Robbery Alters Thinking on Data Center Security

In October, Web hosting vendor C I Host Inc.s data center in Chicago was robbed by two masked men, who allegedly pistol-whipped a lone IT staffer working the graveyard shift and then held him hostage for two hours while stealing computer equipment.

Its rare for data centers to be attacked so brazenly. Typically, theyre secured by protections such as steel doors, security guards and electronic access controls.

But Christopher Faulkner, CEO of Irving, Texas-based C I Host, said this month that he no longer thinks data centers are as secure as most IT managers believe they are. And he added that he sees the armed robbery as a wake-up call for other organizations.

There have been scattered reports of other robberies, including one last year in London. But William DiBella, president of AFCOM, a professional association for data center managers, contended that IT facilities arent low-hanging fruit for criminals. Most data centers are very well hidden and secure, DiBella said.

Even so, Faulkner claimed that most data center owners havent planned for the worst possible occurrences. Data center security, in the past five years, has been about the show for the customer, he said.

C I Hosts Chicago data center is in a leased building. According to Faulkner, the robbers entered the building via a fire escape. A security guard wasnt at his post, and the thieves waited in a hall for the IT staffer who was on duty to leave the data center. After accosting and subduing the employee, the two men

swiped his badge through a reader, entered his PIN on a keypad outside the door to the data center and forced him to do a fingerprint scan, Faulkner said.

Since the robbery, Faulkner has adopted new security measures, which he declined to disclose, except to say that he hired an armed guard who works directly for the company.

C I Host, which has two other data centers, in Dallas and Los Angeles, also now trains its staffers on how to respond to such incidents. Faulkner said the training can be boiled down to this message: Fully cooperate with any intruders.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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