Think an empty building doesn’t need maintenance or security? Think again. Unoccupied buildings tend to be more susceptible to damage and criminal activity than those filled with expensive equipment. If your property will be vacant, whether long or short term, you should secure it as soon as possible.
Main Risks For Empty Buildings
We all know that weather can cause significant damage relatively quickly, especially for buildings in areas known for inclement weather. Damage to the exterior, including the roof and windows, can also make its way inside to cause further problems.
If you leave equipment or anything of value in an unsecured building, you run a high risk of theft. Even if you’ve emptied the property, thieves may still enter and steal valuable construction materials (ex. copper pines or wires).
Even though you may have cleared out your property, you are still at risk for vandalism. Vandals may trash your property by leaving waste, breaking things, and covering walls in graffiti.
This covers a number of threats, which include squatting and illicit activities.
How To Secure Your Vacant Property
Before vacating a property, be sure that all windows and doors are properly closed and locked. Look for gaps or damage to the frames that may allow wind, rain, or intruders to get in.
If you plan on leaving for an extended period of time, you should consider investing in stronger methods of securing doors and windows. While traditional wood boarding may be cost-effective, these have also added to the blaze of an arson attack. Investing in a metal alternative may be a better choice. You may also want to consider steel security doors which make it impossible to access your building without special equipment.
Any loose objects can be stolen, used to gain entry, or used as a weapon. For example, bins, palettes and spare construction materials can quickly turn into projectiles in the wrong hands, or can be picked up by high winds in a storm. Be sure to store large objects indoors or out of sight.
Landscaping may be an afterthought, but can make a difference. You should keep pathways clear of debris, such as snow and ice in the winter, and trim grass and hedges to deter vermin from inhabiting your yard. Landscaping also makes it appear that the premise is occupied, making it less of a target.
A security alarm is a necessity. A security alarm system can deter intruders, and, if linked to the local police, can elicit immediate response to any incidents. If you vacate your building, be sure to check your system regularly to ensure that it is functioning properly. If your system is managed by a third party, be sure to inform them of your absence.
Because a fire, whether intentional or accidental, is always possible, you should also maintain your fire alarm and sprinkler system. Be sure that pipes and sensors remain functional.
While dummy cameras can be a reasonable deterrent for those on a budget, operational security cameras may be a better investment. If you plan on leaving your property vacant for a longer period, you may want a real security camera to record any trespassers or criminal activity that occurs while you’re gone.
It may behoove you to make your property physically harder to access, especially if you have open spaces. Fencing and gates with proper locks and concrete barriers are effective ways to keep intruders out.
If you will be storing valuable equipment and materials on site during your absence, you may want to hire professional guard control or even guard dogs and handlers. You can schedule the guard to check on your building at random times to keep trespassers away and to report any unusual activity.
If a building is scheduled for future renovation or demolition, registering your building for a guardianship scheme could be a more cost-effective solution. While you won’t be able to freely access your building when the guards are there, but it will safeguard against trespassers and squatters.
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Ransomware is often transmitted by email or web pop-ups and involves hackers holding your data hostage with threats of destroying it unless a ransom is paid. The recent WannaCry ransomware attack involved cybercriminals hijacking numerous Windows computers in more than 150 countries.
What is unfortunate about this attack, and sadly, many other attacks, is that cautious online behavior and safe security practices could have prevented this. To keep your business and data safe, check out these expert security tips.
The WannaCry attack is believed to have been spread through an email download. Dishearteningly, a security patch for this vulnerability was released eight weeks prior to the attack, thus, the crisis could have been avoided.
Users often refrain from actively checking for updates, leaving their equipment and data at risk. An easy remedy is to set up your system for automatic installation when updates are available. And just because Windows computers were the main target in this situation, does not mean that other devices and systems are in the clear. Remember that all operating systems are at risk, so regardless of the devices you use, you should always install the latest security updates and patches.
Install Antivirus Software
Aside from keeping your software up to speed, antivirus software can help prevent malware from infecting your computer. Just remember to keep it up-to-date and only download antivirus apps from reputable vendors (ex. Kaspersky Lab, Bitdefender, Malwarebytes).
Be Wary Of Suspicious Emails And Pop-ups
As previously mentioned, it is believed that the WannaCry attack stemmed from email attachments. With that said, we should all be wary of dubious emails containing links or attachments. Things to look out for include the sender (make sure it’s coming from a legitimate address) and any typos or grammatical errors in the body. If there are hyperlinks, hover over them (but don’t click!) to see whether they direct you to suspicious web pages. If an email appears to come from your bank, credit card company, or internet service provider, keep in mind that they will never ask for sensitive information (ex. password, social security number). Lastly, just say no to pop-up windows, regardless if they are advertising software products that remove malware. Whatever it may be is too good to be true and not worth the risk, so simply close the pop-up carefully.
Generally speaking, creating a copy of your data is always a good idea in case your computer fails or is lost. In the event that your computer is successfully hijacked, you can be your own hero. You can simply wipe your computer clean and restore your data with your backup copy. For added security, back up your data onto an external drive, and then store it somewhere safe and away from your computer. And be sure to backup your data regularly.
Create A Business Security Plan
Applying companywide security updates for larger businesses can be challenging, which is why a security plan will come in handy. A strict schedule for installing the latest updates with minimal interruption to productivity should be implemented. The IT department should also actively and regularly educate and test employees on spotting suspicious emails.
If you find that you are a victim of ransomware, your first step should be to disconnect your computer from the internet to limit spreading the attack to other machines. Next, report the crime to law enforcement and get help from a tech professional who specializes in data recovery (this is the best person to detail your options for you). Remember to not lose hope, as future security tools may be able to unlock your files.
Only in extreme cases should you consider paying a ransom. For example, if you have no backups and the encrypted files are of great value, paying the ransom may be your only route. However, in the WannaCry case, you should NOT pay the ransom as some victims have and are not hearing back from the cybercriminals.