5 Ways to Minimize the Risks of Data Breaches in the Office

Your company data could be a risk in the most surprising of places - even seemingly harmless office scanners. Here's how to keep data safe.

Samantha Thorenson
October 23, 2018
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After speaking with a number of colleagues, I have heard that big data is having a remarkable change on the modern workforce. It is especially influential in the office setting. Office workplaces use big data for everything from payroll management to productivity tracking and streamlining customer service delivery.

Business World has provided a thorough article on the benefits of big data. They cited research that companies using big data are 5-6% more productive than competitors that rely on intuition.

However, advances in big data have come at a cost. One of the drawbacks associated with it is the increased risk of data breaches. If data is compromised, then many problems can occur, including:

  • Sensitive employee data could be leaked
  • Company secrets could be exposed to competitors
  • Seemingly compromising material could trigger expensive audits, regardless of merit

Companies that want to minimize the risks of big data need to be prepared for these security risks. Fortunately, there are a number of ways that this can be done, including using office scanners more cautiously.

Minimizing the Risks of Data Breaches in the Office

Are you looking for ways to improve your data security? Are your data security policies in line with the industry best practices?

In this digital era, it’s imperative for individuals and companies alike to take the necessary measures to ensure all sensitive data is secure. While it’s common knowledge that leaving confidential data in hard drives, removable disks and tape media compromises data security, most people are not aware of the unlikely threat that the common office scanner presents.

Similarly to photocopiers, modern scanners have hard drives that contain digital images of every document that has ever been scanned. This exposes all sensitive and confidential information such as Social Security numbers and medical records. These items run the risk of falling into the wrong hands.

Such risk is heightened, especially when the scanner’s disk isn’t protected with encryption or an overwrite mechanism at the time of disposal. In hospitals, lots of data and information is scanned to be stored in digital format. And with scanners fronting a new security loophole, the security of that data is quickly becoming the most important aspect of the HIPAA law.

Scanned data and The HIPAA security rule

The HIPAA Privacy regulations require health care providers and organizations, as well as their business associates, to develop and follow procedures that ensure the confidentiality and security of protected health information (PHI). The Rule sets limits and conditions on the uses and disclosures that may be made of such information without patient authorization.

Should the patient feel that the privacy of personal information is not being upheld, they have the right to launch a complaint. This alone ought to make HIPAA compliance one of the top most priorities in hospitals and health centers. According to the Sixth Annual Benchmark Study on Privacy & Security of Healthcare Data by the Ponemon Institute, over half of all data breaches in the healthcare industry are as a result of third party oversights and stolen devices.

All covered entities are required to comply with the HIPAA security and privacy rule and failure to can make them liable to claims and compensations.

Now the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, requires that organizations update their information security plans including digital copiers and the document scanners that the company uses.

How Can I Improve My Scanner Security?

Today, digital copiers are designed to copy, print, and scan documents. To manage the heavy workload and increase the speed of production, the scanned information is stored in the scanner’s hard drive. This stored data is retrievable and this opens you to a new unlikely loophole for data theft. Luckily, there are a number of effective options that can help you safeguard your scanned data.

Wipe Data on the Hard Disks Often

You should format the scanner memory regularly and not only when you are looking to sell or lease the devices. When you do decide it’s time to dispose of your scanner, you should ensure your data security policy that covers all the latest data security trends. Many of these endorse a number of methods to completely erase the data.

Encryption

Encryption is the scrambling of data using a secret code that can be read only by particular software. Some digital scanners and copiers come with this feature. Once the hard drives are fully encrypted, the data will be protected even when the hard drive is removed from the machine.

Overwriting

Also known as Zero formatting, alters the data on the disk by writing new characters on top of the existing data. Overwriting makes the edited files hard to trace and reconstruct. It is different from the normal deleting and formatting procedures. In reality, deleting doesn’t actually remove data from the hard drive but rather alters how the data is accessed. With the right resources, deleted data can be recovered.

Data Wiping & Media Degaussing

To prevent a data breach in medical organizations, data wiping and media degaussing are the preferred methods of erasure. This can be achieved through the destruction of data contained in electronic equipment at the end of their shelf life. The same should also be applied when returning equipment’s back to the vendor or when selling them on. Once you leverage the above techniques as well as put in place an appropriate ITAD process, you can easily meet the HIPAA standards.

How to Dispose of Scanners and Photocopiers

Absolute data destruction provided by a certified electronics recycling vendor and IT asset disposition provider is the ideal solution for ensuring that all scanner hard disks are completely destroyed and sanitized. This will help ensure HIPAA compliance effectively minimizing the risk of facing civil and criminal penalties.

Similarly, to all other electronic devices, scanners pose a data security threat when improperly disposed of. These devices contain all types of information from employee numbers to customer identifies. Once this data is accessed, it can leave both you and clients open to incidences of fraud and identity theft.

As technology continues to evolve and make its mark across different industries most notably in the healthcare sector, compliance with the HIPAA Security Rule becomes more important than ever. This means that employing quality data destruction services in your organization to ensure that your digital copiers are completely cleaned before you sell, lease or dispose them is a must, not a nicety, in the 21st century.

Reducing the Risks of Data Breaches at Your Office

Data breaches are a major concern for most companies. As big data becomes more widely used, the risks associcated with using it become greater. Office workplaces need to take the right steps to minimize these risks. Fortunately, using encryption, choosing better security scanners and wiping data that has outlived its usefullness are all effective ways to address these issues.