When you get home after a long day, what do you do with your keys? Do you toss them on a table near the door? Hang them on a hook in the entryway? Leave them in your purse or briefcase? Place them in a locked safe in a closet? If you’re like most people, your answer is probably one of the first three options. The reason is simple: Those places are convenient. Not many people take time to think about the most secure place to put their keys because they feel safe at home.
Unfortunately, that attitude of prioritizing convenience without regard to security often carries over into the workplace, and it’s risky. Failing to seriously consider where you keep your organization’s keys and how you control access to them — and by extension, the facilities, assets and data they protect — is asking for a security breach or theft.
If you’re wondering where you shouldn’t keep your keys, we’ve compiled a list of places organizations have stored keys that were later stolen. By learning from their mistakes, you’ll save yourself time, money and headaches.
If you keep important files or assets in a locked file cabinet, it may seem like it makes sense to throw the keys in a box, where the key is out of sight but still easily accessible. Unfortunately, we learned from one Florida police department that this approach comes with a greater risk of theft. The department kept confiscated cash in a locked filing cabinet and stored the keys in an unlocked box. Eventually, the keys disappeared, along with more than $225,000. Police suspected a civilian employee, but there wasn’t a verifiable audit trail to link the employee to the theft.
Plastic tubs are helpful for organizing office supplies, but they’re not ideal for storing keys. One university learned this lesson the hard way. While it was rekeying buildings after several keys had been stolen, a janitor reported that a plastic tub containing more keys had gone missing. The university then had to rekey a second time.
When you pack up for the night, it’s easy to throw keys in a desk drawer. Maybe that’s not their permanent home, and you reason that you’ll put them back in their proper place in the morning. However, that window of opportunity could be just what thieves need. At one dealership, a group of teens broke in one night and had no trouble stealing seven vehicles because they found the keys in desk drawers.
Putting keys in a vehicle’s cupholder is tempting if you know you’re going to be returning soon or if multiple people need access to the keys. However, drivers leaving keys in the cupholders of unlocked cars is a common reason for auto theft.
If you keep other types of keys on the ring, that puts other assets or facilities at risk as well. For example, a set of master keys was stolen from a university after an employee left the key ring in the cupholder of a golf cart he’d been driving. It was standard for the keys to be kept there so employees could easily access them. Unfortunately, it was also easy for the thief to take the keys without detection, and the investigation had to be suspended due to a lack of witnesses or suspects.
Bag or Briefcase
While it’s acceptable to keep a few business keys — such as the keys to your office, a filing cabinet and the fleet vehicle you’re driving for the day — in your bag or briefcase (assuming you don’t leave it unattended), it’s risky to routinely carry a complete set of business keys. For example, you wouldn’t want to tote around the keys to all the offices in your suite or all the vehicles in your fleet.
However, some people continue to do just that, whether because they prefer to take keys home with them at the end of each day or because they haven’t found a better place to keep them. This poor key control practice led to a nightmare for one dealership manager and an employee after they left a bag of vehicle keys on an office desk while they went to unlock the dealership’s gates one morning. By the time they returned, the keys were gone.
These examples of key control gone wrong are by no means exhaustive — there are countless other places you shouldn’t keep your business's keys. If you’re not sure if your method of managing keys is secure, ask yourself these three questions:
- Is it difficult for unauthorized people to access keys?
- Is it easy to prove who has used each key and why?
- Can you immediately recognize when a key has gone missing?
If you answered no to any of these questions, it’s time to improve your key management. You might not have experienced a security breach related to lost or stolen keys yet, but that doesn’t mean you won’t. Is the illusion of convenience worth that risk?