Document Security

Don't let your documents end up in the wrong hands. Protect your organisation's data with this security process.

Before computers took place in our daily lives, the biggest mistake that could happen when handling documents was that they would disappear or be damaged. However, now that processes have been streamlined with computers and the cloud, incidents of insecurity are more common and affect organisations more than you might think.

It is a reality that organisations use large amounts of information for the business to thrive, due to the volume of documents the process in which it is managed, produced, stored, and more importantly, who has access to it is minimised.

Arguably the most important thing in each document is the information it holds, losing it, damaging it, or having it stolen would affect your business activities. This is why we make the process visible as it is one of the elements to consider to protect the documentation as a whole.

Over time there will be more information to document, in fact, the International Data Corporation (IDC) team in a study conducted in 2021, has estimated that by 2025 the data could exceed 163 zettabytes (ZB), this does not only represent how much information means and its consumption, but also involves classifying what data is relevant, and how it should be protected.

The magnitude of the data makes it challenging to store and protect, so a management protocol must be created, in which control measures can be established, and the process of where it is stored, how and by whom it is used, to whom it is distributed, how the documents are used and how they are preserved must be recorded.

All organisations are at the same risk of having their systems breached, being informed and implementing protective measures will make a difference, and allow you to react effectively to the threat.

What is Document Security?

A reality that we must accept is that all documents are at risk, so we must have control of the process in which we know the entire course of the document from its creation, storage, filed, process, backup, and delivery. Once we make a precise security model that meets the needs of the organisation we call it Document Security.

Organisations have adapted quite well to the facilities that technology offers, using Google Docs as a way of creating documents and distributing them to selected users, and the use of the cloud has increased rapidly, however, this does not mean that these tools are used correctly and if the information is leaked carelessly it could cause major problems for your organisation.

To ensure that the processing, storage, retrieval, and protection of the data are guaranteed, organisations often hire specialised security services.

These are the reasons why information must be protected.

In 2021 there were around 1,852 data breaches, according to a study by the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), with manufacturing and utilities being the most affected industry, compromising the data of 48,294,629 of its users.

Although there are cloud-based document and storage management solutions such as Microsoft 365 and AWS Security, there are several ways in which a document can be compromised, from human error, data breaches, unsecured files, unstructured data, unauthorised access or even giving access to the wrong people.

For these reasons, an organised process must be in place when handling documents:

Storage problems: organisations prefer to store their documents in the cloud, where they can share them with the necessary users and even edit them, however, not using the necessary security measures could end up in unauthorised access and breaches by malicious actors.

Labelling of documents: to get documents more easily, a tool is used to facilitate the search of files, they can be labelled or saved in folders that specify their content, if the documents are not handled correctly it costs the organisation time and transforms a simple task into a complex one.
In addition, files such as customer lists, sales strategy reports, and detailed revenue statistics are confidential, and losing them leaves them unprotected and data is compromised.

Human error: most of the time a document is compromised as a result of a user sharing the wrong document, sending it to someone other than the intended recipient, or making it public by mistake.

For this reason, access control should be in place to keep track of who handles the information.

Malicious actors: keeping documents secure also includes the possibility of the organisation’s system being hacked, because these actors are prepared to steal, held for ransom, or illegally sell data, the response processes to attacks must be enhanced beyond installing anti-virus and adding firewalls to the architecture.

Regulatory exposure: keeping track of customer and user data is standard for companies that abide by HIPPA, CCPA, PMI, and GDPR, which means they must take special care and have clear security standards when handling this sensitive data.

There are three ways in which this data can be exposed:

Integrity Breach: occurs when the data is altered, either by accident or unauthorised.

Availability Breach: the data cannot be found and access to it is lost, altered or destroyed by unauthorised access, which can result in temporary or permanent loss of information.

Confidentiality Breach: sensitive data is accessed by unauthorised agents or by accident.
Avoiding this type of situation can be achieved by applying for data protection according to the organisation, with meticulous controls that can prevent breaches.

