Are you concerned about company’s confidential information leaking and want to prevent it? If YES, here are 10 best iron-clad ways to protect business documents.
The world is a global village and the internet has made it easier to run our businesses but one of the downsides of the internet is that it has made it easier for business information to be compromised and data stolen. It has now become very important for business owners to take pro- active steps to prevent their business information from being compromised and trade secrets from being stolen. Let’s take a look at some of the ways business information gets compromised-:
3 Ways Business Information Gets Compromised or Stolen
- Employee switching jobs-: When an employee works for you for a while, he learns a lot about your business and probably learns some trade secrets that you use to enhance the success of your business. Now, if the employee decides to leave your company to work for a competitor, he may reveal some of these trade secrets to your competitors. An employee may also leave your company to start a similar business becoming your competitor and using some of your trade secrets to boost his business.
- Investors and Partners-: In the process of seeking for funds for your business, you would be asked to present a business plan which would be used to evaluate the viability of the business. This business plan may contain some unique business ideas and strategies that can be stolen by the investors especially if the deal doesn’t work out eventually.
- Hacking-: Your business information could also get into unwanted hands through internet hackers.
So, how do you protect your confidential business information and documents from getting into unwanted hands?
10 Iron-Clad Ways to Protect Confidential Information/Document
1. Analyze your business information to determine which ones should be protected from getting into unwanted hands. If you have some information which you consider as trade secrets, you would have to carefully analyze them. Trade secrets are usually defined as information or ideas that are unique with which a business uses to gain an edge over its competitors.
2. Come up with a data protection policy which you would communicate to your employees to help them understand the kinds of information which must be kept secret and also help them understand their responsibilities for keeping such information. You should also organize regular meetings and trainings to remind your employees of the need to protect company information.
3. Create storage areas for confidential documents. This area should be highly secured and monitored with cameras and unauthorized access should be strongly prevented.
4. Document disposal process-: The way unwanted documents are disposed of is also very important. Documents can get into unauthorized hands if they are not disposed of properly. So, it is important that you purchase a paper shredder for destroying unwanted documents or engage paper shredding contractors to do it on your behalf.
5. Ensure that all confidential information is properly labeled and it is stated that the document may not be copied or used without authorization.
6. When you are hiring employees to work for you, you should ensure that they sign agreements as part of the conditions of employment. Some of the documents you should ask them to sign include-:
- Non-compete clause-: This is an agreement signed by the employee stating that he/she would not engage in a similar business in competition against the employer.
- Non-Solicitation-: This is another agreement you should ask your employee to sign stating that he/she would not solicit for customers, business opportunities or employees either directly or indirectly from your company.
7. Include confidentiality agreements in contract documents-: Business information is not only leaked through employees. Sometimes they can be leaked through contractors, consultants and service providers. For instance, a bank’s private information may be compromised through its I.T consultants.Therefore, all business owners should make it a point of duty to include confidentiality agreements in its contract documents with any service providers.
8. Business owners should also try as much as possible to reduce the number of people that have access to confidential documents.
9. When an employee is leaving your company, you should remember to ask them to return all documents and properties of the business in their possession and also remind them of the need to, and the consequences of not sticking to their confidentiality agreements.
If you still have concerns that such an employee may reveal business secrets to the new company he has been employed to work for, you may send an official letter to the company informing them of the non-disclosure and confidentiality agreement which the employee signed with your company.
10. Protect your e-documents-: If you make use of the internet a lot in your business, it is important that you protect your documents. You could talk to an IT consultant about ways through which you can protect your data on the internet.
11. Monitor your visitors-: Ensure that the visitor’s area in your business premises is separated from the working area and that visitors are closely monitored to avoid unauthorized access to restricted areas.
12. When an employee leaves your company, ensure that you change all passwords and security codes known to the employee.
5 Steps to Take When your Business Information Becomes Compromised?
a. First you should find out how and why it happened. How was the information leaked? Is it as a result of a weakness in your system? It is important for you to first identify the channel of leakage so as to help you proffer a solution.
b. Seek legal assistance if necessary-: If you find out that information was leaked as a result of a breach in contract, then you may have to involve your lawyer so that the responsible party can be sued and made to pay for damages. Also, if you feel that the information that was leaked may be dangerous for your business or customers then you would need legal backing to protect you.
c. Inform your employees and all affected parties about the incident.
d. Take proactive steps to reduce the damages. In the case of a website that was hacked, you may have to shut down completely for a while so that it can be cleaned up.
e. You should also take steps to prevent future occurrences.