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How to Keep Confidential Information Protected in Digital Documents?

June 1, 2022
Author
Inkit Team

What happens if you fail to secure confidential information in your documents?

You might lose some clients, or your business could collapse in severe cases.

It is vital to know how to protect confidential information.

Naturally, if you want to keep the confidential information protected, you should ensure that it does not divulge to unauthorized parties and invest in cyber security.

But this also begs the question:

What kinds of confidential information should be protected? What happens if a data breach happens and your customer information leaks? What are some best practices when it comes to protecting your digital documents?

All that, and more, we’ll cover below!

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • What is Confidential Information?
  • Why Does Security of Confidential Information Matter? 
  • How Does Information Loss Happen?
  • What Does Information Loss And Data Leaks Lead To?
  • Tips and Best Practices For Keeping Confidential Information In Digital Documents Secure

What is Confidential Information? 

Any non-public information that is provided or disclosed privately to any client with a set of privacy rules, or in confidence is considered confidential information. 

Typically, there are 3 types of confidential information:

  1. Business information
  2. Employee information
  3. Management information 

Business information

If you deal with a business, you need to know this type of confidential information. 

This category includes everything related to business plans, financial information, proprietary information, data compilation, and manufacturing processes that come under business information. 

Employee information 

Information related to employees that should be protected and not available to the public is called employee information. 

Employee information includes social security numbers, telephone numbers, home, and email addresses, and more. Employers should ensure that employee information is not disclosed to unauthorized parties. 

Management information 

Finally, management information deals with company and operations data.

Such as employment contracts, information about employee affairs, all types of layoffs, HR data, employee investigations, and more. 

Now, obviously all of the above confidential information matters.

Here’s why.

Why Does Security of Confidential Information Matter?  

Regardless of what type of business you are in, here are a couple of reasons why you should be keeping your confidential information protected.

  • Non-disclosure agreements, a sort of confidential information, affect employment. Protection of such agreements means securing employment. 
  • It develops trust between employees and two parties. 
  • It restricts the use of confidential information for illegal or other misuses (e.g. inside trading). 
  • Companies that respect confidentiality can get a good reputation and an edge over competitors. 
  • It makes you responsible and accountable for your actions. Also, it makes sure that you are compliant with the policies and laws. 
  • Last but not least, worst-case scenario, you can get fined up to $25,000 per violation (e.g. for HIPAA).

How Does Information Loss Happen?

When information is corrupted, deleted, or destroyed either intentionally or accidentally for any reason, it is called information loss. 

Here’s what you need to know about information loss.

Common causes of information loss 

If you know the reasons that lead to information loss, you can prevent the information loss. 

Following are some of the most common reasons that contribute to information loss. 

Human error 

Human error includes the unintentional deletion of confidential information in digital documents by a human being. Employees can sometimes overwrite sensitive information without realizing their mistakes. 

To prevent this, consider investing in employee training when it comes to cyber security best practices and other knowledge on how to keep digital documents safe.

For example, how to encrypt email attachments or password protect your PDF files.

Hard drive crashes 

Hard drives are the integral component of any business system. 

Hard drive crashes can occur by mishandling of the computer, build-up of dust, overheating, malware, and more..

Seeking professional cybersecurity assistance can help you retrieve sensitive information. 

Computer theft 

When a computer is left unattended, it poses the threat of information loss. You should ensure a proper lock-up procedure to prevent computer theft. 

Viruses and malware 

Viruses are the leading cause of stealing data from digital documents. They are not only involved in information loss but also damage your digital documents and other functions of your computer. 

Software corruption 

It occurs by improperly shutting down the software. Software corruption can put you at high risk of information loss. 

But what happens if the above causes lead to data breaches?

Let’s take a look.

What Does Information Loss And Data Leaks Lead To?

Workplaces should flourish in an environment where confidential information should not be breached. 

If it gets disclosed to a third party then it can have negative consequences. 

Following are some of the bad consequences that happen if confidential information is not protected.

Loss of trust 

While making a contract between parties, it is essential to secure confidential information. 

Any incident leading to a violation of the terms and breach of confidentiality can negatively impact the relationship between the parties involved.

