A friend had a stack of three-ring binders in the car; important documents were being transported as a favor to a co-worker. "I'm in trouble if something happens to these," was the comment.

Nothing happened.

But pay attention to recent news. Things happen when people carry around important information. The AICPA loses a drive with member names and Social Security numbers. A computer with 2.2 million names is stolen from the home of a Veterans Affairs employee. That included names, birth dates, and SSNs.


And then there was this note from the Minneapolis StarTribune.com that was updated yesterday: "Humana Insurance has offered free credit checks for a year to 268 clients after personal information on their Medicare drug insurance applications was stolen May 5 from a car in Brooklyn Park."

What these things have in common is that the problems, or potential problems, do not stem from technology issues. These are people issues. The friend should have taken the binders out of the car and put them in his residence, out of sight. They weren't as critical as financial data. Still, it would have been easy enough for someone to break into the car. The lost AICPA drive was handled in violation of the rules. The VA thing? That doesn't look like top-notch procedure.

This is the root of many security problems. It would have taken a simple step to take the binders from the car to dramatically decrease the possibility of theft. But it's so much easier at the end of a long day to not do extra work. It's more convenient to forget about procedures and waive somebody through a security checkpoint because they look like someone you can trust. Passwords are written down on a piece of paper because, realistically, there are too many to remember. A piece of paper keeps a door from shutting and locking.

Pay attention to the signs at airports that forbid workers from piggybacking on another person's use of an access code for opening a door. The most secure system is to have each person enter a code and pass through the doorway separately. All it takes to ruin this system, is one person trying to be considerate, not safe.

These things happen because we are on deadline. We have other things to do NOW. We are tired. We are trusting. We want to please.

Yes, the technology keeps getting smarter. Unfortunately, that doesn't always happen with people.

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