Don’t Forget The Paperwork

By Dr. Guy Bunker

In today’s electronic world, we concentrate on ensuring information held on computers remains secure, but in doing so we frequently forget ‘old-style’ data loss – that which occurs through misplaced or forgotten papers.

The media concentrates on large scale electronic data breaches with lost laptops or hacking, but occasionally we still hear of ministers who have had their photographs taken while inadvertently showing a document, or of a briefcase left on a train or a folder left under a seat in a restaurant. 

Far more frequently, it’s the paperwork left around at work which can cause problems – nearly a quarter of all data loss is from printed matter. How many times have you walked into a meeting room to find ‘interesting’ information left on the table or on the whiteboard? 

Here are five tips to help you prevent the written word becoming a writ…

  1. Put up a sign in conference rooms
    reinforcing the policy, to ensure that all paperwork is taken away, whiteboards are cleaned and flipcharts have the used pages removed and disposed of securely.
  2. Shred important documents;
    don’t just throw them in the bin. Board papers, financial outlooks, patent ideas; all are valuable information to other people or malicious insiders.
  3. Remind people that, unlike laptops, you can’t encrypt a printed document
    so if they need to take them ‘on-the-road’, they need to protect them. If they can use an electronic version rather than printed, then that is better, as it can be more easily secured. (And it helps the environment as well.)
  4. Revisit the shredding policy
    For many organisations, document shredding is outsourced and documents are placed ‘whole’ in bins that are then taken offsite and shredded. However, there are probably still some pieces of information that should be shredded in-house (such as board papers and M&A documents). Local shredders should be made available for this purpose and the appropriate policy communicated to all.
  5. Shredding
    it’s not just for paper. What happens to old CD ROMs? All too often they sit in a drawer and then get thrown in the rubbish at a later date. However, they could contain 1000s of records, put in place a policy to shred removable media when it comes to the end of its useful life – this includes CD ROMs, DVDs, tapes and even removable hard drives and USB sticks (although the latter can be deleted electronically rather than physically).