Clear Desks Prevent Thefts

messydeskThroughout the day you have access to information that is considered sensitive.  This information can be digital or printed, work-related, or personal.  Last week I talked about the importance of shredding information you no longer need to help prevent identity theft but what about the data you need daily that is piled on your desk?

Confidential information must be protected at all times from unauthorized access.  Anyone who passes by can access the information left on your desk.  Maintaining a clear desk or workspace ensures information is protected while you are at your desk, when you walk away for a few minutes, and when you leave for the evening.


What are the benefits of having a clear desk?

Less stressful and saves time

How much time do you spend each day or week looking for information that is in a pile somewhere on your desk? Maintaining a clear workspace can save you time because everything is organized.  It also is less stressful when there is a place for everything and everything is in its place.

Gives a good impression

Who knows when someone may stop by and visit your office?  A clear desk not only makes it look presentable but gives the impression of organization and efficiency.

Hinders prying eyes

You are aware of how many people walk by your desk when you are there but what about when you leave for lunch or for the evening?  Who has access to your building and your office?  Clearing your desk of confidential information discourages prying eyes.

What items should be cleared away?


You should never post usernames and passwords on or around your workspace.  Committing this information to memory is the best practice.  If you must write them down, lock them away when you are not using them.

Documents, reports, spreadsheets

Confidential information you need to do your job should be filed away and locked when away from your desk.  If documents, reports, spreadsheets, and other printed material are no longer needed, ask yourself if you should trash or shred them.

Removable storage media

USB flash drives, portable hard drives, CDs, DVDs, and other media should never be left on your desk.  They can easily be stolen.

Personal items

Keep your desk clear of keys, wallets, access cards and money.  Keep them with you or locked away when you leave.

If you are reading this post and looking at the piles of paper lying on your desk you may be thinking how do you start clearing your desk.  For starters, allocate time on your calendar to clear away your paperwork daily.  Start with ten minutes a day by organizing and locking away sensitive documents.  Once your desk is clear, it should only take a few minutes each day to keep it clear.

What about shared locations?

Remember that meeting places and shared locations should not be overlooked.  Get in the habit of asking yourself the following questions:

  • Is there information on white boards that should be erased?
  • Are there any left-over handouts or documents from a meeting that need to be shredded?
  • Are there any printouts that have been left on printers, copiers, or fax machines that contain sensitive information?

Share this post with your colleagues so everyone in your office can help keep security incidents, such as theft, from happening.

Christina Bonds

Christina Bonds

Christina Bonds is an Application Developer in the Web Technology department at Elon University.

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