December 05, 2023

Be Prepared Against a Data Breach: Information Security Plans

Every business, no matter the industry or size, is a potential target for a data breach. A big difference is that small businesses have a harder time rebounding from an attack as they face the potential for regulatory actions and fines, legal fees, and the loss of customers. Given these ramifications, small business owners need to understand how to best prepare and help protect their operations. The start of a new year is a great time to review and improve information security plans.

Shred-it® outlines 12 best practices that target data security and should be included in data security planning.

  1. Put information security in the budget. According to Shred-it®’s 2023 Data Protection Report (DPR), more small business leaders (SBLs) have allocated $5,000 or more for data and information protection purposes in 2023 (79%) versus 2022 (68%). “The high-profile data breaches in recent years have highlighted the need for stronger defenses, prompting increased budget allocations,” said one surveyed SBL.  
  2. Perform a security risk assessment. A business office holds many potential risks to information security that could go unnoticed. A risk assessment can help identify potential data security risks in an office space. Shred-it® offers an online security risk assessment tool for businesses.
  3. Appoint someone to be in charge of information security. A Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) is a senior-level executive who is responsible for information, cyber, and technology security. The CISO is responsible for developing, implementing, and enforcing security policies to help protect data. Many small businesses cannot afford to employ a CISO and should work with a trusted third-party service, like Shred-it®, to help support data protection strategies.
  4. Adopt a culture of security. A security culture must start at the top and permeate throughout the organization. Policies and procedures should include comprehensive compliance standards. All suppliers, including the shredding services partner, should have policies and procedures that maintain information security.
  5. Provide ongoing information security training. According to the Verizon 2023 Data Breach Investigations Report, 74% of breaches involved the human element, which includes social engineering attacks, errors, or misuse. Training must target unsafe employee practices. Such knowledge can help employees make better decisions to avoid breaches or minimize the financial impacts.
  6. Create best practices for your remote workforce. Though remote work can be convenient for employees, it can come with a heightened risk of data breaches for businesses as employees may not have the knowledge and resources to keep information safe. Implementing a remote work data security policy can help reduce data security risks. The policy provides employees with data security guidelines that are unique to a remote work environment.
  7. Monitor privacy legislation. Privacy laws are constantly changing. Business owners should be aware and well-informed regarding these dynamic shifts, as changes can impact not only the business but also customers. Partner with a trusted third-party vendor to help keep track of changes and how to stay compliant.
  8. Invest in the most up-to-date IT system tools. Current cybersecurity software can help detect and reduce the risk of data security vulnerabilities.
  9. Make digital and document data security seamless in the workplace. Create a document management process with a clear retention policy and destruction procedures. Implement a clean desk policy which encourages regular shredding or containment of physical documents and requires that all technological devices are password protected each time an employee leaves a workspace.
  10. Introduce a Shred-it All Policy. The policy encourages the regular destruction of all documents. It is one of the most effective ways to help prevent physical data breaches from occurring. 
  11. Do not stockpile old electronic equipment. Organizations frequently upgrade their technology, but many fail to securely dispose of old IT equipment and hard drives, potentially leaving sensitive information at risk. One of the most effective methods for disposing of old hard drives is to have them physically destroyed using a professional hard drive and media destruction service. A hard drive destruction service like Shred-it® offers state-of-the-art destruction in two forms, crushing and shearing, subject to local availability. Both destruction methods leave the data unrecoverable. Crushing involves punching an unfixable hole in the device with 7,500 lbs. of pressure, which breaks the magnetic surfaces. Shearing breaks the device or hard drive into pieces with 40,000 lbs. of force.
  12. Create an incident response plan. The plan is a documented, written plan for IT professionals and staff, outlining concrete steps to prevent, understand, and control the effects of a data security breach. Plans must also be adapted to meet changing regulations and lessons learned from recent events. Specifically, an effective incident response plan should include the following components:
  • A list of roles and responsibilities for the response team members.
  • A business continuity plan detailing how the organization will maintain its essential functions.
  • Tools, technologies, and any physical resources needed to execute the plan.
  • Processes to recover network and data.
  • Internal and external communications templates.

Learn more about Shred-it®’s document and hard drive destruction services and how our solutions can be an integral part of your information security plan.