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Keep it confidential!

The media has continued to openly criticise organisations judged to be responsible for data security breaches, underlining the need for secure document management to remain a high priority for public bodies and private firms alike.

When it comes to the secure handling of confidential information, the onus is on all employees to follow the procedures outlined to them by their employers. Many workers do not, however, appreciate that failure to follow such guidelines can consequently lead to serious financial and reputational damage being inflicted upon their organisation.

By way of illustration, the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) now has the enhanced power to levy fines of up to £500,000 upon businesses responsible for serious breaches of the Data Protection Act. Further the average monetary cost in terms of reputational damage of a failure to protect confidential data has been estimated between £10,000 and £20,000 according to independent research conducted by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Failures to safeguard confidential data can also result in a heightened threat of corporate identity theft occurring. This criminal activity now costs UK businesses £1.3 billion a year according to research conducted by card protection and insurance group CPP.

A further study by Ponemon institute has found that the cost of data breaches to organisations has increased dramatically by 36% in the UK over the last two years. Yet, astonishing as it may seem, just 64% of firms have compulsory policies in place governing how to handle documents containing sensitive data related to their organisation, their employees and its clients.

Companies therefore need to be aware that the process they have in place for secure document destruction is only as strong as its weakest link. Facility managers, as guardians of the workplace environment, have a responsibility to evaluate the workplace and identify sources of potential data breaches.

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