Unsecure green practices putting UK businesses at risk from data thieves

Posted: October 14, 2014

LONDON   13 October 2014 – Businesses in the UK are inadvertently putting their confidential information at risk from data thieves by disposing of sensitive documents in unsecured recycling bins.  

Each year the UK gets through 12.5 million tonnes of paper, of which 67% is recycled1. As companies strive to reduce their environmental impact and recycle more material, many do not realise that confidential paper sitting in a recycling bin increases the risk of a security breach, the UK’s leading information destruction company, Shred-it, has warned. With companies being subject to fines of up to £500,000 for serious breaches, it’s crucial for organisations to prioritise information security.

Shred-it examined the typical lifecycle of paper within organisations and found that during traditional recycling processes, paper products are typically subject to at least six security risk points2 – including sitting in an unsecure workstation bin and being left in clear plastic bags outside offices – before being destroyed.  For this reason, many companies are now choosing to combine secure paper shredding and recycling in one system to avoid the risk of confidential data ending up in recycling bins, as well as reducing those security risk points from six down to a simple three step secure process. 

“Recycling is a growing priority for UK companies but many do not realise that they’re leaving their confidential information exposed to fraudsters by using unsecured recycling processes. Every stage of this heightens the risk of businesses sufffering from a damaging information security breach. Reputational damage, significant financial penalities and exposure to fraud – the risks just aren’t worth it,” - Robert Guice, Executive Vice President, Shred-it EMEA

Shred-it’s 2014 Security Tracker survey found that 79% of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs3) and 86% of larger organisations said that their employees had either a recycling or waste paper bin at their workstation, encouraging staff to drop unwanted paper in these unsecure receptacles.

The risks are real. Earlier this year, bags of confidential NHS documents were found in a public recycling bin in Coventry, putting hundreds of patients’ private and sensitive information at risk and causing significant reputational damage for the healthcare Trust involved. In 2012, a local authority was fined £250,000 for employee pension records found dumped in a supermarket recycling bin.

“By simply combining recycling and secure shredding services, organisations can improve the security of confidential data and meet their environmental targets.  Every tonne of paper we shred and recycle equates to 17 trees or 4,000 kilowatts of energy so it really does make a difference.” - Robert Guice.

There are some very simple steps in addition to recycled shredding that organisations can implement to help create a more sustainable workplace:

  1. Using a power strip for devices like computers, lights and printers so it’s much easier to shut down an entire desktop at once and avoid leaving any devices on when they needn’t be.
  2. Install energy efficient light bulbs and fixtures which use 80% less energy than regular lighting. Up to 40% of a building’s electricity use is accounted for by lighting.
  3. Create an after hours and weekend thermostat setting that adjusts automatically when employees aren’t going to be in the office.

It is crucial that while organisations embark on the road to sustainability, they ensure that those green initiatives do not compromise the security of customers and clients.

-Ends –

For further information contact:

Meryl McMillan
Weber Shandwick
Phone: 020 7067 0435
Email: mmcmillan@webershandwick.com

About Shred-it (www.shredit.co.uk)

Shred-it is a world-leading information security company providing information destruction services that ensure the security and integrity of our clients' private information. The company operates in 140 markets throughout 18 countries worldwide, servicing more than 300,000 global, national and local businesses.

Shred-it has branches in the following UK and Ireland locations: Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff, Chippenham, Dublin, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Leeds, London – Brentford, London - Stratford, Manchester, Milton Keynes, Newcastle, Nottingham, Portsmouth and Preston.

1. Figure taken from the Recycle Now website: http://www.recyclenow.com/facts-figures/how-it-recycled/paper
2. As described in the Lifecycle of a Document infographic
3. SMEs refers to Small and Medium Enterprises 


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