Intellectual property abuse: with the increase in remote work, various ways of sharing information via the internet have been implemented, the most widely used being Google Docs or Slack, although this process facilitates the work, special care must be taken about who is permitted to access or modify documents.
The larger the organisation, the more devices employees access information from, which increases system vulnerabilities by leaving links open, or making mistakes such as sending the document to the wrong person.

In addition, some malicious actors look for documents to duplicate without permissions, to make them look legitimate so the official document can be modified, replicated, and used without the organisation’s knowledge, and once exposed the information can be used for a variety of reasons:

-The information could end up in the hands of competitors or with malicious actors who would use it to extort money from the organisation, even threatening to make it public.

-Employees’ productivity decreases because they cannot find the document they are looking for, and they may see the information they should not, such as salaries.

-Customers and shareholders lose confidence in the company, even leading organisations to hire lawyers for not applying a proper security model.

A variety of scenarios can occur that can result in the loss of a company’s reputation, loss of millions of dollars, and more, so defining a model for document security is critical.

The right process to protect your document’s lifecycle.

Regardless of file size or variety, companies must focus on understanding their lifecycle and map document types to protect them throughout the entire process, in which the following phases apply:

1. Capture.
One of the biggest challenges during this phase is the scanning of documents, although it is the easiest way to transform a hard-copy document into a digital format and share it, this method can cause legal and security problems as it is not traceable.
During this phase the collection of documents is handled, this process includes their creation and saving, e-mail monitoring, and storage location, the latter is routing, using it you can know if a document has been saved in the correct location.

2. Store.
There are two ways to have secure storage: paper-based or electronic file systems.
Although many companies use the paper-based method, it does not have clear controls and because of the time required to search for accurate information, it is unfeasible to use during audits.
Whereas the electronic file system provides a better way of searching and storing information, but brings with it several challenges such as creating an architecture in which access can be controlled and, of course, maximising the security process.

3. Manage.
Once the documents have been created, the next step is to know who will gain access, and control measures are applied during this phase, providing permissions to authorised users.
To make it more effective, a record can be created of the users to whom permissions are given and what their roles are.
Audit trail records can also be prepared, with which the activity associated with the document can be known, which is a key element in the event of a data breach.

4. Preserve.
Retention and preservation of documents is essential, although it implies constant maintenance to ensure that the information can be found at any time, and can be key in the periods required by law, it also involves the protection of a document in all its versions.
Consideration should be given to the policies to be implemented by the organisation for the use of this information, and for how long it will be preserved.

5. Deliver.
Sharing and delivering the information is the stage in which it must be defined how and with whom it will be distributed, whether it includes clients, co-workers, or other users, this implies the creation of shared folders in which the permissions of those involved are specified.
Consideration should be given to the devices from which access will be gained, as this process involves risks such as unauthorised access by malicious actors.

6. Integrate.
Accountants or Enterprise Resource Planning require ways in which to exchange information and integrate it into their applications, their job is one of the most important ones and data must be error-free, so all phases must be consistent and provide accurate data.

The 4 components that can help you protect your documents securely.

All security models can be customisable because every organisation has unique requirements, however, these are some of the most common security elements that are used:

-Encryption: using an encryption system can keep the document hidden from unauthorised agents, as only the user with the cryptographic key can access the information, this component can even be used at the time of sending to ensure who accesses the file.

-Password protection: this security measure is an extra step when handling sensitive information, even if a user obtains the document he/she cannot access it without having the key, ensuring that the authorised group or person is the only one able to enter.

-Watermarking: it is common for organisations to use watermarks for official documents, however, it is an element that can be used for sensitive information such as a memo that confidential or proprietary content is being accessed.

-Document Tracking: as a more advanced security measure, tracking can be enabled and the devices on which the document has been viewed, edited, downloaded, and printed can be known.

Many companies take their security for granted and believe that they are not at risk, ignoring the fact that document security can improve their processes and increase their security measures by reducing the risks they face daily, it can be a complex and time-consuming task but don’t let your documents be at risk out there and find out about our Document Security services suitable for your organisation.

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