The White House and the Capitol Building are some of the most secure buildings on the planet, but what happens when the President or someone else of importance needs to be on the road and discuss classified information? To prevent leaks and keep top secret information secure, SCIFs, or Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, are constructed and utilized; but what is a SCIF?

Many Americans may have become familiar with the term over the past few years with former President Donald Trump, who frequently used SCIFs at his resort in Mar-a-Lago, Florida. Although the term has made headlines, many might not understand what SCIFs exactly are and how they are set up to protect important documents and prevent spying.

What is a SCIF?

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The term SCIF is short for Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, and the term itself comes from the U.S. Department of Defense. At its core, it means a secure room. They are either temporary or permanent facilities that are created for lawmakers or military officials, often for travel. One of the most famous SCIFs is the White House Debriefing Room. Often, SCIFs are constructed while the President is traveling, usually using a secure, protected room.

SCIFs allow users to discuss private and secret information without the fear of any external surveillance, and prevent any unauthorized entry to the facility. Any sensitive materials or objects can also be handled within a SCIF.

They not only prevent unauthorized persons from entering, but stop unwanted transmission of sound and any electronic data from coming in or out such as cell phone data or other spyware. Although the term SCIF usually is in reference to a military or government secure room, corporations use similar setups as well to protect insider secrets and products.

What Are the Requirements of a SCIF?

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In order to be truly secure, there are specific requirements a SCIF must meet before anyone can use them as intended, especially those that are permanent. Every SCIF must be accredited before they can safeguard any classified materials.

The basics specifications of a SCIF include:

  • Doors are limited and must have two access control technologies; one for daily use and one for locking the facility when no one is around.
  • All electronics, including phones, security systems, and emergency systems, must be dedicated to the SCIF. All electrical utilities must the SCIF at a single point and not travel through the space.
  • Radio frequency protection must be installed in case the work requires RF usage.
  • There shouldn’t be windows, if possible. If there are, they need to be non-opening and protected by security alarms within the guidelines if they are within 18 feet of the ground and treated with RF protection.
  • Vents and ducts need to be protected to meet penetration requirements. All breaks within the ducts must be fitting special inserts that make sure any audio or other electronic waves do not leave the space.
  • Although not a requirement, it should be noted that most SCIFs are not “flashy.” They tend to be basic rooms or buildings built with function, not design, in mind.

The government provides a detailed explanation of SCIF specifications that anyone can read-through if they are looking to create their own standard SCIF. Each program will have their own specifications tailored to their needs. Additional materials for construction for added acoustical features may be needed, for example.

SCIF Security

Protecting important information goes beyond just the physical building of a SCIF; those who work in a secured area must also be under scrutiny. Employees in a SCIF must have all electronics removed from their persons before entering a SCIF, including cell phones, thumb drives, cameras, and more.

Any electronics and documentation within the SCIF must remain in the area and not be brought outside. For employees, work stays at work and home at home. Frequently changing swipe cards and passwords are common too, in order to keep the SCIF secure.

Cell phone device detectors, such as the Zone Protector, are often utilized in many SCIFs in order to ensure no unwanted devices enter the area. They provide accurate detection of all cell phones, including international, and can be used in SCIFs that are either temporary or permanent.

Other Types of Secure Facilities

SCIF are not the only types of buildings or rooms that are required when protecting classified government information. These buildings are often as secure as a SCIF, but some, such as a NISPOM closed area, are one step down in terms of protection. Other common secured areas include:

SAPF – Commonly heard alongside SCIF, SAPF stands for Special Access Program Facilities and refers to facilities for the Department of Defense such as the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force. SCIF and SAPF have the same security specializations.

NISPOM Closed Area – National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual. These tend to require less work to secure than SCIF and SAPF, but still have high standards for access control and acoustic measurements.

Sensitive / Restricted Area – More commonly found in the corporate world, Restricted Areas are rooms and buildings that  have simple security features such as cell phone detectors and sophisticated security systems to protect important information.

Protect Your SCIF with Cellbusters

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Setting up a SCIF and having it accredited is no easy feat. Cellbusters can help you protect your SCIF with our innovative and dependable products, the Zone Protector and the Zone Manager. They can provide accurate security for your facility that delivers real-time information allowing you to protect the valuable information and materials within a SCIF.