February 21, 2024

Is your paper waste making you vulnerable to data breaches?

It's easy to underestimate the potential risks lurking in your business’s seemingly innocuous paper waste, or in paperwork piling up around the office or in the houses of remote workers. But confidential information scattered across discarded documents could be a goldmine for data thieves.

In this blog, we'll delve into the world of data breaches, the risks associated with improper disposal of confidential paper waste, and most importantly, how you can safeguard your business against these threats.

The risks of improper disposal of secure paper waste

Placing confidential information in the recycling or paper waste bins doesn’t mean that it's disposed of securely. Your office may be unwittingly exposing itself to data breaches every time confidential papers are discarded improperly. Last year, the average total cost of a data breach in the UK was a whopping USD $5.05 million (£4.06 million)1. Leaving sensitive documents lying around poses a significant risk. Carelessness with paper disposal is a vulnerability that can be exploited by malicious actors, leading to data breaches.

What are data breaches?

IBM Security defines a data breach as “any security incident in which unauthorised parties gain access to sensitive data or confidential information”2 . Therefore, it represents a genuine threat that can have severe consequences for your business. Unauthorised access to sensitive data, whether through hacking, theft or human error, can lead to financial losses, reputational damage and legal liabilities. According to recent data, a staggering 21% of breaches in 2022 were caused by the very human errors that occur in the day-to-day operations of businesses2.

How to mitigate the risk of data breaches:

Mitigating data protection risks requires a comprehensive strategy. Here are some crucial steps your business can take:

  • Data security survey: Undertaking a data security survey provides insights into potential vulnerabilities. This assessment evaluates various aspects of data handling, storage, and disposal practices, helping businesses identify gaps in their data protection measures and develop strategies to address them.
  • Employee education: Employees are the frontline defenders against data breaches. Regular training sessions on data protection, secure data handling, and storage practices are essential. This is especially crucial for hybrid or remote workers who may not have the same physical office security measures in place.
  • Secure document shredding: When confidential papers are no longer needed, ensure they are securely shredded. Partnering with a reputable document destruction service, such as Shred-it, guarantees secure and compliant shredding practices. Not only does this protect your information, but it also contributes to environmental sustainability through recycling.
  • Hard drive destruction: Erasing or reformatting old hard drives isn't enough. They should be destroyed to ensure that the data they contain can never be recovered. Shred-it not only securely destroys hard drives but also recycles the remains responsibly.

Factor paper waste into your business’s security policies

Data breaches are often associated with high-tech incidents but in the world of hybrid working, paper waste presents a new risk. In fact, 88% of home workers say they deal with confidential information and one in four say they do not always follow their workplace policy on destroying secure data when working remotely3. By prioritising data security through secure document shredding, employee education and regular data security surveys, businesses can enhance their compliance, protect their reputation, minimise financial losses and instil trust among customers and stakeholders.

At Shred-it, our expert resources can help you understand the risks of data breaches and how to mitigate them. Explore our resource centre for valuable insights tailored to your business needs. Don't let your paper waste become a gateway to data breaches – take proactive steps to secure your confidential information today.

1. IBM Security – Cost of a Data Breach Report 2022

2. https://www.ibm.com/topics/data-breach

3. Shred-it Data on File, 2022