October 26, 2020

Protecting Confidential Information: Exploring Insights and Best Practices

Since 2010, Shred-it, a leading information security service provided by Stericycle Inc., has published an annual, comprehensive report analyzing key data protection practices and trends affecting North American businesses, organizations, and consumers. The Shred-it Data Protection Report (formerly known as “The Security Tracker: State of the Industry Report”) compiles data from a detailed survey conducted by Ipsos of C-suite executives (C-suites), small business owners (SBOs), and members of the public. The report sheds light on trends in data protection practices and the risks North American businesses, organizations, and consumers face related to keeping their data secure.

Information Security Continues to Evolve as Data Breach Costs Increase

The 2020 Shred-it Data Protection Report marks an exciting milestone and provides a chance to reflect on the evolution of information security over the past decade. The way businesses and consumers interact with data has changed dramatically over the past 10 years. Rapid technological advancements have allowed organizations to move a lot of confidential information to the cloud. However, businesses and consumers still rely on paper for confidential documentation and communication, making it critical to have robust processes for both physical and digital data security. Despite an overall positive trend toward greater data security, 65% of C-suites and 31% of SBOs report that their organization is likely to suffer a data breach in the next 5 years. In addition, the cost of data breaches continue to grow. This highlights that more can be done to ensure information remains secure.

Here are a few considerations from the 2020 Shred-it Data Protection Report to keep in mind:

Complacency around Paper Document Security

Despite the continuous threat of data breaches brought on by paper documents, the 2020 Data Protection Report shows that businesses are not prioritizing policies for storing and disposing of confidential paper information as much as they did in previous years. While 60% of C-suites and 46% of SBOs have a consistently adhered to policy for confidential paper document storage and disposal, this is down 13% and 11% respectively from 2019. The paperless office is a myth, as employees continually use paper documents to conduct business, such as contracts and other legal documents.

The Rise of Remote Work Exposes Gaps in Information Security Policies

One of the most recent trends affecting businesses and consumers is the increase in remote work. While many employers have supported a work-from-home model for some time, the COVID-19 pandemic has made remote work the temporary norm for many employees in the United States. This trend raises privacy concerns and reinforces the importance of having data protection policies for remote workers, as employees continue to access confidential information digitally and in print formats.

Unfortunately, the existence and awareness of these kinds of policies are not as widespread as they should be. More than half of SBOs (53%) have policies for confidential information disposal and storage when employees work off-site. In addition, only 41% of organizations indicate that these policies are strictly adhered to by employees. Even more concerning is that nearly half of SBOs do not have this type of policy at all. Flexible work arrangements require policies that adjust to ensure that information security remains top of mind for employees regardless of where they work.

Consumers Take Action Following a Data Breach

24% of consumers say they would stop doing business with a company, 31% would lose trust in the business, and 29% would tell others about the data breach. In addition, only 38% of consumers trust that all physical and digital data breaches are properly disclosed. This lack of consumer trust threatens to impact businesses’ bottom lines. With the potential consequences clear, the onus is on businesses across the U.S. to clearly communicate their data protection policies and procedures to ensure they build trust and reliability with their customers.

Preserving data security should be a top priority for all businesses, especially as the risks of a data breach continue to grow and evolve. To learn more about data protection trends and best practices, access our 10th anniversary 2020 Data Protection Report.

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