ran a poll on LinkedIn some months ago, asking how people felt about their security at home. The majority of people answered “I assume it’s fine”. But complacency can be your downfall.

So, let’s run through the home security checks you should make to protect your business when working from home…

Wooden door Photo by Rowan Heuvel on Unsplash

 

1. Check your external doors

External doors, as far as this blog is concerned, are your front door, any rear doors, and any doors that lead directly from the home into a garage or home office.

Wooden doors

Many millions of homes still have wooden external doors. Any external wooden door must be secured with a lock to BS3621, and crucially, it must be at least the 2007 version of the standard. Whilst earlier iterations were fine in those days, times have changed, and so have the security standards designed to keep you safe.

So, how to tell if your locks are up to scratch? Actually, it’s quite simple. The details are on the faceplate on the edge of the door. If it bears the British Standards Kitemark, it’s a BS lock. Now, look closely at the kitemark – if it says BS3621:2007 or a later year, then you’re fine. If not, then you really need to upgrade.

 uPVC doors
There are even more doors that are uPVC or composite. These are the type of doors which, generally, you lift the handle then turn the key to lock it.

For such doors, there are a couple of things to look for. First, check what actually does the locking. With the door open, lock the door – what moves when you lift the handle?

In some cases, you have a series of small sliders or rollers that move up or down the door. If that’s all your door is locked by, it really needs changing as a priority. All it takes is a decent size screwdriver and about five seconds to force open this type of lock.

In many cases, you will have either rectangular or hook-shaped bolts that come out from the door. These offer a far greater level of security.

The second thing to look for is the type of locking cylinder. There are three types – uncertified, 1-star and 3-star. To tell which you have, look at the face of the cylinder, underneath where you put the key in. If there are 3 stars there, you have a 3-star cylinder; if you have 1 star there, it’s a 1-star cylinder; and guess what, if you have no stars, it’s uncertified.

It takes a skilled burglar 10-20 seconds to bypass a lock using a method called cylinder snapping on an uncertified cylinder, and a little longer with a 1-star cylinder. With a 3-star cylinder, when the lock is snapped, a spring-loaded pin fires in the central section of the cylinder, and prevents the lock from being manipulated open.

If your doors were fitted in the last 5 years or so, then the chances are you will have a 3-star cylinder – but it’s definitely worth checking. If your doors are older than that, it’s probable your cylinder is uncertified, so definitely upgrade it.

Open Window - Photo by Katerina Pavlyuchkova on Unsplash

2. Check your windows

Another common entry point for burglars is through a window.

The vast majority of windows have locking handles, but how many of us actually lock them? It’s vital that you get into the habit of locking all accessible windows, especially at night or even if you’re only just popping out. The average burglar is in a home for just nine minutes.

Be realistic about what is an accessible window

There are two factors to consider to determine if a window is accessible. First, can someone fit through it? You’d be amazed how small a gap a person can fit through. Anything with an opening of 600mm (about 2 feet) or more should be considered vulnerable.

Second, can someone actually get to the window? Clearly, all ground floor windows are accessible in this instance, but you shouldn’t be complacent about upper floor windows. Any window near a single storey flat roof, extension, conservatory, garage or canopy is accessible. Burglars can use your own wheely bin to get up onto the roof.

Make sure you lock any accessible window. 

3. Protect storage areas

Have you ever stopped to consider the value of what’s kept in your shed or garage?

Do you store products or business tools in there? Even bikes, power tools or gardening equipment can earn a burglar a few quid. But you may also have other equipment in there, like a ladder that they can use to climb up to the inaccessible window you left open.

So, how to protect these areas?

Wooden doors should be protected in the same way as I described earlier.

Many garages have an up-and-over metal door. Older versions of these doors have a locking handle in the centre, which can be easily broken. Consider replacing the door with a motorised roller-shutter or sectional door. If you can’t do that, fit additional security locks in the bottom corners of the door, to supplement the central lock.

Then make sure that the valuable items in the shed or garage are securely fixed down. You can buy ground anchors, which are large metal loops, securely fixed to the concrete floor, and buy hardened steel chains to go through these ground anchors and the bikes and tools. Consider a safe or secure storage for products you’re storing in these areas – the more barriers to thieves the better. 

If you have any concerns over the security of an external home office, take your crucial work belongings into the main house every night. 

4. Install an alarm

Studies have shown that around 80% of burglars are discouraged from burgling by the presence of an alarm system. Or, to put it another way, by installing an alarm, you reduce your chances of being burgled by 80%.

Gone are the days when an installation took days, with wires everywhere, and people drilling holes in your walls. These days, systems are wireless, most can be controlled via a smartphone app, and the very latest integrate with other services, like heating and lighting.

You’ll probably only need one sensor for your home office. And when it comes to your home, consider where your valuable items are kept and place sensors there.

CCTV Camera - Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

5. Install CCTV

Home CCTV systems are increasingly popular, having a record of events at home can be extremely valuable. However, choosing a system can be a minefield.

There are three basic types, which I can classify as to where the recordings are kept.

Stand-alone camera

The first type is the stand-alone camera, which records to a memory card, held in the camera itself. These cameras are generally available from popular e-commerce websites, and are often at the bottom end of the price range. Whilst this is a significant advantage, many burglars are wise to this, and will investigate the camera to see where the memory card is – and steal that.

Many of these lower-cost cameras are also battery powered. Whilst you may well get a warning that battery power is getting low, replacing the batteries is something that you tell yourself that you’ll do at the weekend – and we all know how often those jobs get forgotten. It’s pointless having a camera if it’s run out of battery.

Recorder box

The second type of system has a small recorder box that you keep indoors. Systems can be hard-wired or wireless. These systems can often be quite expensive to install, although since the recorder is indoors, it can’t be stolen unless the burglar does get in. Most systems have smartphone apps that allow you to view both live and recorded footage from anywhere.

Cloud storage

The last type of system records its images to the cloud. Because there’s no recorder, the cost is normally lower than the previous type, but you do need to factor in the ongoing cloud storage cost into your thinking. Again, with smartphone apps, you can view live and recorded pictures wherever you are.

It’s also worth considering where your cameras are placed. Too low, and they’re vulnerable to vandalism. Too high, and all you see is the top of someone’s head. The point of a system is to identify an intruder, so you need to mount your cameras where they have the best chance of viewing the burglar’s face.

So those are my five big things to think about when protecting your home/business from burglary. Putting these in place will help to reduce your chances of burglary significantly, helping you to sleep soundly knowing your home and your business are protected.

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