Most desks and filing cabinets are easy targets for thieves, UWPD warns

Many of us store a variety of items in our desk and filing cabinet(s) – but the things we store in them are at risk of theft.  Besides personal loss, it could also compromise security of both intellectual and physical property belonging to the University.

Among the items one usually finds in a desk and filing cabinets includes keys, cameras, cash, checks, laptops, and purses/wallets. However, these items may also include sensitive documents (personnel records/research materials, etc.), in both hard copy and portable electronic formats.

While locking these items in desk or filing cabinets is better than leaving them unlocked, in reality, it provides little in the way of security.  Most factory cut keys to desks and filing cabinets are a dime-a-dozen, since the manufacturer often provides only a few different key cuts.  Thus, these keys will open a variety of desks or filing cabinets.  Often the manufacturers of desk and filing cabinets stamp a code on the key or lock so you can provide this code to order additional keys from a locksmith.  This provides an opportunity for others to obtain an ‘unauthorized’ key to a desk or filing cabinet.  Once in hand, they can freely access your desk or filing cabinet at will and you will never know. 

While most locks to desks and filing cabinets will keep ‘honest’ people out -.they will not deter those with criminal intent, and are easily defeated in a matter of seconds with items as simple as a paper clip.

To safeguard your items consider the following recommendations:

  • Remove any key code stamped on keys or locks to desks and filing cabinets – generally, using an abrasive material or metal file should do the trick.
  • Another option is to re-key desks and filing cabinets so they are on a key unique to them versus the standard issue keys and locks they come with – but remove any key code.
  • For low to moderate value assets, use a file guard bar with a high security padlock such as Medeco or Schlage Primus when securing valuable contents in a filing cabinet.  When locked, it takes both time and tools to defeat this hardware.  Never leave keys to the padlock on the premises; rather, these keys should reside with an individual at all times.
  • Always secure high value assets in a filing cabinet or safe with both a burglary rating and a UL rating.  Make sure you only purchase these items from an approved vendor list or reputable company selling these products.  Be sure to discuss with the vendor the nature of what you are trying to protect; this will help them help you make the best selection to suit your particular need(s).
  • Be mindful of the portability of a burglary-rated safe or filing cabinet – to maximize protection, consider bolting them to the floor. Do not confuse a fire-rated safe with a burglar-rated safe.  Fire safes only protect contents against heat and fire.  Oftentimes their design and weight fool one into thinking they are a quality safe, but remember, they are not intended to protect against burglary attacks.

Michael Gruber, UWPD Security Supervisor
reprinted from UWPD’s April 2011 BadgerBeat