You’ve made the decision to upgrade all of the computers in your office, and send your old machines for secure IT disposal to a reputable company. You’ve ensured that all data has been stored safely away. Every item on your list has been checked, and your data is safe. Or is it? Even if you’ve done everything you’re supposed to, your data can still be vulnerable.
What is Data Proliferation?
Data proliferation occurs when several copies of the same data exist throughout an organisation. Even one interaction with a single piece of data can yield numerous copies of that data. When you consider all the hands through which a piece of data passes before it reaches its final destination, the number of potential copies that can exist in your organisation becomes clear.
Where can data live? It exists virtually everywhere in an organisation, from information stored during research, to that which is created by individuals who store data on numerous devices for later review and analysis. It can also be present in multiple versions.
A False Sense of Security
A big part of the safety of your data lies in how it is handled within your organisation, even though many forms of digital data have features that allow for automatic protection. Unfortunately, it is these features that can give a false sense of security. The very ability for information to be quickly shared, changed and automatically saved can create multiple opportunities for data vulnerability.
What You Can Do
Although the possibility is there to create multiple versions of data in multiple locations, this should not be considered an inevitability. The number of copies of information can be easily reduced with a set of guidelines put into place to ensure data security.
The first move is to create a policy governing data security and confidentiality. This policy can be considered an evolving document, with revisions made as required. Any protocols outlined in the document need to be monitored on a regular basis to ensure compliance.
Any passwords providing access to any form of data should be changed on a regular basis, be eight characters or more in length and contain a combination of letters in both upper and lower case, as well as numbers, symbols and spaces. Passwords should never be allowed to be ‘remembered’ on any computer or device.
Encryption software can also be used to increase security, as it allows for data to be passed back and forth between individuals, but in a format which makes it nearly impossible for access by outside parties. There should also be rules in place for how data is stored, deleted and backed up.
Data doesn’t necessarily need to be reviewed on printed paper. Consider adopting ‘on-screen’ methods for the review and analysis of data to eliminate the possibility of copies being made. Any time paper documents need to be printed, ensure that they are shredded immediately after use instead of stored.
Adopting a culture that pro-actively protects its data will ensure that your information is as secure as possible.