December 20, 2016

The Gift of the Season: A Clean Desk Policy

One of the best things a workplace can receive this festive season could be a Clean Desk Policy – if it doesn’t have one already.

Also called a Clear Desk Policy, it instructs employees on how to leave their desks and work areas when unoccupied for a while, at the end of every workday, and before taking off for the holidays.

Desks should be tidy and work areas clear of documents, sticky notes, business cards, access cards, and removable media such as USBs and hard drives. Lock away confidential information in filing cabinets or drawers, or dispose of it in locked containers for secure destruction. As per a Clear Screen Policy, computer screens must also be clear, and computers locked or shut down completely.

Protecting individual work areas this way is critical, according to the Verizon 2016 Data Breach Investigations Report. It showed that when there’s an information breach caused by physical theft or loss, 39% of thefts occur in victims' own work areas (34% of thefts are from employees’ personal vehicles).

“It’s usually a case of a laptop or mobile being lost by an employee that triggers a security incident,” noted the report. “But the biggest threat of a data breach is from lost or stolen documents, which can’t be encrypted.”

Here are 8 ways a Clean Desk Policy will protect the workplace during the festive season and all year round:
  • Reduce Security Breaches: A Clean Desk Policy ensures that all confidential materials are removed from the desk and locked away when not in use, or properly protected. When the workplace is kept tidy, it’s also easier to see that confidential materials are not left out by accident. The policy extends to printers, fax machines, meeting rooms, etc. – documents should never be left behind.
  • Compliance: Clean Desk procedures help to comply with basic data protection rules to safeguard personal information and keep it secure.
  • Security awareness: Putting a policy in writing and communicating it to employees will increase employees’ awareness about the importance of protecting confidential information. There should be consequences for failure to comply.
  • Reputation: A clean and tidy work space creates an air of efficiency, which leaves a good impression on visitors and employees.
  • Productivity: Employees feel more in control. Plus, productivity increases. Research has shown that the typical employee spends 2.5 hours a day searching for information.
  • Paper reduction: Scan documents when possible and store them on a hard drive. As a result, there will be less paper in circulation – and to lose. Implement policies that limit printing and removal of sensitive data from the workplace.
  • Prying eyes: A Clean Desk Policy helps reduce the risk of visual hacking, which is when an insider fraudster or other information thief steals information visually.  A US study, the 2016 Global Visual Hacking Experiment showed that 91% of attempts to steal information this way are successful.
  • Proper disposal: Never throw work-related documents into unsecured rubbish or recycling bins. Instead, partner with a trustworthy document destruction company that has a secure chain of custody for paper and provides hard drive and media destruction services.

Protect your workplace and implement a Clean Desk Policy today.