In my absence from the world of grown-up office work, cubicle life has gone James Bond in terms of security. When I started a government job last month, I expected to have to learn a computer password or two, show a few forms of ID, and that would more or less be it. But no. In the words of Bob Dylan, things have changed.
First, the government issued me my very own RSA SecurID®, which, for those not in the know, is a small digital display with eight numbers that change every two minutes. To log into my computer in the morning, or after I've wandered off for fifteen minutes, I have to enter my password and the eight numbers in the RSA window. It's hard not to feel like I'm defusing a bomb, as little bars in the window reveal how much time I have before the numbers change. (Type fast; it's going to blow!)
The RSA rigmarole is just to get into my computer. I have to enter another password for the network. Some applications also require using the RSA log-on again. There are no secrets about the applications I log into, or what I do while I'm at work. In orientation, our instructors emphasized that Internet usage is monitored, and if scary porn shows up in my file, I get in deep doo-doo.
For the first time, my work computer is a laptop. It's chained to a docking port on the desk (more security), but it's there, mobile, ready for me and James Bond to snatch it up as we're running from the bomb I've failed to defuse with my RSA. (I suppose I'll need to learn to type while jogging at the same time.)
Of course, in real life, having a laptop means telecommuting is a real, viable event that occurs with regularity for many government employees. (Telecommuting is a happy concept for homebodies like me!)
Returning to James and our escape from the bomb, I'll also be sure to grab my Escape Hood as we rush out the office. On my first day, the government provided me with a hood to protect me during an NBC event. (No, not the TV network, in this case, NBC refers to a nuclear, biological, or chemical event.) I can slip on my Escape Hood and activate a filter that hums at my neck, purifying the local air. To be frank, I don't quite see how this tactic will help during an actual nuclear event. After all, I live in Washington, DC, also known as Ground Zero. Can't you just see Q, innovator of many of Bond's toys, explaining the Escape Hood to James? Of course, in a Bond movie, it would also double as, say, a boat or a parachute. (However, I did note that the Escape Hood box also contains a glow stick; how festive!)
In any case, if there's trouble, James and I will running away with our RSAs and laptops. We may also be wearing our Escape Hoods if things are looking really bad. Plus, we will have our picture IDs, which must be worn everywhere in the building. Yet even picture IDs aren't the same. These days, they aren't just laminated pictures with fancy seals. Nope. Now tiny chips are embedded in the plastic, so I don't just show my ID to the guard on the way in, I also click it up against an access panel until the light turns green.
The powers that be definitely know when I enter the building. But apparently, they don't care when I leave, which I find moderately comforting should I slip up and be late coming back from lunch. Plus it won't slow me (and James) down as we flee the building with all our gear.
Even without the IDs, our identities would be no surprise. When I turned my security paperwork that covered the last ten years of my life, including jobs and addresses, they also fingerprinted me. And yes, you guessed it: fingerprinting is super-computerized too. No more messy ink for we government employees. Not anymore. My fingerprint goes straight into some database so I can be fingered (ha ha) if I turn to a life of crime or high espionage.
Perhaps I should remind James to wear gloves.