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  • December 02, 2019 3:06 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from the Wall Street Journal

    German police are investigating what experts are calling one of the most devastating jewelry heists in history after nearly a hundred pieces of 18th-century jewelry were stolen from one of Europe’s most renowned treasure collections early Monday.

    Police described a sophisticated predawn burglary at the 500-year-old Royal Castle of Dresden, where an unknown number of thieves broke in through a window, descended to the Grünes Gewölbe gallery, took an ax to a jewelry case and within minutes had captured at least three sets of priceless Baroque-era jewelry before fleeing the scene in an Audi A6.

    Authorities have appointed a special task force, named Commission Epaulette, to investigate the crime. As of late Monday, 20 criminologists were working on the case and no arrests had been made.

    “It’s certainly one of the greatest art robberies in history,” said Vivienne Becker, a London-based jewelry historian and author, who said it is impossible to calculate the monetary value of the stolen jewels because of their unique historical value to the art of goldsmithing. 

    “It’s as if someone broke into the Louvre and had taken the Mona Lisa,” she said.

    Museum officials said it wasn’t possible to put an exact value on the stolen pieces, which include several diamond brooches, a string of pearls and an epée with a diamond-encrusted hilt.

    “We are talking here of objects of immeasurable cultural value,” said Dirk Syndram, a German art historian and director of the Grünes Gewölbe, known in English as the Green Vault.

    Police descriptions and security footage offered a detailed account of Monday’s heist. Shortly before 5 a.m. local time, the thieves broke into the Dresden Castle through a window on Sophienstrasse and made their way through the building to the Jewelry Room in the Green Vault.

    Following widely practiced protocol, the castle’s unarmed security staff alerted local police upon spotting the burglary in progress on surveillance cameras, which showed at least two suspects wearing dark, hooded clothing, carrying flashlights and repeatedly swinging an ax into a glass showcase until it split open. 

    The first police car arrived at the museum at 5:04, but by then the criminals had cleared out. 

    Authorities believe the thieves left the scene in an Audi A6. A vehicle matching that description was found on fire in a nearby garage and seized by police. Criminologists working on the case suspect a link to another fire at an electrical box that cut power to streetlights in the area.

    Soaring art prices and systematic security flaws at museums are attracting a new generation of art thieves, many of whom have started taking art by force in broad daylight rather than by stealth like the Dresden thieves, according to the International Council of Museums, a nonprofit organization representing at least 1,900 museums and galleries around the world.

    Last week, a burglar tried to walk out of London’s Dulwich Picture Gallery with a pair of Rembrandt van Rijn paintings before being spotted by police. The burglar sprayed a substance on an officer and escaped without arrest, leaving the artworks behind. 

    Days later, a pair of metal-detector enthusiasts in England were jailed for stealing an ancient group of Viking-era jewelry and coins from a Herefordshire field in 2015 and seeking to sell them rather than report their discovery, as required under British law.

    When the international police agency Interpol launched its online database of stolen art world-wide in August, it listed around 34,000 objects. The London-based Art Loss Register also flags and tracks thousands of missing artworks, making it difficult, experts said, for any of the Dresden pieces to be fenced. U.S. residents are the biggest buyers in the estimated $6 billion global black market for art, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

    Other notorious art heists include the one committed by a pair who impersonated police officers and robbed Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990; the 13 artworks they took, including a painting by Johannes Vermeer, are collectively valued by the FBI at more than $500 million. The works have never been recovered. Neither has Caravaggio’s “Nativity with San Lorenzo and San Francesco,” which was stolen from the Oratory of San Lorenzo in Palermo, Italy, in 1969.

    Monday’s heist is the second spectacular burglary in Germany in recent years. Earlier this year, the trial began for four men charged with the 2017 theft of a giant gold coin from Berlin’s Bode Museum.

    The coin, weighing some 220 pounds and valued at €3.75 million ($4.1 million), was a commemorative “Big Maple Leaf” coin from the Royal Canadian Mint. It, too, hasn’t been recovered.

    Around 90% of museum thefts are linked to someone with ties to the institution, according to the Denver-based International Foundation for Cultural Property, which suggested that German authorities would likely scrutinize the palace staff for clues.

    The theft is a devastating blow to the Green Vault, one of Europe’s largest treasure chambers. The gallery of eight lavishly decorated rooms houses the eclectic collection of artworks, jewelry and curiosities amassed by Augustus the Strong, a Saxon ruler who also became king of Poland in the 18th century.

    The Baroque-era rooms where the jewels were displayed were damaged during World War II and their content plundered by the Soviet Red Army. But the collection was returned in 1958 and the royal residence that originally housed it was renovated in the early 2000s. The Green Vault eventually reopened in 2006 as a near-perfect replica of the original chamber.

    Ms. Becker, the historian, said the Green Vault collection stood alone in the world for the vast breadth of its jewels from the 18th century, an era when European artisans were beginning to use diamonds in high-art jewelry. 

