How real world burglaries can teach you a lesson

Physical Security Fail

A couple of years ago at DefCon 18, a security-centric conference in the US, a presenter called Zoz told the story of when his computer was stolen from his flat – and how he used his expertise to punish the thief. (For those interested, a recorded video of this presentation can be found on YouTube: Ironically, the hacker’s computer was stolen due to a classic physical security fail: he may have had locks everywhere, but one weak link allowed the thief to simply bypass the majority of them. Losing his computer was a disaster, said Zoz, and it got worse; all of his religiously made backups were taken as well, as they were stored on portable hard disks kept in the same room.

I was reminded of that presentation when I returned home from a weekend away to find that my own apartment had been burgled, a very similar crime scene to the one mentioned above. I had nice-looking, but obviously pointless locks on the windows, and even a chain on the front door which was inherited from the previous person renting this apartment. Instead of protecting me though, that very chain was used to stop me, the legitimate owner, from entering my own place. According to the police that’s a common thing to do: If the owner happens to arrive home while they’re still searching the place, they have enough time to escape through the window – even before you have a chance to figure out what happened!


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