Protecting Sensitive Business Documents
Steps to help keep your company's information protected
Despite how many businesses are converting to paperless systems, there are still many that work with paper documents. The information on these documents is extremely sensitive, and it is imperative that companies go to extra lengths to protect it.
According to a study by the Alliance for Secure Business Information (ASBI), 49 percent of people surveyed whose companies suffered a data breach said that more than one breach was the result of loss or theft of paper documents. "Every day, businesses manage highly confidential information that, if stolen, can leave the company and its employees, vendors and customers exposed," said John Fellowes, vice president and general manager of Fellowes, Inc., and a member of the ASBI. "What many fail to realize is that paper documents are just as vulnerable to a breach as electronic documents [are]."
As a small business owner, you need to make sure that you and your employees adhere to a strict system that keeps your company's information and your clients' information safe and secure. Here are some tips that can help:
- Use a cross-shredder to shred any and all proprietary information. There are both desk-side and commercial shredders available, so you can choose one depending on the size of your company and how much sensitive material your employees handle on a daily basis.
- Create a list of office guidelines for all employees to follow that outlines proper procedures for protecting sensitive information.
- Lock away all sensitive information, and restrict access to only those who need it.
- Keep company computers updated with the most current antivirus, anti-spyware and firewall software, and ensure that your wireless networks are protected with proper security settings.
- Avoid using Social Security numbers in the workplace; don't use them on time cards, paychecks or employee identification badges.
- Have your employees log off their computers at the end of every workday; lock up their workstations, if possible; and file away any confidential documents.
Evangeline Gomez of Forbes.com says that the days when every employee had access to the entire system are over: "It is vital ... for any small business owner to make documents available on an as-needed basis to as few employees as possible and to keep clear records on which employee has accessed what documents. This type of protection requires constant diligence, and a great deal of thought and planning in the design of information systems."
Gomez goes on to explain that, depending on the type of information you are trying to protect, it may be necessary to get a lawyer involved. Any employees with access to trade secrets or other confidential information should be required to sign a confidentiality agreement. Additionally, it might be worthwhile to have employees sign a noncompete agreement so that should they leave your company, they can't work for a competitor for a specified amount of time.
There is no one right way to protect your company's information, but using smart business practices can help. If you have questions about how to keep your company's information safe, stop by your local branch to speak with a financial professional.