IT | Security

Don't Ignore Physical Data Management

By: Absolute Team | 3/27/2009

Normally we hear about the massive data breaches that happen due to some loss of electronic data - whether it's a lost data storage device or laptop or from hacking. However, we can't forget that paper too is at risk for breaching data. This week there were 4 reports of data breaches the result of incidents with paper.

  1. Dozens of files with Social Security Numbers for public housing residents were dumped on the street in New York. People were seen picking up the loose papers, raising concerns of identity theft. The New York Housing Authority has policies to shred documents for disposal, but that policy was overlooked. [read more]
  2. Medical records were found discarded in a trash bin at a convenience store in Shreveport; Social Security Numbers were included. A Doctor has admitted to his mistake in improperly disposing of the files. [read more]
  3. Files about seriously ill patients at a New York hospital were found 2 miles away on the pavement. The files contained name, age and medical history, breaching confidentiality though not risking identity theft. [read more]
  4. A Dallas man found a box of medical records, including Social Security Numbers, the the parking lot at a storage business. The storage unit belonging to a doctor was broken into and the records left out. [read more]

I think we can learn some important things from these breaches of trust and data. Most indicate a lack of awareness about the data and how it should be treated for storage and disposal. Policies to restrict how data moves about - whether paper or electronic - should be considered. The data retention policy should define how information is disposed of, which can include policies on shredding or purging electronic devices. In terms of data storage for physical papers, standard consumer storage facilities may not have enough security; try looking for companies that specialize in business data storage.

As we shared in a report earlier this month, data breaches at small companies often go unreported. There's a great deal of education that needs to be done to small business owners - including those practicing in the medical fields - about how to securely handle confidential data in all stages of its life cycle.

Hat tip to databreaches.net ; image: clarita @morguefile