    Unlike other renowned jewelry collections amassed over many years at museums like the Victoria and Albert in London, the Green Vault collection, Ms. Becker said, was unique for having been assembled contemporaneously by royalty in Saxony.

    “There’s nothing like it in the world, in one place,” she said. “It was the symbol of man’s highest achievement at that age. It is very much more than jewelry.”

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  • December 02, 2019 3:01 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from Dark Reading

    Why businesses need guidelines for managing their employees' personal information -- without compromising on security.

    Consumer privacy has long been the focal point of controversies regarding how companies handle personal data. While this is clearly an important matter, it has kept the spotlight off of another important issue: the way businesses handle the personal data of their own people.

    Consumer privacy is typically associated with the way companies use personal data to make a profit. But employee data is used by companies to monitor for things such as security threats, risky online behavior, and productivity drains. Because monitoring for these types of issues is essential for any business, it's easy to see how some companies might justify higher levels of employee surveillance. 

    The US Electronics Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), enacted in 1986, prohibits companies from carrying out certain privacy infringements, such as monitoring their employees' personal phone calls without consent. Even if the federal government were to conduct an overhaul to employee privacy legislation, it would be extremely complex and probably become antiquated shortly after its enactment — given the rate at which technology advances.

    Employee privacy is a difficult subject. And for today's increasingly mobile workplace, it's becoming even more difficult.

    When Smartphones Are Put to Work
    It wasn't too long ago that monitoring people through their phones was synonymous with wiretapping. And it also wasn't too long ago that a company-issued desktop computer or laptop was the primary or only computer one would use in the workplace.

    Today, mobile Internet traffic eclipses desktop/laptop traffic, accounting for 52% of combined traffic worldwide, according to a September 2019 report from Statista.

    When cellular phones first transformed into handheld computers, the way companies distributed them to employees generally followed the way any other work equipment was distributed. And while the intent may have been for company-issued smartphones to be looked at by employees the same way company-issued desktops or laptops are typically considered — as company property for company purposes — there's a much greater mix of personal and business use on smartphones compared with desktops/laptops. According to our research, 50% of all corporate data usage on mobile devices is not business critical.

    Given this degree of personal and business activity on the same device, businesses are constantly adapting the ways they approach mobility, and employee privacy is becoming a major factor in this ongoing process.

    The method of ownership for mobile devices used by employees has expanded beyond the traditional corporate owned, business only (COBO) model to include bring your own device (BYOD) and company owned, personally enabled (COPE) models. Today, many businesses use mixed combinations of these ownership models across individual employees and departments.

    BYOD has been widely adopted in recent years and, on the surface, it makes a lot of sense. As of 2018, 81% of Americans owned a smartphone, according to Pew Research Center. Why spend money on a new phones for employees when they probably already have their own? Why not just offer a fixed stipend to compensate them for work-related activity conducted on their devices? It's like the difference between providing a company car and reimbursing an employee for gas expenses.

    There are obvious privacy ramifications of monitoring what a person does on his or her personal device, even if there are reasonable grounds from a security perspective when it comes to business data and applications. An organization has a strong basis for seeing what their employees do with files stored in their corporate Dropbox account, for example, but should it also be able to see their employees' private messages, social media activity, and photos?

    Regardless of whether an employee is using a corporate-issued device or their own device for work, there is bound to be some crossover between personal and business data. And when businesses collect and monitor employee data, how can they approach this crossover in a responsible way that does not infringe on personal privacy or compromise any security measures?

    Employee Privacy Framework
    To find the right balance, organizations can utilize a framework made up of four pillars to inform the way they handle their employees' personal information as they establish privacy policies, develop their internal infrastructures, and implement new products.

    These pillars are: User Identity, User Activity, Policy, and Transparency.

    Under each pillar are best practices for how organizations should collect, store, and use their employees' personal information. These best practices can account for many gray areas that currently make it difficult for certain security processes to be conducted without infringing on employees' personal privacy.

    Source: Wandera

    Source: Wandera

    For example, in monitoring network activity, a company needs to understand who is accessing corporate resources and from what devices, as well as determine "normal" parameters so that anything unusual can be detected and flagged for inspection. However, in COPE and BYOD environments, what behaviors are OK for businesses to monitor?

    By applying the principle of data minimization, organizations can limit the amount of information collected to only what is needed for the intended purpose. This could mean that user information would only be collected on the work profile of a device, or only when corporate applications are in use. It could also mean that location data is not continuously tracked or that the access of personal applications (such as social media, messaging, photos, etc.) is not monitored.

    Taking this approach of only collecting the most necessary data, when it's necessary, should help organizations approach their employees' personal information in a more responsible manner, helping them establish better trust with their people as they keep the business secure.

