Security Mishap of the Month

Security is something always on our minds. We want to be safe, whether we’re at home, work, or school. But when there is a constant stream of news stories about major data breaches and identity theft, we risk shifting too much of our attention to data security. It’s important to keep physical security in mind, especially if you’re responsible for safeguarding valuable property at your business.

Even institutions that should know far better can make major security blunders, especially when they only have one layer of security. Our Worst Security Award of the Month goes to an agency responsible for protecting important and potentially dangerous items at its facility.

Security Mishap of the Month

                                                                Photo Credit: George McKeon


A big security mishap was made by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). A lesser-known government agency, NIST is part of the Department of Commerce. NIST’s role has evolved over time, but the agency’s primary function is to test and establish various standards for measurement in a wide range of industries. NIST is also working on improving protocols for cyberattacks. Sadly, NIST’s own security standards are woefully low. This is especially embarrassing, given NIST’s annual budget of almost $1 billion.

Repeated Security Failures

NIST has two main facilities: one located in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and one in Boulder, Colorado. Both locations were investigated by federal authorities to assess their quality of physical security, according to a report published this month. Unfortunately, both facilities failed spectacularly. Federal officials were able to infiltrate the facilities a combined fifteen times using “very basic espionage techniques.” Even worse, the agents made only fifteen attempts to enter the facilities, meaning they weren’t thwarted a single time.

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Nuclear Risk

What makes these security breaches so alarming is the type of material NIST handles. Many of these laboratories contain hazardous chemicals that could become dangerous in the wrong hands. One of the buildings even contains a nuclear research reactor. Given these factors, there is no excuse for such abysmal security.

Not the First Security Lapse

As if it couldn’t get any worse, what makes the security report even more galling is that NIST has recently had other security breaches that went public. At the Gaithersburg facility in July 2015, a man on NIST’s police force caused an explosion in a building reserved for special projects. It turned out that he was trying to manufacture methamphetamine. When someone tasked with keeping your site secure is actually cooking up drugs without other security personnel knowing, you’ve got a big problem.

At the Boulder facility in April 2016, an unauthorized individual gained access to a secure building. After these humiliating breaches, NIST promised to revamp its security to prevent further problems. Though the report says some aspects of NIST’s security have been improved, clearly not enough has been done.

If the federal government is making such major oversights regarding the security of their facilities containing hazardous chemicals, it is easy to imagine that many smaller firms are also unprepared for thieves or other unwelcome individuals.

Don’t allow yourself to suffer from security lapses. Theft can really damage a company’s bottom line and harm your business’s reputation.

Think you’re in need of a layered security system? Contact AMAROK for a free risk assessment today!