Again? Why Confidential Documents Keep Ending up in Dumpsters

One of the single most effective things you can do protect your business from a costly data breach is to shred your confidential documents. It seems like a no-brainer, yet recently, several high-profile incidents point to the contrary. August and September of 2013 alone have been packed with data breaches resulting from failure to properly dispose of confidential material. Here’s a rundown of a few of the reported incidences:

  1. Boxes with personal information found in trash: A dumpster belonging to Sylvan Learning Center in Beaverton, Oregon was found to contain seven boxes filled with client personal information, including:
    • names
    • birthdates
    • social security numbers
    • credit card information
  2. Financial documents dumped: Financial application forms of the clients of Alabama Title Loans were found in a dumpster in Mobile, Alabama.
  3. Personal records from school administration office found in dumpster: In Cleveland, Ohio, photo IDs and documents containing social security numbers were found outside a school administration office.
  4. Personal documents belonging to former students found in desk: A desk purchased from the Talawanda, Ohio school district contained student records that included emergency medical information.
  5. Job applications found in dumpster: In Phoenix, Arizona, documents containing personal information found on job application forms were found in a dumpster behind a Denny’s restaurant.

Understanding why seemingly preventable breaches like these continue to occur can help you put the right systems in place to protect your corporate data.

Failure to educate employees

Information security is a team effort, so communicating the importance of information security to your staff is critical. The more time you take to educate your employees about the risks to sensitive information, the less likely they are to engage in behaviors that put corporate and personal data at risk. It’s important to outline the privacy regulations that affect your business as well as penalties for failure to adhere to legal and compliance standards. As the old adage goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Ineffectiveness of paper shredding machines

Paper shredding machines have been touted as the be-all and end-all solution for securely disposing of confidential information. In reality they are problematic and underutilized. For instance:

  • Documents must be fed through the shredder
  • Only a handful of documents can be accommodated at a time
  • The shredding receptacle must be emptied constantly
  • Shredding machines are prone to malfunction

Considering the time and frustration involved, employees may abandon using a paper shredding machine altogether—and in order to save time—toss confidential records in a trash receptacle where they can easily be compromised. A professional document shredding solution which employs shredding collection containers offers a secure and efficient method for disposing of sensitive documents.

Lack of formal retention schedules and policies

No matter the size or type of business, a document retention policy can go a long way in reducing data breach risks. In addition to defining procedures for storing and accessing information, formal records retention ensures that expired files are disposed of in a timely manner. If your company does not currently have a records retention schedule in place, your legal and financial advisors or records and information management supplier can provide you with applicable resources.

Archives Management Centers provides businesses throughout Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River and Okeechobee counties with records storage and management solutions. To find out more, please contact us by phone or fill in the form on this page.