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  • December 02, 2019 2:57 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from ArtNet News

    Dresden’s Green Vault remains a closed-off crime scene while the rest of the Royal Palace museum reopened to the public on Wednesday, November 27. Police continue to search for evidence as they hunt for the thieves who robbed the Green Vault of 11 pieces of Baroque jewelry early on Monday.

    With each passing day, fears are growing that the pieces may be broken up. The heist seems to be the work of professionals, and officials are concerned that the pieces will be dismantled, with diamonds and other precious stones re-cut and then sold.

    According to the director of Dresden’s State Art Collections, Marion Ackermann, the stolen items are “priceless.” So priceless that they were not insured. According Saxony’s finance minister, the lack of insurance is standard practice because the premiums tend to exceed the cost of repairing any potential damages. The royal jewels taken include a sword with a diamond-encrusted handle, diamond shoe buckles, buttons, and hair clips, as well as a diamond necklace.

    Police have established that is it likely the work of not just the two thieves caught on security camera, but of four robbers. The gang sprayed fire extinguishers to cover their tracks after breaking into the iron gate of the Royal Palace museum where they smashed a small window to gain access to the historic Green Vault, and then axing the glass vitrines that held some of the museum’s most precious and historic items.

    A burned-out getaway car was found after the incident. The police are assuming the vehicle (some reports say it was an Audi A6) and another fire at an electrical box nearby to the museum are connected to the robbery. The electrical box fire caused nearby street lights and the museum to be plunged into darkness; it also meant the alarm system was not activated. Security guards spotted the thieves on security cameras and immediately notified the police, who were on the scene within five minutes. So far, a special commission set up for the investigation has received 205 tips from the public.

    The Green Vault is one of the largest collections of Baroque treasures in Europe. It was founded by Augustus the Strong, an 18th-century prince-elector of the German state of Saxony, who was also the King of Poland.

    The theft has sent ripples of insecurity through the European and international museum community. The president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, Hermann Parzinger, told German media on Tuesday that there is “an increased threat to museums here.” Parzinger, who oversees 20 museums in the German capital, has called on the nation’s police authorities and security experts to set up a task force to address museum security in the face of “the criminal energy” behind the heist.

    Germany’s minister of culture Monika Grütters echoed Parzinger’s call in an interview with Düsseldorf’s Rheinische Post on Wednesday, November 27 to establish a task force to deal with the vulnerability of Germany’s collections. Many other incredibly valuable artifacts, art, and objects are housed in Germany, she notes: “In our museums there are art treasures that make up the cultural identity of our country and whose value is in the billions,” she said.

    Thieves were unable to steal Dresden’s Green Diamond, which is on loan, along with other objects, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. “We are devastated by the theft of the treasures from the Grünes Gewölbe [Green Vault], which are held so deeply in the hearts of the people of Dresden, and also so important to the cultural history of the world,” said Met director Max Hollein in a message of support to Dresden.

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  • December 02, 2019 2:52 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from Sputnik News

    Over 100 groups on Facebook are involved in the trade of looted antiquities from the Middle East, but shutting them down would mean losing track of previously undocumented artefacts, Amr al-Azm, a co-director of the Antiquities Trafficking and Heritage Anthropology Research (ATHAR) Project, said.

    “Now it’s over 100 groups on Facebook that are involved in it and are active. The number is growing, it’s not shrinking,” al-Azm, a founding member of the Alliance to Counter Crime Online, said, adding that social media has helped traffickers extend their reach in short periods of time. 

    “When we published our report, Facebook was asked if they were going to do anything about it, and the answer was: if you have any information, give it to us. But we have an issue on that. For Facebook to come and delete this information, it would be destroying not only records that one day could be used to prosecute looters, criminals, traffickers etc., so they will be destroying evidence that can be used in the court,” al-Azm said.

    The historian pointed out that these objects did not come from museums, making these posts on Facebook the only documentation available for the artefacts in question. It is for this reason that al-Azm emphasized the importance of cooperation on Facebook’s part so that this data could be preserved and the appropriate action taken against traffickers. 

    “This is coming straight from the ground, so the only picture, the only evidence proving that this object ever existed in our human history is the image that somebody posted on Facebook. If you are going to delete that, then it will be lost, the record will be gone. So for us, it is imperative that Facebook preserve this data and take all the necessary steps to download it and save it for future needs, and then begin to cooperate with law enforcement agencies and with groups like ourselves who are involved. We have a lot of experience to help them begin to disrupt the use of the platform for this kind of activities,” he continued.

    The researcher noted that starting this fall, he had been seeing Facebook grow increasingly aware of the problem. In particular, the social media platform has hired a team of regional experts on Syria who are now looking into the situation, he added.

    According to the Amr al-Azm, a possible launch of Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency may inadvertently boost trade in looted antiquities from conflict zones.

    “Can you imagine how much easier it is going to be now for these people to buy and sell? We are really worried about that. It is going to make the situation much worse. Trafficking that occurs on Facebook is not just looted antiquities,” al-Azm, a founding member of the Alliance to Counter Crime Online, said.

