Data breach vulnerabilities in the workplace

Many business professionals don’t realize that when their company’s confidential information is at risk, so too is the information of its clients, vendors, customers and employees.

A new Fellowes’ report found that 81 percent of office employees have access to paper documents containing sensitive workplace information, yet only 62 percent cite their company as having a data security policy on which employees are trained.

Some of those untrained employees may be leaving their companies vulnerable to a security breach, as the survey also reports that nearly a quarter of employees leave sensitive paper documents on top of their desks.

According to the study, office employees may unwittingly contribute to a digital or paper-based security breach by practicing other risky behaviors:

  • Approximately one in four (26 percent) leave their computers unlocked when away from their desk
  • Fifteen percent throw paper documents containing sensitive information in the trash
  • Only 60 percent maintain a secure firewall
  • Less than half of respondents (44 percent) ensure their mail is safe by sending it through a secure mailbox.

“Whether electronic or in paper form, confidential information in the workplace is a hot item for theft and the methods employed by criminals to obtain this information are constantly evolving,” said John Sileo, national identity theft expert. “With smart prevention measures, you can help your company avoid a costly breach that can lead to personal consequences – like identity theft.”

Smart practices for the workplace

Having learned a great deal from suffering a security breach within his own business, Sileo travels the country educating businesses about ways to prevent the crime.

“Data protection can be simple as long as the proper procedures are in place and widely practiced,” continued Sileo. He offers five key pieces of advice when speaking with business employees:

  • Lock your office when you leave for the day to prevent anyone accessing it after hours
  • Ensure your computer is locked with a secure password containing a unique combination of letters and numbers
  • Ask your IT department to check that your firewall is secure and up-to-date
  • Don’t leave paper documents on your desk or in common printing areas and store important documents in a locked filing cabinet
  • Shred no-longer-needed documents with a Cross-Cut shredder

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