Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Classification Markings Should Increase Awareness Not Lethargy

Working on classified projects may seem intimidating at first. Overtime, the work quickly becomes routine and perhaps mundane. The cleared employee can quickly go from being impressed with their responsibilities and alert in their actions to a more relaxed attitude. Soon the classified items and the markings can become invisible and ineffective. Many modern examples of security violations include cleared employees leaving classified information unattended at their desks, lunch rooms and other unsecure areas. Such actions have led to possible compromise as safes have even been left open and unattended or accidentally removed from a cleared facility with classified information still inside. Even security employees have left safes unattended and have misplaced classified materials.


Though markings do relay intended information, they should not be the “stand alone” technique. Some industrial security specialists have added even more markings to already cluttered media hoping to prevent a user lapse in judgment. Once again the effectiveness begins to wear off. To counter the effects, the holder of the classified material must remain vigilant and aware of their surroundings and situation at all times. This is a proactive posture and requires a bit of imagination. Such security is accomplished with solid training and reminders of responsibilities while possessing classified information.


Simple acts such as maintaining a clean desk policy has helped to reduce security violations. In this situation, an employee removes everything from the tops of their working surfaces or desks except for the classified material. By doing that simple practice, a busy employee will be aware that any articles on the desk require extra diligence and must never be left unattended unless in an approved closed area. When no longer needed, classified information should be locked up in a security container or closed area. If a desk is empty, the cleared employee can also assume that there are no classified items out. This discipline creates an environment that reduces the chances of the employee leaving a classified item vulnerable to compromise if they forget to secure it prior to taking a break or leaving for the day. Also useful is the posting of a desk tent and door hanger with an important reminder that classified items are left out. As the employee leaves their work area, they will encounter the warnings on their desk or door handle.

In certain cases some classified materials may need to be stored separately from other classified articles. For instance, items with NATO classifications are stored in separate containers, drawers, shelving, etc to prevent unauthorized disclosure or possible compromise. Vigilance of classified markings pays off and is well worth the tough training that industrial security managers may undertake to learn to recognize such markings. When documents do need to be stored separately other access control systems prove very worthwhile.

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