Managing sensitive documents and privacy continues to be a significant concern for many businesses, regardless of the industry.

Given the recent acceleration in digital transformation, data management and protection has grown in sophistication. In today’s world, confidential information is everywhere. 

From customer lists to operational information to passwords. While there is no denying the convenience of being able to share files digitally, there are also certain risks that come with it. 

And it is your responsibility to institute security measures to protect sensitive information and documents across your organization.

Reinforcing security and adopting document management best practices reduces the risk of a data breach. 

However, if sensitive documents got out or leaked, your company may face some problems, from lawsuits to loss of business secrets to competitors and loss of revenue.

According to UpGuard, on average, the cost of a data breach is around $4.24M.

graphic of the average cost of data breaches in 4 sections

While experts predict that these trends will get worse in 2022. Hence the need to adopt relevant best practices to secure sensitive documents. 

With this in mind, below, we’ll cover how to manage your sensitive documents and data across your organization. We’ll cover all the best data management best practices and examples to handle your sensitive files.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • What Are Sensitive Documents and Confidential Information? Examples And Types
  • 5 Best Practices To Keep Sensitive Documents Secure When Sharing Across Teams
  • Managing Digital Documents Securely Through Roles and Permission Access

What Are Sensitive Documents and Confidential Information? Examples And Types

First things first, what is a sensitive document?

Sensitive documents refer to a set of classified data that consists of files that are very important to your organization

As a general policy, sensitive information is protected to avoid unauthorized users from accessing it. 

A sensitive document has details such as personally identifiable information, health information, bank card details, and so on.

Confidential information, meanwhile, includes an organization’s important data like its policies, trade secrets, future innovation secrets, and other classified files. 

Examples of confidential information are bank details, medical records, address details, secret documents, biodata, etc. 

When it comes to the difference between sensitive documents and confidential information, there is a thin line. 

The major difference is that sensitive documents cause less harm while confidential information could be disastrous for companies when breached

In other words, the content of confidential information is more important (in the case of a breach) than that of sensitive documents. 

Consequently, organizations suffer different levels of damage based on the importance of breached data.

Generally speaking, there are up to 6 types of confidential/sensitive information, including:

  • Business information.
  • Management information.
  • Personal information.
  • Classified information. 
  • Employee information. 
  • Customer information.

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

1. Personal Information

As the name implies, it refers to individual personal details like medical, financial, passport details, social security numbers (SSNs), etc

These are important data that could lead to a chain of disastrous outcomes when exposed. 

For instance, financial details can be used for malicious transactions. Such confidential data should be encrypted while being used, in transit, and in storage.

2. Business information

This covers company assets like trade secrets, business policies, financial documents, and other delicate information that makes up an organization's internal and external strategies. 

Business information is often part of ransomware actors' targets. Hence the need to secure it properly. 

These are company secrets and information you’ll want to keep confidential.

Your competitors can quickly outsmart you if they gain access to your business information.

3. Classified information

Classified information refers to a set of data that are specially protected and guarded against unauthorized access. 

Classified’ is a term commonly used, especially in government, to describe files that are esteemed highly and protected with some high-end security measures.

4. Customer information

Customer information pertains to your customer base. Examples include name, address, ethnic background, disabilities, credit/debit card details, etc

Depending on your region, there is likely a data protection law that spells out how a customer’s information should be handled. 

When consumers’ data is mishandled and leaked, your company will be held accountable.

5. Management information

This covers documents created in the course of running the affairs of your organization. 

Managerial information ranges from data about disciplinary action to management actions and worker-related issues.

6. Employee information

Employee information covers the personal data of the people working in your company, like name, address, maiden name, and other individual information

Such data should be handled with caution. There is likely a legal requirement about securing employee information. 

If a data breach happens and employee data is exposed, your organization is likely to face prosecution.

Why does the security of confidential information matter? 

A lot is at stake if sensitive information gets leaked. If an uncontrollable data breach occurs, the following could happen:

  • Your competitors may gain access to your classified company secrets, like trade secrets, intellectual properties, business models, marketing tactics, and more.
  • If it gets leaked by cybercriminals, they might request a ransom or trade company secrets and personally identifiable data online.
  • Lawsuits will result from failing to meet document security requirements.
  • Company reputation will be severely impacted, thereby causing a huge financial loss.
  • Industry regulation fines, e.g. up to $50,000 per violation caused by insecure records in HIPAA.
  • Employees may see the information they are not supposed to see.
  • File loss can decrease productivity.

Now, let’s take a look at some of the best practices to make sure the above consequences don’t happen.

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5 Best Practices To Keep Sensitive Documents Secure When Sharing Across Teams

With more and more people working remotely, the amount of files shared across teams has skyrocketed. 

As a result, with each document shared or sent across different teams, the chances of a data leak increase.

