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Starting up an Office? Let’s talk security!

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There are a lot of things to think about when you are starting up an office – either for yourself or your boss. And one of the most over looked aspects is security. I’ve seen many lapses in my day so here are a few to give you an idea of why I’m concerned.

I worked in an office complex full of production companies. The person running our office hired someone to set up a network for us. Apparently he was not the brightest bulb in the box. One day we were informed by someone in the building that everyone could see our network and had access. What we thought was private was anything but. There was nothing in place to stop anyone on the network from viewing something on the computer of someone else in the network. At this point I had spent almost 15 years amassing quality documents to use, as well as all my writing projects were online, so I was not a happy camper and neither was the rest of the Producing team when I told them about it. They had moved on to the studio, but had worked out of these offices for months, and were as susceptible as I had been. The problem got remedied eventually but it was a serious reminder to know the person you are hiring and if they’re supposed technological expertise actually exists, or if it’s a figment of their imaginations!

Next up was the missing laptop. A producer I worked for one day came in to see that her computer was no longer on her desk. A good person in a crisis she put two and two together and figured it had gone for a walk to the offices of another production company who seemed to take far too much interest in her business… and how she was doing business… and with whom. They had the thing for hours and were trying to break the password. Thankfully she’s not simple either, and did not use the word “password’  which was so popular years ago. She got it back from them I’m sure with a few expletives thrown in. I’m just sorry I wasn’t privy to that part. When asked about it, she told me she now makes sure her computer is locked to the desk and there are no flash drive insertions so people can’t walk away with data without her knowledge.  Thankfully these people weren’t too tech savvy, because Windows security is notoriously easy to bypass. It doesn’t require hacking the password which is difficult. All you have to do is run an application which resets the password to an empty one which can be accomplished in about a minute. Anything you want to keep secure should be encrypted!

The next one is another computer breach. I started working in a new office and in less than four days my computer was infected with a malicious virus. There happened to be a computer company downstairs so I went to them to see if they could clean up the mess and save my data…much of it not backed up (are you backing up?!?). According to a computer expert “wireless is more prone to unauthorized access and if people can access your network, they often bypass other network system firewalls, in which case the firewall on your computer is helpful.” My anti-virus software had no firewall… go figure. A lot of money later and the problem was solved obviously leaving me a bit wiser… and slightly skittish!

Even with all the right precautions in place if you’re a big enough fish someone is going to want to know your business and even large corporations like Sony were not immune to a hacking incident. This is the world we live in and if you have things that are personal to you that you don’t want others to use or see for the love of God be safe about it! Keep it encrypted with a backup on an encrypted flash drive that goes home with you at night or gets locked into a cabinet!

Computers aren’t the only thing to worry about. We do still not live in a paperless world as much as we would like to think we are. Film and television production is rife with paperwork including lots of legal documents. If you’re getting a filing cabinet make sure it’s a locking one and don’t be silly and leave the keys in an obvious place when you leave the office for the night! Either take them with you or find the mother of all hiding places no one would think to look. The more high up in the industry people get the more interested in their business people will become. But as explained earlier, a colleague of mine on her way up, found herself the victim of individuals who wanted to take a piece of the pie she’d worked so long to create. Don’t be surprised at how unscrupulous people can be.

That brings me to another point. Make sure there are systems in place to make sure guests and visitors only have access to certain things and not your priceless fine china! If you are using a temp for a short period of time there is no reason on this green earth they should have access to the keys to the kingdom. You or your IT person should be able to set them up with a computer that has internet access, email access, and only that which is pertinent to their job. I worked at an office once that did not have systems in place and a short term contractor needed a desk. It was later seen that he had accessed every aspect of the company’s business, and I’m sure downloaded it all for his later personal use. If the information is lying there you’re hundred percent guaranteed someone is going to walk away with it given the opportunity.

These are the realities of the world we live in and the more you are aware of the inherent dangers the safer you and your company will be. Just be smart about it. Ask yourself where the vulnerabilities lay and then do something to fix them! And that includes getting locks on office doors! No detail is too small to be overlooked. You will sleep a lot better at night knowing that you’re a lot less likely to find you or your business has been compromised!

Katherine Di Marino

About Katherine Di Marino

Beginning her career in 1994 as the Producer’s Assistant on the TV series Highlander, Katherine was eventually awarded an Associate Producer mentorship by the CMPA on the Showtime series Dead Man’s Gun. She went on to gain a broad knowledge base throughout her work at Peace Arch Entertainment and Omnifilm Entertainment in the areas of development, production and business affairs. During her career she has been involved on many projects including Francis Ford Coppola’s sci-fi series First Wave, David Steinberg’s comedy series Big Sound, the ½ hour dramedy Robson Arms, five Lifetime Network movies, the animated series Pirate TV, along with nine documentaries. She also did two stints at Creative BC as an Analyst. She has done work for over 20 broadcasters and won numerous international awards. Katherine just produced the movie “Rio Heat” – a Canadian/Brazilian co-production featuring Harvey Keitel.