UK firms could be neglecting physical data protection

The costs of data breaches via cyber-crime tend to dominate the headlines these days and many business owners and decision-makers perceive online threats as some of the biggest risks facing their organisations.

According to information destruction company Shred-it’s sixth annual Security Tracker report, more than a fifth (22%) of C-suite executives and 40% of small and medium businesses view cyber-crime and online threats as the biggest risk to their business over the next 5-10 years.

A cyber-breach can certainly have serious consequences. According to the Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2016, the average cost of a cyber-breach was £36,500 while the most costly breach reported in the survey was £3 million. These costs could easily push some businesses into insolvency and it’s important to put effective cyber-security measures in place.

Physical data, such as that stored on paper and electronic devices, can be just as important however. Despite the rise in electronic storage and communications, around a third (32%) of C-suite executives expect the amount of paper they use in their organisations to increase over the next five years.

Some 49% of C-suites and 47% of SMEs dispose of sensitive paper documents at least every month but that means that more than half of UK businesses wait for more than a month before destroying confidential data.

The survey also revealed that 38% of C-suite executives and 37% of SMEs said they destroy confidential information stored on electronic devices by wiping or degaussing them in-house. Only around one in ten (12%) SMEs use a professional destruction service to permanently destroy electronic storage, compared to 31% of C-suites at larger companies. According to Shred-it, deleting information from a hard drive does not mean that it has been completely removed.

Almost all C-Suites said they have a policy in place regarding the storage and disposal of confidential data, but nearly a third (28%) say not all their employees are aware of it. More than a third (35%) of SMEs have no such formal policy in place.

By Phil Smith

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