Armed Robbery at Chicago Data Center

An armed intrusion and robbery at a Chicago data center raises tough questions about security and staffing.

Rich Miller

November 4, 2007

2 Min Read
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The Register has a disturbing account of an armed robbery at a Chicago colocation center operated by C I Host. Police say $15,000 worth of server equipment was stolen in the Oct. 2 incident, in which the thieves cut through an exterior wall and assaulted an employee. The Register says it's the fourth break-in since 2005 at C I Host's Chicago facility. An excerpt:

In the most recent incident, "at least two masked intruders entered the suite after cutting into the reinforced walls with a power saw," according to a letter C I Host officials sent customers. "During the robbery, C I Host's night manager was repeatedly tazered and struck with a blunt instrument. After violently attacking the manager, the intruders stole equipment belonging to C I Host and its customers." At least 20 data servers were stolen, said Patrick Camden, deputy director of news affairs for the Chicago Police Department.

The incident is also being discussed at Slashdot and Web Hosting Talk. C I Host customers have posted images of police reports from three earlier incidents (linked from the comments of the Register story).

The incident is prompting scrutiny of security practices at the facility, as it should. But it also provides food for thought about what type of security scenarios to consider as the industry discusses next-generation approaches to automation and portability.

There's been lots of discussion about highly-automated "lights out" data center facilities that can operate unmanned, with monitoring systems providing alerts for quick response by staff within a short drive of the facility. A number of vendors offer products designed to support unmanned data centers, including HP and Cyclades. Unmanned operation is also a key selling point for portable data centers like Sun's Blackbox and Rackable's ICE Cube. These approaches offer potential savings on several fronts (including staffing), but raise tough questions as well. Will the first responder to an alarm be a security guard or an IT staffer? It may matter if the alert is triggered by intruders with power tools and tasers.

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