    He remarked that Facebook had yet to address the initial problem of the illegal antiquities trade via the social network. 

    “Without Facebook addressing the initial problem of what is being sold on its platform, by launching the currency they are just adding yet another way to make the platform even more attractive for these people to do their business. From the Facebook monetization perspective, it is perfect of course. They make money off it. The revenue is too good,” he continued.

    On Gateways of Smuggling Looted Antiquities 

    Some of the artefacts plundered in Syria go to Turkey through passing points controlled by the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, formerly known as the Nusra Front terrorist group (banned in Russia), according to al-Azm. However, he said that Lebanon was now “the main exit point” for looted artefacts, followed by Turkey and Jordan “to a lesser extent.”

    Buyers can be found in the Gulf states, Southeast Asia, Europe and America, according to the researcher, who has studied the activity of almost 100 Arabic Facebook groups involved in the trade of looted cultural items from the Middle East. 

    “Here is a real-life example. There is a Jordanian dealer who has a fixer in Istanbul. The Jordanian dealer gets a sense of what he wants on Facebook, then he tells his fixer what he is looking for. Then he books a flight, a holiday in Istanbul, he shows up in Istanbul, the fixer meets him at the airport, gives him a one-time-use phone, takes him to the hotel and then the fixer will arrange for the people with the goods to come to the hotel to meet with the guy. He sees the samples of the goods and then he decides to take an excursion trip to southern part of Turkey near the Syrian border where there are some other goods that may look interesting for him, and then he settles the bill, he leaves Istanbul, and then the smugglers do the arrangements,” al-Azm said.

    The situation in Lebanon is slightly different because dealers there usually have "associates in Syria and in opposition-held areas" that they can send check the item, and who then leave and open a route for said item to be smuggled into Beirut, he continued.

    Smugglers use Lebanon because of the loose control over the movement of cultural items and the existing arrangements between Syrian looters and Hezbollah, the researcher suggested.

    “Now, on Facebook, there is a guy who is selling a looted item from Afrin with a beautiful mosaic. I have been told that they are now sitting north of Beirut waiting to be shipped out. The thing was looted by a Nusra affiliate. Then they had arrangements with Hezbollah people, they smuggled it to Lebanon, and they get smuggled out,” al-Azm said.

    He further remarked that corrupt officials close to the Syrian government may also be involved in these illegal schemes.

    “You can’t see it in terms of the regime being involved officially in the traffic of looted antiquities, but endemic corruption and non-state actors, as well as para-military formations fighting alongside the regime supplement their income by participating in illegal trafficking, dealing, smuggling of contraband, including looted antiquities,” al-Azm said.

    On Liability For Trading Looted Artifacts

    Trade in looted antiquities needs to be countered from both ends, and the acquisition of such items made into a criminal offence directly tied with funding terrorism, the researcher continued.

    “The problem of trafficking in antiquities is like anything else — it’s a supply and demand. You have to address the supply side, but you also have to address the demand side,” al-Azm said.

    One way of achieving this, according to the researcher, would be to make people understand that the items of suspicious origin they buy have a “fairly high chance” of having been “looted and trafficked by an entity, person or organization with terrorist connections,” thereby making the buyer a funder of terrorism.

    “If we can somehow get that to become a legal thing, criminalize it, then it’s not just that you are buying a questionable item – you are now funding terrorism. That becomes a much bigger issue legally,” he continued.

    Such an approach could be a “game-changer,” al-Azm said.

    “Until that, I don’t think we will be doing anywhere near what should be done. … But I do not think there is a will on the part of the international community to go that far either. Unfortunately, in the absence of all that, it’s only going to get worse,” he said.

    The ATHAR cooperated with people on the ground who could witness and document looting. The research team could then compare the information they had received with sale offers on Facebook. Most ads were for jewellery, coins and mosaics, some of which are worth up to $80,000 dollars.

    The teams on the ground worked on verifying and locating the users who created the sale posts on Facebook, which in turn helped al-Azm and his colleagues build their profiles.

    A final report summarizing the project’s work was published in June 2019. At the time, it had found that 95 Arabic Facebook groups were using the platform for antiquities trafficking and that individuals associated with terrorist organizations in Syria were among their members.

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  • December 02, 2019 2:49 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from The Journal (Ireland)

    A night security man at All Hallows College who stole artwork and sold it through Sotheby’s auction house has been given a suspended sentence.

    Petr Balint (41), of Glen Ellan Drive, Swords, Co Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to theft of 33 art prints and an “incunabula” – defined as a book printed before 1501 – from All Hallows College, Grace Park Road , Dublin 9, on dates between January 2013 and June 2014.

    Balint further pleaded guilty to theft of four prayer books and six other books during the same time.

