You have a duty to take the appropriate steps to protect confidential information in your company, whether it relates to your customers or your employees. Failure to ensure the data is properly protected can result in litigation, as well as harm to the credibility of your company and result in a loss of business.
Here are some of the easiest ways to protect the confidential information your company handles:
1. Control Access
For any information that is stored digitally, it is incredibly important that you use firewalls, passwords, and encryption to control any access to it. This is particularly important when the information is stored on smaller storage devices that can be lost easily, such as USB drives.
When you use passwords to secure access to sensitive information, you must ensure they are both safe and frequently updated. Using passwords that are easy to guess is a mistake many companies make and something you should stop doing if you want to keep your sensitive information secure. A mixture of upper and lower case letters and special characters are the best type of passwords to use.
2. Using Shredders and Confidential Waste Bins
As common as digital data has become, many businesses are still dealing with a great deal of paperwork on a daily basis. When sensitive documents need to be disposed of then be certain to use a confidential waste bin or shred them. Issues such as identity theft mean you should never believe that because a document has been dropped in the bin, nobody else will see it.
3. Lockable Document Storage Cabinets
When you need to permanently destroy classified documents, then a shredder would work well but what about the documents you need to have on hand? The best option in this situation is to have lockable storage cabinets which only a few select people have the key to.
It’s also a good idea to keep some lockable storage cabinets in a locked room which can’t be accessed by anyone other than a select one or two people, to provide an extra level of protection.
4. Safe Distribution of Confidential Documents
It is one thing to safely store confidential documents at your own premises, but if they need to be distributed then it is extremely important that this is conducted in a secure way. If it’s actual documents that need to be sent, then using a reputable courier service is a good idea, or preferably, get them delivered by someone you trust inside your company.
You can either e-mail or use a file-sharing program for digital documents that need to go to a third party. If you are using a file-sharing system, it is very important to encrypt the documents and to ensure that you are using a trustworthy service provider.
5. Employee Preparation
When it comes to leakage of confidential data, the biggest risk is often the employees of an organisation themselves. This is not necessarily due to malicious reasons either; it’s often simply because the proper training was not given.
When training your employees in ways to prevent a breach of confidentiality, it’s a good idea to begin by discussing why data protection is so essential and then educate them on the practical aspects of data protection, i.e. deleting records, using secure passwords, etc. If you want to teach them about data confidentiality, you can either do it internally or hire a third party. It may be more realistic to do your own in-house training on non-technology aspects of this, but if you want some guidance on passwords, phishing or other areas of IT, then you’ll also want some expert advice from an external IT company.