March 09, 2017

Information Security: What to Shred at Work and Home

When it comes to keeping confidential information out of the hands of information thieves, it’s important to know exactly what information they want and to protect that data from creation to disposal.

This rule of thumb is important in the workplace and at home.

In the workplace, a comprehensive document management process can help identify and protect confidential information throughout its lifetime. The process would include a records retention policy, and limiting access to information. Business shredding is also largely directed by privacy laws and other regulations. Organizations have a legal obligation to protect the privacy of clients, customers and employees by securely destroying confidential information that is no longer needed. Working with a trusted and reliable document shredding partner will help avoid lawsuits, penalties, and data breaches.

Outside the workplace, public awareness campaigns such as National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW) held March 5-11 in the U.S., and Fraud Prevention Month in Canada, remind individuals to better protect confidential information so it isn’t stolen and used for identity theft. Everyone is urged to be careful about who they give their personal information to.

Don’t just throw out confidential papers. According to an earlier Ponemon study, the trash bin is one of the areas where paper documents are most at risk. Except where prohibited by local regulation, dumpster diving in outdoor garbage and recycling bins is legal and can occur in residential areas too.   

For personal document shredding, first learn what information must be kept. Consumers should check state/provincial and other laws so they know what documentation must be kept indefinitely (such as birth and death certificates, Social Security cards, marriage/divorce papers, citizenship papers, adoption papers) or for how long (tax information).

Here’s a guide to knowing what to shred securely when no longer needed:

  • Personal records: Any documents that contain a signature and include name, address, phone number, e-mail address, account numbers, social security number, driver’s license, and medical, legal, tax, and financial information; miscellaneous information such as address labels from junk mail and magazines, unsolicited mail offers, travel itineraries, tickets, boarding passes and luggage tags, expired passports and visas, legal documents, passwords and PIN numbers. 
  • Corporate: Supplier and customer information; data pertaining to research and development, sales and marketing, executive and corporate information, HR, accounting and IT. It's also a good idea to shred printed presentations to prevent sensitive insider information from falling into the wrong hands. 
  • Banking: All financial documentation including ATM receipts, statements, returned cheques, pre-approved credit applications, investments, stocks and property transactions.
  • Retail: Credit cards and bills, statements and receipts, expired warranties, loyalty program information.
  • Employment: Pay stubs, work records, job applications, performance appraisals.
  • Education: Report cards, loan information, school information.
  • Home: Utility bills including telephone, gas, electric, water, cable TV, Internet; also expired insurance papers.

Partnering with a professional shredding company that uses cross-cut technology and has a secure chain of custody ensures effective business shredding. A Shred-it All Policy directing all documents to be destroyed when no longer needed, helps reduce the risk of employee error and fraud.

Effective e-media and hard drive destruction is also critical when it comes to the disposal of confidential digital information. Consult with your document shredding partner for more information.