    Judge Martin Nolan said Balint had been working alone and “wandering aimlessly” through the building when he succumbed to temptation and took these items.

    He said Balint had received about €20,000 for some of the stolen items and suspicion fell upon him when he replaced some of the stolen work.

    Judge Nolan noted that theft from employers was “well trodden ground” and that the Court of Appeal has said a four year sentence with the final two years suspended was appropriate for the theft of €250,000.

    He said this case did not approach that and that a custodial sentence was not appropriate by reason of the amount involved. He imposed a two and a half year sentence which he suspended in full.

    Detective Garda James Woods told Kieran Kelly BL, prosecuting, that All Hallows, founded in 1842, had begun to wind down in May 2014 and prepare for sale. He said Balint was employed by a security company and worked nights, as well as occasional weekends.

    Det Gda Woods said during an inventory process it became apparent some items were missing. GardaÍ were contacted and investigation begun.

    The investigation discovered that the “incunabula”, which was two volumes bound into one, and the prints had been put up for auction via Sotheby’s by Balint. He told the auction house they belonged to his mother. Some of the prints had sold for a total of £22,148 sterling.

    The “incunabula” was put up for auction valued at between four to six thousand Sterling. It did not sell and was returned to Balint. Balint then returned the “incunabula” to All Hallows in a plastic bag handing it to staff and claiming he had found it.

    Sotheby’s were able to purchase the prints back from the buyers when alerted by gardai.

    A search of Balint’s house was carried out and gardai recovered four “Breviarium Romanum” prayer books.

    They also found six other books: “The history of Co Dublin Vol I to VI”; “Persecutions of Irish Catholics”; “The Capuchin Annual” 1969 and 1967; “St Ceclia’s Hymn Book” and “Ancient Egypt.”

    Det Gda Woods said the items recovered in the house were not valuable.

    The garda agreed with Luigi Rea BL, defending, that the art work had been prints – depicting scenes in Rome – and were not originals. He agreed that a poor inventory had been kept, that there had been a number of break ins and books were deteriorating through leaks.

    Mr Rea said Balint had been told he could take small items and had taken them at their word.

    He said Balint had come to Ireland in 2004 and had worked in All Hallows for six or seven years. He said he had been working there while it was closing down around him. He said Balint had taken what he thought was abandoned.

    Mr Rea submitted that Balint had taken religious art which was currently “not very fashionable.”

    He said Balint, a married father of one, had used the money for housekeeping. He said his client had been on a low wage and used the money to supplement this. He said Balint did not have an art collection worth millions at home. He has no previous convictions.

    He said Balint should not have done what he did and submitted he was now in honest work.

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  • December 02, 2019 2:46 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from Security Boulevard

    Once upon a time, employees spent their days in offices or cubicles, in their own space apart from other employees. Today it’s much different, with employees working in open-plan offices, where large, co-working tables replace closed-off cubicles.

    Surprisingly, 70% of all offices have an open-style floor plan. Such a setup can reap benefits such as improved collaboration, but it also has its drawbacks.

    In some cases, open-plan offices compromise the security of the company and its employees. It makes sense, if you think about it: With less privacy, information meant to be confidential is accessible to everyone in the vicinity.

    Your company doesn’t have to give up on its open-plan office, however. Here are three ways to make your open office workspace as secure as it is open.

    1. Implement Clear-Desk Policies

    One big problem with an open office environment is the placement of confidential documents. An employee typically would store information on their desk, which works fine in a place that’s closed and locked up. However, open-plan seating doesn’t offer protection. Other staffers might see confidential information and use it to their advantage. Insider trading is one such example.

    To remedy this situation, implement a clear-desk policy. It’s simple enough: Staffers are required to put everything away at the end of each workday. In addition, provide lockable filing cabinets for employees to store essential papers. This rule applies to computers, too—staffers should password-protect their computers to ensure they’re the only ones who can log in.

    Legacy hard drives kept in your open-concept office pose a risk. Hackers can retrieve information, even if you wipe them. The best way to protect data is to destroy old hardware destroyed adequately.

    2. Create an Air of Privacy

    Open office spaces provide plenty of advantages to both workers and employers. However, a lack of division can have its drawbacks when staffers want to chat about private matters; their voices carry throughout the entire co-working space. Someone hearing delicate information is just as risky as them seeing confidential data.

    Luckily, there are plenty of potential solutions to this problem. A white noise machine can prevent outsiders from hearing what you’re saying, while the gentle noise won’t disturb anyone who’s working. And a companywide private messaging system can keep sensitive conversations to a minimum. With the right software, these discussions can be encrypted.

    Finally, enclose at least one corner of the office for small meetings and private conversations.

    3. Deter In-Office Theft

    It’s difficult to sneak into someone’s office, break into their locked desk and steal belongings without detection. An open-concept office removes many of these obstacles, making it easier for expensive items to go missing. Because so many people pass through, it can be hard to pinpoint who’s responsible for missing items.

