For many companies, data is their most valuable asset. Technology that allows data to be collected, stored and analyzed often yields deeper insights that can lead to more informed business decisions. Data flowing through business processes can be accidentally exposed during key transition points, however; especially when emailing, printing or scanning documents.
This week marks the beginning of Cybersecurity Month – an awareness campaign promoting the importance of online data safety – and is a good reminder for companies to rethink how they are safeguarding their data at these high-risk transition points.
Documents containing sensitive information move back and forth from digital to physical form many times throughout the day, and often change hands frequently. This can leave companies vulnerable if their private information falls into the wrong hands, even if this not intentional.
Improve document security
In particular, companies need to ensure they have plan for the following three transition points:
When “data leakage” does occur, there is a generally-held assumption that it is the result of nefarious action. However, sensitive information can also be publicly exposed because of underlying human error.
One example is sending documents over email. Although attachments are an efficient and convenient way to share documents, the practice can be risky. Emailed documents containing social security numbers, bank account information or birth dates that are inadvertently sent to the wrong person can have serious consequences.
Fortunately, tools can be found in most PDF software that allow users to password-protect their data or trigger a redaction function, a tool that doesn’t just cover up text or images, but replaces the selected area pixel by pixel with redaction fill, to cover sensitive information.
Printers are often overlooked as part of a comprehensive data security plan. However, malicious actors can find it easy to damage a company – and its reputation – if no protections are in place to manage who can print what or how hard copy documents are distributed.
Printer controls allows companies to restrict access to specific documents, and by keeping a record of all outputs with print management software, organizations are able track all documents printed.
Again, not all data leaks are founded on ill-intent. Documents can be forgotten on the paper tray or mistakenly picked up by the wrong person. Print software can hold print jobs in a secure network queue until authorized for release by the user, either with an identification badge or passcode. This allows users to pick up documents when and where they want.
The combination of sensitive information and uncontrolled access to scanning is a dangerous recipe. Restricting document access by placing privacy filters within scanning applications adds an extra layer of data security, especially when paired with optical character recognition (OCR) technology. OCR filters convert the image captured to searchable text and can recognize words like “confidential,” which allows files to be automatically encrypted or even deleted.
To protect valuable data, companies should take steps to secure every stage of the document’s lifecycle. No security strategy is complete without accounting for the high-risk transition points when documents are converted from paper to digital, and vice versa. By taking steps to safeguard data during these vulnerable moments, companies can approach data security more holistically and effectively.
This post was originally published in the Huffington Post on October 4, 2017.