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Information Security Risks: An Opportunity for Small Businesses

Posted  October 22, 2019  by  Lynn Brown



Small Business Week (October 20-26) is an ideal time for small businesses to discuss some of the most pressing challenges and areas of opportunity for their organizations. One such area deals with the challenges small businesses face surrounding information security.
 
A recent Shred-it survey shows that nearly 70 percent of North American organizations say they have experienced a data breach in the past 12 months. Yet many small business leaders do not view information security as a top priority, even though breaches can have a devasting impact on their businesses and customers. Small Business Week represents a prime opportunity for these organizations to become more aware and take action to address information security risks.
 
There is a Lack of Appreciation for the Risks

According to Shred-it’s 2019 Data Protection Report, more than half (53%) of small business owners are in denial about data breaches and report they are “no big deal” and “blown out of proportion.” Given this perspective, it is not surprising that nearly one out of three small businesses don’t have policies for storing and disposing of confidential paper documents.
 
More than 40 percent of businesses do not have policies for throwing away electronic devices that are at the end of their useful life. Even those companies that do have such policies are not confident that employees are aware of them. This is concerning because data breaches often involve the loss or theft of paper or electronic equipment that houses sensitive information. Of those organizations that have had a data breach, 69 percent indicate that at least one breach involved this type of scenario.
 
Along with the risks that these breaches pose to their businesses, small business owners should also be aware that customers are becoming more concerned with data security. In the U.S., 60 percent of consumers believe that their data and information is less secure than it was ten years ago, while 83 percent say data security is a top priority when choosing a company with which to do business.
 
Information Security Tips for Small Businesses Even as awareness about data security continues to grow, some small businesses may be overwhelmed by the issue and unsure of how to move forward to prevent security risks. However, the following strategies can help companies – both small and large - make significant strides in safeguarding information.
 
Understand what’s considered confidential. Businesses generate and interact with all kinds of data, and it is important to know what information must be kept private and secure. Seeking guidance about document storage and disposal requirements can help a business get started in creating a policy.
 
Provide comprehensive staff training. Educating staff about information security risks and disposal procedures is crucial to make sure that everyone in the company appreciates the role they play in keeping data safe. Such training should be easily accessible, regularly offered, and include meaningful examples, so staff can stay abreast of the latest security measures.
 
Implement office-wide policies. Workplace policies help protect your company and employees, while instilling a culture of security. Consider using a Shred-it all policy, in which all documents are fully and securely destroyed at frequent intervals. Further, a remote work policy and clean desk policy can keep data and information safe both in and away from the office. These policies take the guesswork out of how employees should and should not handle sensitive data and documents and ensure consistent processes across your organization.
 
Have a defined disposal process for obsolete electronics. Leaving unusable electronic devices lying around presents a clear opportunity for loss or theft, which can lead to a data breach. Organizations must have reliable methods for destroying these items at regular intervals.
 
Let Shred-it Help Protect Your Small Business

Small businesses have an obligation to their customers to preserve information security and reduce the risks of data loss or theft. To learn more about how Shred-it can help fulfill this important promise, click here.

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