To shred or not to shred? That is the question

In a world increasingly focused on all things digital, it’s easy to forget the significance of the humble paper document. But while everyone’s attention is trained on cyber security, a hidden danger could be lurking on your desk and in your waste bins.

Many businesses don’t realise the importance of having their confidential documents securely shredded. Indeed, they might think that they are under more threat from cyber-attacks than paper security breaches - but this simply isn’t true.

Incredibly, statistics from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) show there were four times as many non-cyber (paper) security breaches as there were cyber security breaches in 2018/19.

This figure highlights the unnecessary risk that businesses are running when they don’t securely destroy their sensitive paper data. These non-cyber breaches include things such as loss of paperwork left in a non-secure location, incorrect disposal of documents or posting, emailing or faxing to the wrong recipient. In addition to the obvious dangers of a security breach, companies are also under a legal obligation to prevent breaches of this nature.

Confidential waste is governed by the Data Protection Act 2018 and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). These regulations require that confidential waste must not be kept longer than necessary and that it must be handled in a way that ensures its security.

Breaching these laws could not only have disastrous implications for your company’s reputation but could also mean you are imposed with considerable fines. Last year, British Airways was fined £183,390,000 by the ICO for a security breach which exposed the personal data of 380,000 customers.

But it’s not all doom and gloom – there are easy ways to ensure your business is protected from security breaches such as these. By working with us at Changeworks Confidential (part of Changeworks Recycling) you can rest assured that your sensitive data is destroyed effectively, while also benefitting the environment.

Instead of simply shredding your secure data, we then mix it, pulp it and recycle it back into paper. With any confidential waste disposal firm, it’s vital that you check that they are members of The UK Security Shredding Association (UKSSA). They are the only UK-based association dedicated to security shredding operational standards, so being accredited by them means the company adheres to the highest standards in the industry.

So, you’ve found a great confidential waste disposal company, what next? Within your business, you have the responsibility to ensure that all confidential documents are recognised and disposed of in clearly marked, separate bins. These can be unlocked if only trusted staff members have access to them, but they should be locked if kept in an area that everyone has access to. Only trained and vetted staff should have access to the key and be allowed to empty these containers.

Take the time to explain to your staff how crucial it is that they recognise which documents are confidential and place them in the correct bin. These documents can include employment contracts, client lists and business reports, amongst many others. All staff should be trained to err on the side of caution – if they are unsure whether or not a document is confidential, they should dispose of it in the secure bin.

Every business, whether they know it or not, requires secure shredding for the protection of the business, its employees and its customers. Without taking the proper precaution of secure shredding, sensitive information can end up in the wrong hands and have a devastating effect on you, your customers and your company.

So, while cyber security should still be a concern, close attention should also be paid to the paper documents you use every day in your business. With secure shredding, you can be confident that you are safeguarding both your business and the people who are so important to its success.

Ashleigh Smith
Article by Ashleigh Smith
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