According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice, property crimes account for over three-quarters of all crimes committed in the United States. In addition, in over 84% of burglaries, the offender gained entry to the home or another building on the property.
Individuals working from a home office are responsible for ensuring their computers, office equipment, and files are all safe and secure. The theft of a client’s file could give a criminal access to sensitive personal or financial information. The loss of a business computer could delay projects by days, or in cases where files were not backed up, it could devastate the small business owner.
Remember that the following home office security measures are only effective if they are used consistently; simply having a lock on the door does nothing if it’s not actually locked!
Deterring Would-Be Criminals From Attempting a Home Office Break-In
Most home offices don’t see a lot of traffic, and there are several reasons for this. It can be difficult or expensive to get home insurance if a business is operating on the property. Heavy foot traffic may also be disruptive to other members of the household. Generally, when a business grows or is the type of venture that requires frequent drop-ins from customers, entrepreneurs will rent office space outside the home.
It’s not a wise idea to have potential customers dropping in unless the home office has secure access to the rest of the home. Allowing strangers to walk through living areas in the home gives them an opportunity to scope the house out for electronics, furniture, or jewelry they may target in a break-in. Use these other tips to deter criminals from targeting the home office:
- Do not provide a view of the inside of the office from the road or sidewalk, especially if computers or other technology are visible.
- Install a deadbolt on the office door. Interior doors usually have simple locks that could be picked with a pin. This is not enough for a home office. You should get the best door peephole camera to protect you.
- Have a working alarm system installed throughout the home and apply decals on doors and windows to advertise that the home is protected.
Protecting Business Equipment and Property
Ironically, the most important way to protect business equipment is to insure it against theft or loss. As much as people try to prevent theft, it isn’t always possible and occasionally it may be necessary to replace computers, phones, copy machines or other stolen equipment. Do not rely on the home insurance policy; it is generally necessary to purchase additional coverage for business equipment.
In addition, take the following measures to secure and protect business property in the home office:
- Never set electronics directly on the floor, especially in low lying or flood-prone areas.
- Keep all warranty and guarantee information in one place for easy access in case of broken or damaged equipment.
- Do not advertise new equipment purchases over the phone or on the internet. A quick note on Facebook to a friend about a new $2,500.00 computer could be an attractive invitation to the wrong person.
- When handling cash, make nightly deposits. Do not leave large sums of money in the office, even in a safe.
- Mount a fire extinguisher in the home office. Make sure it is appropriate for electrical fires.
Protecting Data and Information in a Home Office or Computer
Business computers should be separate from a family area, preventing other family members from inadvertently accessing or damaging files. Also:
- Set up password protection for accessing the business computer, with additional protection on sensitive files.
- Download with discretion and ensure virus protection is current to prevent online information theft.
- Secure paper files in a locked, fire-proof filing cabinet.
- Back up files and store in a separate area, preferably outside the home, such as a safe deposit box or trusted friend’s home safe.
- Document file storage so it is immediately evident if a file has been stolen or tampered with.
Most of these security measures are common sense. However, it is easy to forget to lock the door, or to fall into the misguided belief that nothing will happen. Too often, the gravity of a break-in is only realized once the damage is already done. By taking a few simple steps each day and having the right equipment in place, home office owners can make their place of business a less attractive target for thieves.