In today’s digital world, keeping sensitive information safe is not as simple as keeping records in a store room. Businesses collect vast amounts of confidential information in physical and digital forms that organizations must protect from data thieves and security breaches. While data protection is a legal requirement, it’s also essential for companies to safeguard and maintain their reputation. Even a small information leak can have devasting consequences.

Want to avoid the unthinkable? Here are eight essential security measures that your organization should implement to mitigate risk and protect sensitive information:

1. Enforce a data security plan

It is essential for all organizations, including large and small businesses, to have a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy in place, outlining how to keep data secure and what to do in the event of a data breach.

Having a strategy not only promotes responsibility for all but it reinforces the vital role employees play in information security. If a data breach should occur, a response strategy allows organizations to act quickly to reduce the impact of the security breach, secure sensitive data and notify appropriate parties.

2. Educate employees about information security

Employee training is essential to reducing security risks and minimizing security vulnerabilities within the workplace. A single error or quick misjudgement can spell disaster when employees are unaware of how to properly handle sensitive data.

Employee training should cover basic security policies, from using strong passwords and two-factor authentication to utilizing security software and avoiding data security threats, such as opening suspicious emails and phishing scams. Staff should also learn how to secure personal devices, like computers, laptops and mobile devices, in the office, in public settings and at home. Another key understanding is to refrain from sharing sensitive information on a public wireless network to protect business data security.

The more you invest in your employees with education, the more information security becomes rooted in your business. Employees who are trained to identify risks can limit potentially damaging situations to your organization, stakeholders and reputation.

3. Collect sensitive information as necessary

All businesses should keep only the minimum amount of sensitive personally identifying information required to conduct business, such as employee and customer data, including passport info, credit card details and social security numbers.

By avoiding the collection of sensitive personal information, there will be less confidential data to protect and less private data for hackers and identity thieves to steal customer information. If data is only needed for a short time, implement security practices to destroy the data properly with document shredding or hard drive destruction.

4. Maintain a proper inventory of sensitive data

Establishing and maintaining a comprehensive inventory of your organization’s critical information is essential to preventing devastating cyberattacks.

Keep track of what information is being stored, where it is saved and who has access to it, including physical data, such as paper records in file cabinets and electronic information on computer systems, mobile devices, flash drives, tapes and other media. A comprehensive inventory system can also track network access points to record who is accessing corporate data and from where.

5. Restrict access to sensitive data to avoid a data breach

Without proper restrictions, employees can gain access to a vast range of sensitive data, which increases the risk of identity theft, employee fraud and other severe security breaches.

All organizations should enforce security protocols and internal control measures to restrict employee access to only the information required to carry out job responsibilities within a specific timeframe. These business data protection controls should also incorporate tracking and data loss prevention to know who has access to restricted data to minimize internal threats and security concerns.

6. Use encryption to protect data from security incidents

Organizations often do an excellent job of encrypting data for network security. However, these security measures lack when employees access restricted data outside the corporate network, such as a personal computer or mobile device.

To avoid data leakage, ensure that employees encrypt all restricted data anywhere it is saved, whether with a cloud service provider, on a personal operating system or mobile device. Encryption adds a critical layer of protection when securing sensitive data and is key to better data security.

7. Store sensitive data correctly using a secure method

Companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on cybersecurity to protect digital information from hackers, identity theft and data breaches, but these programs don’t address physical data security. Confidential paper documents are susceptible to data theft, even though businesses rely less on paper due to cloud computing, databases and the internet.

Instead of keeping sensitive documents in a locked file cabinet, partner with an information management provider to safely store data in an off-site location with robust security features, access controls, retention protocols and compliant document destruction processes.

8. Destroy and dispose of sensitive information to avoid data breaches

An essential way to protect business data from a security breach is by properly destroying and disposing information when it is no longer needed. Implementing a shred-all policy for employees reduces the risk of security incidences and improves compliance. A shred-all policy isn’t only limited to physical documents. It also includes destroying confidential data, including electronic data found on hard drives, operating systems, backup tapes and more.

Simply erasing, overwriting or wiping data stored on personal devices means unwanted information is not entirely deleted. Instead, companies must destroy these devices with a physical method of data destruction to ensure that all parts are shredded into small shards to avoid reconstruction.

Maintain Information Security with Blue-Pencil

One of the best ways for handling sensitive data is by partnering with a reputable company, like Blue-Pencil. Starting with a full review of your current process, our team can create an information management strategy for your business to mitigate risk and protect sensitive information. From there, we can handle all aspects of document destruction, long-term records storage and document scanning, so you spend more time growing your business and less time managing and securing data.

To identify your company’s biggest security gaps, take Blue-Pencil’s Information Security Risk Assessment today or contact our customer service team for a free quote.