    Make a point to remind staffers not to leave bags or valuables unattended. Give each employee a locked drawer within their desk to ensure things are safe when they step away. Consider giving everyone laptop locks, too. If a computer goes missing, protect the data with features such as remote wipe or encryption, which will jumble up your data and make it illegible.

    Consider an overhead camera system to discourage theft. The footage can help pinpoint who’s entered and exited after items go missing.

    How to Resolve Safety Concerns in Open Offices

    Fortunately, you can have an open concept and secure workplace, as long as you stay vigilant and teach staff to do the same.

    The above tips on security in open office environments will help you protect your data from wandering eyes and listening ears. With no information to mine—and no valuables to steal—your office will be as safe as you want it to be. With a secure setup, you can experience all the benefits of an open concept.

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  • December 02, 2019 2:42 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from Federal News Network

    A brazen burglary Monday at a German museum holding priceless treasures is another in a long history of daring European heists over the years.

    German police said it was too early to estimate the value of the items stolen from Dresden’s Green Vault, one of the world’s oldest museums, and museum officials called the objects “priceless.”

    Here’s a look at some other spectacular thefts in Europe in recent years:

    SWEDISH SMASH AND GRAB

    In a daring daytime heist, thieves in Sweden smashed glass show cases inside a cathedral and snatched 17th-century royal treasures estimated to be worth 65 million kronor ($7 million) last year.

    They made their getaway on stolen bicycles and then fled by motorboat via the vast system of lakes west of Stockholm.

    The two crowns and an orb were later discovered in a garbage bin north of Stockholm.

    Two men were convicted and imprisoned for the theft.

    THE ITALIAN JOB

    In January 2018, thieves stole precious Indian jewels from the famed Al Thani Collection that were on show at the Doge’s Palace in Venice, including a pendant featuring a 10-carat diamond.

    Surveillance footage showed one of the thieves calmly opening a showcase window, pocketing the gems and sauntering off. Police say the alarm was triggered only a minute later, giving the thieves time to escape.

    Croatian police later arrested four suspects, one of whom was believed to be linked to several major heists in Europe and the notorious, multinational “Pink Panther” gang of thieves.

    GOLDEN COIN

    Burglars broke into Berlin’s Bode Museum in March 2017 and made off with a 100-kilogram (221-pound) Canadian gold coin known as the “Big Maple Leaf.”

    The suspects are believed to have smashed a protective case and then managed to lift the coin out of a museum window before fleeing along a rail track with their haul in a wheelbarrow. After getting away with it, they are accused of later cutting up the coin, valued at about 3.75 million euros ($4.33 million), and selling the pieces.

    Four men are currently on trial in the case — three accused of the break-in and a fourth, a security guard at the museum, on allegations he helped with their plan. They deny the charges.

    A VAN GOGH HOMECOMING

    Two paintings by Vincent van Gogh went back on display in Amsterdam in 2017 — more than 14 years after thieves ripped them off the walls of the Van Gogh Museum during an audacious nighttime raid.

    Italian police discovered the paintings, “View of the Sea at Scheveningen,” and “Congregation leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen,” during a raid targeting Italian mobsters.

    FASHION WEEK FRIGHT

    In October 2016, robbers allegedly forced their way into the apartment where Kim Kardashian West was staying during Paris Fashion Week, tied her up and stole more than $10 million worth of jewelry.

    Ten people have been charged in the case. The alleged mastermind wrote the reality TV star an apology letter from his prison cell.

    She said the experience made her less materialistic.

    OFFSCREEN DRAMA AT CANNES

    Cannes has a reputation not only for its film festival glamour but also for its dramatic heists.

    In 2015, thieves — one wearing an old-man mask — walked into the Cartier boutique on Cannes’ Croisette seaside promenade in the middle of the morning and walked out with millions of dollars’ worth of jewelry and watches.

    Then, in 2013, thieves stole Chopard jewelry from a hotel room safe during the festival, a crime that drew parallels to Sofia Coppola’s “The Bling Ring,” which was screening that year.

    And two months later, a lone gunman pulled off one of the biggest jewelry heists of all time, stealing $136 million worth of diamond jewelry from Cannes’ Carlton Hotel — a location for Alfred Hitchcock’s classic “To Catch a Thief.”

    AIRPORT HEISTS

    European airports have provided a stage for some audacious jewel thefts.

    In a carefully planned 2013 heist, thieves cut through a fence at the Brussels airport, drove to a Switzerland-bound plane and snatched an estimated $50 million in diamonds.

    In 2005, thieves threatened guards and hijacked an armored car from Dutch carrier KLM’s cargo ramp at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, making off with millions in diamonds and jewelry.

    POSH TRICKSTERS, CROSS-DRESSING CROOKS

    In 2009, two elegantly dressed men walked into the Graff Diamond Store in London’s high-end Mayfair district and carried away necklaces, watches, rings and bracelets worth more than 40 million pounds ($51 million, at today’s exchange rate).

