Take these steps to protect confidential business documents
Employees should know the basics of identifying and handling all company and third-party confidential information. This starts as soon as a new employee joins a firm. It should also be routinely refreshed to cater to new and ongoing business relationships. Confidential information is broadly defined as information disclosed to an employee or known by that employee due to their employment at a company. This information isn’t generally known or protected by law outside the company. Confidential information includes information, written documents, and electronic data. Confidential business documents have to be kept safely to not end up in the wrong hands. Just as the name implies, they are those documents that are not to be seen or accessed by the general public or even members of staff that have no business accessing them. Such files are meant to be kept properly or destroyed because of their sensitivity. This article talks about properly protecting these confidential documents to avoid falling into the wrong hands.
How do I protect confidential business documents?
There are several ways in which you can protect confidential business documents. They include:
Implementing Workplace Information Destruction Policies
It could be a very risky business when you leave behind the responsibility of destroying what should be destroyed for your employees. It is not the responsibility of hour employees to decide what information is confidential and what is not. Having a predefined information destruction policy will help alleviate any questions about what to destroy and when. When implementing a workplace information destruction policy, you should include day-to-day documents and documents with a longer life cycle. Once you can determine when to destroy documents, ensure to use the paper shredding method. It is the safest and most guaranteed way to destroy confidential documents. Shredding can be done daily or after some weeks.
Implementing a shred-all policy is also of utmost importance. This simply means that every document is shredded or placed into the shredding bins irrespective of what it is. This helps eliminate the difficulty in deciding what should or should not be shredded. This might seem simple, but it is an extremely effective strategy to mitigate any risk. Documents that need to be retained for a period, on the other hand, must be kept safe. Documents such as tax files, employee records, or medical records that need to be retained for a particular period must be stored and destroyed in a secure way when no longer in use. As part of your policy, documents should be stored in secure and locked areas to guarantee limited access. All documents should be properly labelled so you know the content of each box and when it can be destroyed. Once the retention period has passed, all documents should be shredded on time.
Implementing clean desk policies
Leaving sensitive documents on your desk puts them at more risk of a breach. It doesn’t matter if they are left in full view or a file folder; it makes it more accessible to visitors, cleaning staff or other employees to access what is supposed to be confidential information. Every document should be properly locked up at the end of each day. No paper or confidential information should be left carelessly on the desks. Locking up this information ensures its security while the documents are not used.
Including a non-disclosure clause in employment agreements
It is within your best interest to ensure that your employees sign a confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement (NDA) in a bid to keep your sensitive business information protected. This will safeguard your company and make employees aware that they cannot divulge or share proprietary information. Confidentiality provisions in an employment contract make it obvious that your business is serious about confidentiality and can help prevent problems from a legal and practical perspective.
Training employees on the importance of document security
It is important to train your staff members on the right way to handle sensitive information. It is important to train your employees to protect confidential information at all costs, irrespective of the media type, for as long as the information exists. They should also only share confidential information with those who need to know. At the end of the training, ensure a written, signed, confidential non-disclosure agreement before disclosing confidential information to third parties. Also, emphasize the importance of reporting any actual or suspected unauthorized access to management.
Limiting access to sensitive information
It is your responsibility to ensure that you limit the access to confidential information by restricting it to only those employees who have valid reasons to know. All hard copies of documents should be kept safe and electronic copies should have difficult to guess passwords to be protected. You can also employ 2-factor authentication systems for sensitive information to add an extra level of security.
Having strict visitor policies
Do not overlook strict visitor policies as a means to protect confidential business documents. Visitors shouldn’t come in and go out of your facility without supervision. When it is necessary to have visitors at your workplace, ensure that they sign a confidentiality agreement immediately after they arrive. In addition, they should be strictly monitored and restricted from areas where they may be exposed to confidential information.
Securing paper document storage
If you have physical documents, vital steps need to be taken to prevent them from getting stolen. You can start by ensuring that where they are all kept is locked at all times. Employees should be trained to lock away sensitive documents and check they are safe. You should consider investing in secure offsite storage for documents that require longer retention periods. This reduces the risk of easy access by unauthorized persons. The information in these documents will be managed and guarded under high-quality protection by professionals. You will still have access to all paper documentation when the need for them arises.
Always backing up
This point is already sold explanatory. When possible, always back your information up. Physical documents should be scanned and saved on highly secure servers. In a situation where bad things happen, and any of your secure documents are lost, stolen, or sustained damage, you will still have access to them when you need them because you already have all of them properly backed up.
Sensitive information should always be treated and handled with maximum care. It is important to always secure this information and destroy those that do not need to be kept. Hoarding all the information puts you and your business at a higher risk of a breach of confidentiality.