Some of the most common reasons for information and data loss include:

  • Hardware failures.
  • Human error or negligence.
  • Software corruption or malfunction.
  • Computer viruses or malware.
  • And more.
graphic on the most common reasons for data loss

To avoid the implications of data loss, such as destruction of business functions, damaged reputation, legal consequences, financial losses, etc., you have to maintain relevant data and document management hygiene

Best practices to keep your sensitive documents and data safe when sharing across teams include:

1. Use VPNs

Making use of a private virtual network (VPN) adds an extra layer of protection to your networks. With a good VPN, the connections your employees establish across teams will be encrypted. The files they share can not be accessed or read by a hacker. 

The use of a VPN is a must if you have employees working remotely. This is to ensure safe remote document management and a secure connection with the central network.

Though, you’ll have to find the right VPN if you want to keep your confidential information protected.

2. Implement a standard password management hygiene

Hackers are always looking for new ways to steal and compromise passwords. How your workers manage their passwords contributes a lot to the security of the files they share online. 

You have to institute a password management policy everyone will be mandated to follow. 

Enable your team members to create strong passwords using a password management tool. A  password manager can help in the generation and management of strong passwords.

This goes beyond simply password-protecting your PDFs.

3. Enforce security policies

When it comes to protecting sensitive documents and ensuring the overall security of a company, the mindset of the employees plays a leading role. Enforce standard security policies that will foster a security-first approach among teams. 

You shouldn’t stop at file-sharing rules either, you have to take a step further to enforce them.

Some other data security standards you should follow include:

  • Starting a clean desk policy.
  • Installing SSN protocols.
  • Setting up custom permission settings.
  • Shredding and deleting digital files in a legally compliant way.
  • Educating your team about data security.
  • Syncing files with integration.
  • Maintaining data order and hygiene.

4. Use a file-sharing solution

File sharing products come with management and security features. 

These capabilities are what you need to prevent information loss or leakage. 

Being a cloud solution, you can safely store files and have your employees access them from anywhere. 

With certain document management features, you can set permissions that grant and limit access to users. More on this below, keep on reading!

5. Employee training

A significant percentage of file loss is caused by employees. You have to conduct an employee training program from time to time. 

This is to make sure they are armed with relevant information on how to prevent a data breach.

Another important way to manage and secure your sensitive documents is through user roles and permission settings.

Here’s what you need to know.

Managing Digital Documents Securely Through Roles and Permission Access

There are many proven ways to ensure your documents are safe. 

You can protect and maintain the integrity of your sensitive documents through:

  • Data encryption - This is the use of cryptographic technology to restrict access to data. Without the decryption key, the protected information will be rendered as meaningless text. No one can make sense of the data unless given access using the key.
  • Cloud backup - Backing up your data to the cloud is a secure way to store your files. Run a cloud backup frequently and regularly to ensure every document is safe.
  • Password security - Use a password management solution to ensure strong passwords are used across every department.
  • Document Expiry - Delete old documents as soon as they are no longer needed. This helps you to avoid having your workers share old documents wrongly.
  • Access and Identity Management (AIM) - This is a system of regulating the users that have access to your network and data.

Another way to protect your documents internally is through user roles.

User roles and permission settings in document security management

A user role is a form of access permission that determines what a user is permitted to do or not, based on their role.

Allowing everyone to access your network and data is a recipe for disaster. 

Using a document management tool, you can allocate user roles based on a system of hierarchy. 

User roles include:

  • Primary owner: Primary owner has the highest level of authority. The capability of a user with this role ranges from creating roles, to closing and transferring account ownership and more.
  • Admin: An admin can do everything a primary owner can except role creation, closing accounts, and transfer of account ownership.
  • Editor: As the name implies, an editor can rename, upload, delete, move or copy files. However, they can not access the “delete files permanently’ feature.
  • Contributor: Contributors can contribute, create, update, and alter contributed work. But they lack the power to delete files permanently.
  • Viewer: This is the least in authority. A Viewer can only view files or download them, where possible.

For more information on this, be sure to see our guide on user role setup and management.

Using Inkit Render To Securely Organize, Generate, And Store Sensitive Documents

You need to be a thousand steps ahead of malicious actors when it comes to the security of your sensitive documents. 

With the increasing reliance on digital technologies, securing files across teams is challenging. 

However, with strong file management policies and a document management tool, you can ensure the safety of your files. 

Using Inkit Render to generate and store documents safely, you use secure storage features such as:

  • AES 256 end-to-end Encryption.
  • Role-based access controls.
  • Expiry & self-deletion.
  • 2FA support.
  • Full document audit log.
  • Live document alerts.
  • One-time viewing.
  • Non-rewritable & non-editable documents.
  • And more.

See how Inkit Render helps companies generate documents automatically with a built-in security platform now!

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