    While Christmas shoppers strolled outside the posh Harry Winston jewelry shop near Paris’ famed Champs-Elysees in 2008, armed thieves — some dressed as women and wearing wigs — entered the store and stole gems and jeweled watches worth up to $85 million.

    POPULAR ART

    In 2008, three men wearing ski masks walked into the Buehrle museum in Zurich a half-hour before closing time on a Sunday. While one used a pistol to force museum staff to lie on the floor, the two others swiped four paintings by Cezanne, Degas, Van Gogh and Monet worth $163 million. Shocked police called it one of the biggest heists in European history. The Van Gogh and Monet paintings were recovered.

    A year before the Zurich heist, two Picasso paintings worth nearly $66 million and a drawing were stolen from the Paris home of the artist’s granddaughter in an overnight theft.

    In 2004, two Edvard Munch masterpieces, “The Scream” and “Madonna,” were taken from the Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway, by three men wielding firearms in a daylight raid. The paintings, insured for $141 million, were recovered with little damage two years later.

    In 2003, a $65-million Leonardo da Vinci painting was stolen from Drumlanrig Castle in southern Scotland by two men who joined a public tour and overpowered a guide. It was recovered four years later.

    See Original Post

  • December 02, 2019 2:38 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from Military.com

    The U.S. Army Reserve is building new teams of experts trained to protect priceless pieces of art and cultural heritage in combat zones, though their work won’t resemble the high-stakes capers depicted in the 2014 blockbuster "The Monuments Men."

    A recent agreement between the Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) and the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative will kick off a search for talented individuals in the Army Reserve with backgrounds in cultural heritage preservation. This group will be the next generation of men and women tasked with ensuring that the Army is ready to deal with the complex cultural challenges commanders are sure to face in a large-scale war with a major power.

    They movie -- based on the book "The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History" by Robert M. Edsel and Bret Witter -- introduced the audience to a brave group of allied soldiers who risked their lives to find and protect valuable works of art from the Nazis during World War II.

    These new teams of Army specialists will also be responsible for helping combat leaders avoid becoming mired in civil conflict that is often created by complexities of cultural heritage, Col. Scott DeJesse, a cultural heritage preservation officer with USACAPOC(A), told Military.com.

    "What is going to be different than the monuments men and women of the past is that we've got to meet the [protection] requirements of the 1954 Hague Convention ... but then we also have to serve staff officers who provide guidance to commanders on basically analyzing the battlespace," DeJesse told Military.com. "Cultural heritage is not just something that is passive that needs to be protected -- it's like an active agent that's in these complex environments, and a lot of times it's the driver of conflict."

    It's a problem that the U.S. military has struggled to understand during many conflicts in the past, DeJesse said.

    The Army sent teams into Baghdad to ensure that the museum and other valuables were protected, but traditional stabilization efforts often focus on tangible solutions such as rebuilding schools and restoring electricity.

    "But the thing is they are still shooting at each other," DeJesse said. "Actually, a lot of times the disruption relates to culture ... a lot of times people state 'culture is something that unites us' -- well, actually it is used to divide us.

    "It's been totally overlooked ... on how it can be used to measure our performance in areas where we are trying to help stabilize and bring peace to certain areas we are in. It's the intangible measures that has been so hard for the [Pentagon] to figure out."

    DeJesse referred to the violence that erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017 when white supremacist groups, protesting the removal of a Confederate monument from a Charlottesville park, clashed with counter-protestors.

    Commanders have to be aware of such flashpoint issues and how they can be used as political tools, he said.

    "There are groups that want to keep them and there are some that want to get rid of them because my family or heritage was repressed or my family were slaves," DeJesse said. "There are all different reasons on the individual level, because heritage is an individual, family, community, regional and national identity."

    Cultural heritage teams would "provide analysis saying, 'Sir or ma'am, this is the situation that is going on in the domain of cultural heritage; it's not just about the thing,'" DeJesse said.

    "What is happening right now is you have these opposing groups and they are trying to use this element of heritage to separate each other, so do not get into that fray; be aware that that one group, when they approach you about doing this project or this narrative, you are getting yourself caught in an area where you don't want to be," he said.

    For now, the effort is focused on finding talented individuals in the Reserve that will come together as a team to train on certain aspects of cultural heritage, DeJesse said, referring to the preservation training that will occur in March at the Smithsonian.

    "They are going to show the processes that the Smithsonian uses for object handling, evacuation of museums and assessments," DeJesse said.

    "When conflict starts happening, cultural property is on the move; the [enemy] systematically targets the tangible, and they use the intangible side of it divide each other."

    See Original Post

  • November 21, 2019 12:25 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from ArtNet News

    As the worst floods in half a century deluge the city of Venice, the city’s cultural institutions are battening down the hatches and bracing for another day of high waters.

