August 03, 2015

Secure Your Summer: Security Checklist for a Safe Summer Cleanup

The school holidays are well underway, the sun is out (or at least it should be!), and the peak time for taking leave has arrived. And with it comes a great opportunity to have a clear out in the office, to refresh and organise your workspace, and improve office security before your break.

A clean, uncluttered workspace is important for your and your employees' well being. This Forbes article describes how an untidy workspace not only reduces productivity, it can also impair employees’ state of mind and motivation, with some even saying they felt their professional image could be damaged by having a messy desk.

What may not seem so obvious is that an organised and clean office is also a vital part of your information security plan; improving document security and minimising data breach risks.  

How’s that? At its most basic level, a big part of document security is about storing documents safely whether they’re being kept on file for a certain amount of time, or they’re ready to be disposed of safely.

Figures from the Information Commissioner’s Office show that the leading cause of data breaches in 2014/2015 is the loss, theft and incorrect disposal of paperwork. And the penalties for the organisations involved can be serious. For example:

  • A government department was fined £185,000 after a filing cabinet containing highly sensitive information was sold at a public auction.
  • A police force was fined £160,000 after details relating to an investigation were stored on unencrypted CDs in unlocked desk drawers.
  • A monetary penalty of £250,000 was issued to a council, after former employees’ pension records were found in an over-filled paper recycling bank in a supermarket car park.

So before you start your summer clear out, here’s a  security checklist to help you get your office in order safely and securely:

  • Employees’ Desks: Every desk should be left clean and paper free. Computers should be shut down and locked, and desk drawers locked too. Consider implementing a clean desk policy; this can be invaluable when preventing potentially valuable information from being lost or stolen. The added bonus is an office which remains tidy and looks professional all the time. You can find more advice on implementing a clean desk policy here.     
  • Activity Centres: General activity centres will help keep things organised. A Reference Centre, for example, would include binders, manuals and dictionaries. A Supply Centre would contain office and paper supplies. 
  • Storage: Be sure to have a good system for filing, dating and then disposing of documents according to the Data Protection Act and other privacy legislation.
  • Document Disposal: Partner with a knowledgeable shredding company that specialises in secure document and electronic media destruction. Locked consoles for documents that needed to be shredded should be placed in high traffic areas around the office and the document shredding service provider should come regularly to collect materials to be securely destroyed. You should also receive a Certificate of Destruction after each shred for your records and audit trail.
  • Cleaning Service Supplier: Be sure your cleaning company carries out background checks on its employees. You want a clean, secure office across the board. 

 Learn more about the benefits of secure information disposal.