Untrained employees involved in information loss can become blacklisted in the workplace. Companies can face trust issues in the business world. Business owners, employees, business operations, and everything involved in business suffer from loss of faith.

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Civil lawsuits 

When confidential information is not protected, victims can file lawsuits for breach of confidentiality against the business or individual involved in the breach of confidentiality. 

It would require much time, effort, and expenses for businesses to defend against lawsuits.

Another point to consider here has to do with the industry-standard compliance and regulations.

This covers compliance organizations like:

  • HIPAA.
  • GDPR.
  • ISO Standards.
  • FINRA
  • And more.

Criminal charges 

Sometimes information loss or breach of confidentiality can lead to criminal charges. 

This happens particularly when the victim is affected by financial, physical, or emotional loss. 

In extreme cases, if the intent of breach of confidential information is financial gain, then the consequence would be a criminal punishment.

Tips and Best Practices For Keeping Confidential Information In Digital Documents Secure

According to Varonis:

  • 63% of companies have implemented a biometric system or plan to implement one.
  • 80% of organizations plan to increase security spending for their digital files or documents.
  • It was predicted that global cybersecurity spending would exceed $1 trillion between 2017 to 2021.
Infographic on the economic losses from data breaches

To keep your confidential information secure, you should look into:

  • Control access
  • Keeping confidential information and digital documents password protected
  • Secure delivery methods of confidential information
  • Proper employee training on office IT usage and cybersecurity.
  • Company-wide privacy and cybersecurity policies.
  • Using anti-theft software
  • And more.

Now, let’s take a look at each practice in detail.

Control access

The best way to secure confidential information in digital data is by restricting access to the documents. 

Encryption, password protection, and using firewalls are the best means to control access. Information stored in USB drives and other storage devices is better secured by this method. Ensure using strong passwords that are not easy to guess.

Additionally, you can also set up user roles and permission management features. This way, only specific users can access or use specific documents.

Keep confidential information password protected 

Password protecting your documents is the least you can do.

This is to ensure that no unauthorized individual can access the document. 

For example, if you’re using Google Docs for easy collaboration between your employees, you can password-protect your Google Docs containing confidential information easily. 

Though, the same advice applies regardless of the file formats you use.

Additionally, you should look into using a safe electronic document management system for secure data management and delivery.

Secure delivery of confidential information 

If you want to send confidential information to a third party, you need to assure the security of the information. 

Sharing confidential information using emails is the best way to ensure secure delivery. Moreover, file-sharing programs from trusted service providers are another effective means to safely deliver confidential information. 

While using a file-sharing program don't forget to encrypt the documents.

Employee training

Companies having untrained employees are at great risk of confidentiality leaks. 

In fact, human negligence is one of the most common causes of data leaks and compliance violations.

Therefore, employee training is vital to keep confidential information protected. 

You can start employee training by making them clear about the importance of confidential information. Then, explain to them the ways to protect confidential information. 

Employee training can be done either in-house or by taking assistance from a third-party company. 

Create a company-wide privacy policy 

If your company has a privacy policy, implement it. 

Otherwise, you can create your own. It should include do's and don'ts when dealing with confidential information in digital documents inside your organization.

The policy should focus on security measures. It includes how to store and send confidential documents, monitoring activities on confidential information in documents, and much more. 

Avoid using unsecured Wi-Fi 

This is far too common now with almost everyone working remotely.

While working on confidential documents, you should only use a safe connection, instead of a public, unsecured Wi-Fi.

This might mean investing in a safe VPN system for your company, but as long as everyone knows how to use it, it will be worth it.

Use anti-theft software 

Finally, another effective way to secure confidential information is through the use of anti-theft software. 

If you have installed anti-theft software, it helps you track the stolen device. 

This way, you can retrieve your device containing confidential information. It also allows you to remote wipe your confidential information stored on the device that has been stolen. 

Conclusion 

Confidential information is an asset in every business. And it should be handled properly to avoid a security breach. 

Several factors contribute to information loss, and you need to address them to avoid the bad consequences of a confidentiality breach. Hopefully, this article will enable you to better understand the ways to keep confidential information protected. 

Hopefully, this guide to keeping your confidential information protected was helpful!

If you’re frequently managing and sharing confidential information in the form of documents in your business, you should also strongly consider using a safe API documentation generator!

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