    Flood levels peaked at 74 inches today, the second-highest level ever recorded, and forecasts suggest those numbers will remain unusually high over the coming days. The city’s historic Saint Mark’s basilica has suffered serious damage, as have many of its cultural institutions. Venice’s mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, has declared a state of emergency and, in a tweet, publicly asked the government to bail out the city, emphasizing that the millions of dollars of flood damage are part of “the effects of climate change.” 

    “Venice finds itself now in a state of calamity and alert,” the director of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Karole PB Vail, tells Artnet News. The modern art museum is located right on the Grand Canal in the city’s Dorsoduro district. “Fortunately, the museum staff is well and safe, the museum and collections are safe and have not been damaged. But for security reasons, and in order to deal with this emergency situation including some damages in the ticket office and shop, the museum is closed to the public today and tomorrow.”

    Venice’s 11 city-run institutions also shuttered today. The Fondazione Musei Civici, which manages and develops the cultural and artistic heritage of Venice and the surrounding islands, explains in a statement that it ordered the temporary closure of its venues for cleaning and restoration work, as well as to undertake necessary security measures. “Venice is experiencing an emergency that has not yet ended,” the statement reads.

    The worst affected museum is the Ca’Pesaro, which hosts the International Gallery of Modern Art. A short circuit caused a fire that was quickly extinguished by firefighters. But a landing connecting the ground floor to the first floor has been damaged and, while it has not yet collapsed, it requires immediate shoring up. 

    Along with the Ca’ Pesaro, the baroque palazzo of the Ca’ Rezzonico, a museum dedicated to 18th-century Venice; the Palazzo Mocenigo; the Casa di Carlo Goldoni; Palazzo Fortuny; and the Museum of Natural History, will all be closed through November 16. 

    Fortunately, however, the Museo Correr, Saint Mark’s Clock Tower, the Murano Glass Museum, and the Lace Museum in Burano will reopen tomorrow, although museum cafés and gift shops located on the ground floor will not be accessible for a few days, and the use of the elevators will be temporarily limited, thereby preventing access to wheelchair users. The Palazzo Ducale is slated to reopen on Friday, November 15.

    As for some of the city’s other private institutions, the Pinault Collection’s two venues, the Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana, are also staying on the safe side. A spokesman for the exhibition venues tells Artnet News that both will remain closed tomorrow “as a precautionary measure.”

    “No damage has been caused to the exhibited artworks, although some necessary steps are required to verify the proper functioning of the systems and services of both venues,” the spokesman says.

    The Venice Biennale, which is due to close in just nine days, was forced to shutter its two main exhibitions in the Giardini and the Arsenale, as well as the national pavilions in both venues. A spokeswoman tells Artnet News that they hope they can resume activities tomorrow, but did not immediately respond to inquiries about whether they plan to extend the exhibition’s run.

    Meanwhile, the Galleria dell’Accademia, which usually hosts a prized masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci—the world-famous Vitruvian Man—remained open on November 13. The gallery might be counting its stars that it agreed to loan the gem to the Louvre’s Leonardo blockbuster after all. The gallery could not be reached for comment.

    See Original Post

  • November 21, 2019 12:22 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from ArtNet News

    A brazen attempted heist at London’s Dulwich Picture Gallery was foiled by security on Wednesday night—but the suspect has so far managed to evade capture.

    Shortly before midnight, a burglar entered the museum, targeting a pair of works by the Dutch master Rembrandt van Rijn on view in the exhibition “Rembrandt’s Light.” While the intruder did manage to remove the works from the wall, he wasn’t able to successfully spirit them away from the premises.

    Police encountered signs of forced entry and quickly located the suspect mid-heist. He sprayed an officer with an unknown substance, according to a statement, and managed to escape without arrest. The officer was not injured.

    “This was an audacious attempted burglary and was clearly planned in advance,” Detective Inspector Jason Barber from the Flying Squad, a branch of the London police, said in a statement. “Two paintings in the exhibition were targeted and it was only down to the prompt response of gallery security staff and the courage and swift intervention of officers that these two works of art were not stolen. Thankfully both the paintings were quickly recovered and secured.”

    The gallery said the intrusion was identified in part thanks to a new “state-of-the-art” alarm system they installed specifically for this high-profile show. The museum is now working to assess whether the works suffered any damage during the attempted heist.

    The museum declined to confirm which works in particular the thief was after, but said that they remain safe and sound. “The intruders were detected by the gallery’s robust security systems and, thanks to the immediate intervention of security staff and the swift response of the Metropolitan Police, the paintings were secured at the scene,” a representative said in a statement.

    The show—one of a wave of exhibitions organized to mark the 350th anniversary of the painter’s death around the globe—includes high-profile loans from the Louvre in Paris and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

    The exhibition and the gallery at large will remain closed until further notice to allow police to conduct a full investigation.

    See Original Post

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