What Is Documentation Security and Why It Matters?

Security incidents and possible breaches are more common than ever before. Violations affect many financial institutions, health institutions, public sector organizations, and organizations from all sectors. Effectively maintained and adaptable security programs can reduce these risks and respond quickly to incidents.

Information is the most critical asset an organization can have, and information systems often manage it due to its large volume. The security of such information systems is ensured by the measures taken to prevent threats to the systems or detect and correct any damage.

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Security measures minimize access to information by authorized persons. Information system security aims to protect corporate assets or at least limit their losses. It is recommended to have appropriate protection for information systems, as data records will not have privacy or confidentiality without sufficient security.

Documentation security is an important issue faced by almost all businesses operating worldwide. When documents are placed in physical form, there is an extremely high probability of being lost or damaged by consequences such as fire or theft.

Also, the risk of uploading documents to the internet through cloud storage devices and platforms and becoming a victim of malicious viruses and dangerous hackers is exceptionally high.

What is Documentation Security?

Documentation security is the maintenance of all essential documents stored, filed, backed up, processed, delivered, and eventually discarded when they are no longer needed. Because sensitive documents face major security threats, it is essential to develop a backup and storage plan for documents.

Many businesses choose to purchase services from companies that provide storage facilities rather than spend cash on renting more storage space. Since storage facility companies guarantee adequate protection, this storage room is a cost-effective option that offers adequate document security.

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The document security and storage service is a highly sophisticated service for document retention that requires a secure facility and provides documents to individuals with the expertise to process, retrieve and store documents on behalf of other companies.

Another primary reason why document storage should be a top priority for any business is document security.

The issues to be considered in document security are as follows:

  • Documents that are not adequately labeled or packaged are often challenging to find.
  • An important factor that many businesses are concerned about is the security of document storage. Most of the documents stored online are the targets of malicious attacks on the internet. Documents are easily accessible by third parties and, although security, can be attacked. Therefore, the lack of an effective encryption method can have troublesome consequences for a business.
  • If documents are not adequately managed daily, document retention can become complex, resulting in a laborious and time-consuming retrieval process.

Why is Document Security Important?

Documents are faced with many types of threats. Customer lists, sales strategy reports, and detailed revenue statistics can fall into the hands of competitors. Confidential personal data provided by customers and employees can be compromised, leading to lawsuits.

Thieves can steal identity information such as bank account login details or credit card details. Because of these possibilities in today’s world, document security should be the most critical issue.

How Should Documentation Security Be?

Security controls in a document management system are designed to safeguard company data and preferences, comply with legal requirements such as privacy protection, and avoid financial losses due to identity theft and fraud.

Documentation security is usually provided by restricting access to documents. Highly confidential documents can be locked in a paper-based system, for example, so that only senior executives can see them.

It’s almost impossible to provide sufficient document protection in a paper-based system because having all records under lock and key can have a negative impact on business performance. For example, decision-makers may not be able to piece together documents that provide decision support information quickly enough.

Electronic document management systems can significantly improve the process, as specific folders and documents can be selectively restricted using electronic means to access them. For example, employees can be categorized at different levels, and each level can have other access rights and permissions.

Viewing and editing privileges are usually included with access rights, which means that certain people can’t monitor but can edit a text. Other users can have full rights, including editing privileges. Users may also need to provide passwords to access documents. Passwords could theoretically prevent unauthorized persons from accessing documents on an employee’s workstation.

As can be understood, permissions alone cannot provide complete protection. An employee may not log out after accessing a document, and if that person leaves the workstation, someone else can view it. Employee training on security best practices is an important part of overall document security.

Most security breaches are caused by employees, either due to carelessness or fraud. It is vital to ensure access rights on a strictly must-have basis, where each employee can only access the documents they need to complete their specific tasks.

Any document management system should maintain audit trails that track who accessed which document when and what changes were made during each access. Audit Trails should then be followed by a person responsible for any unusual activity.

The existence of the internet allows threats to come from outside sources. Certain dangers from viruses and other malware, hackers, and identity thieves who can delete valuable business data are becoming more severe today.

These external threats are protected by installing security software such as antivirus and antispyware programs, the implementation of firewalls and secure access mechanisms such as SSL, and regular updates to operating systems and applications. Software developers typically release patches to close potential security vulnerabilities.

Verification of documents is another crucial security measure. Developments such as electronic signatures help senders sign outgoing documents and allow recipients to make sure that the documents they receive are accurate of the people they claim to be and that no changes were made once identity was verified.

First of all, regular reviews should be conducted to identify vulnerabilities, including creating backups and enforcing document retention and destruction policies. Documents that exceed their lifetime should be destroyed rather than left around.

What Are the Challenges Regarding the Security of Paper Documentation?

Paper documents are naturally challenging to manage and secure. Apart from locking out file rooms or storage devices, there aren’t many options for securing paper documents.

Some Document Management systems add a layer of document protection by requiring the acceptance of paper files by reading a file ID barcode and identifying the user who requested the file. These systems are used with care to prevent unauthorized users from accessing files they should not have.

However, these files and documents are also vulnerable to unauthorized access, can be misplaced, and there is no easy way to monitor who has access to which documents.

  • Difficulty in editing and updating documents
  • Lost or misplaced documents
  • Access restrictions due to the location of the documents
  • Time and cost of filing and searching documents
  • Documents easily accessible by unauthorized users

Implementing a Document Management Solution ensures that your sensitive documents and information are safe and under your control. With the Document Management Solution, all your different documents are stored electronically in a single system.

Files and documents in the system are organized according to application types and are classified as logical files and file sections within applications. Access rights may be assigned to each of the tiers. Only approved users would be able to view these documents as a result of this.

Document management systems often allow you to divide users into groups and assign various levels of access to different features. For example, one group can access and print or modify certain documents, while another group can have more restrictive rights and only see a subset of the same records and only have the right to view them.

Document Management Solutions provides the type of security and access tracking you need to develop and implement a document security strategy successfully.

What are the Phases of Documentation Security?

Modern companies process a lot of data but have no real insight into how it’s created, processed, or accessed, which can lead to security flaws.

Organizations process thousands of documents in different formats every day, and every day they face the danger of documents being lost, stolen, or compromised. Regardless of your business’s size, protecting your documents is a de facto requirement for your company’s security.

The number, complexity, and variety of knowledge that a company generates and absorbs makes management and control difficult. To meet this challenge, a company must understand and map document types. To comprehend documents, you must first determine their purpose, how they communicate with business processes, and how they are processed, handled, transmitted, and secured.

The definition of Document Security is comprehensive, and document security should be considered from a document lifecycle perspective. The life cycle of a document is as follows:

1. Capture Phase

Capture is the process that defines the participation of information in the organization, whether it is scanning paper documents, monitoring an e-mail box, or creating and saving documents from an application.

Scanning is the most common way to transfer hard copy content to electronic formats. However, while appropriate, the process is not traceable unless controls are in place, leading to security and legal acceptability challenges.

The method of sending captured documents to the appropriate storage location is known as routing. It is possible to store records in incorrect or even dangerous positions due to a lack of paper routing.

2. Storage Phase

Secure storage can be a paper-based or electronic file system, but many companies overlook the required storage type, location, and security.

Paper-based storage systems are still pervasive but often lack the necessary security controls. Besides, it isn’t easy to show any inspection information about paper documents.

Electronics-based storage is often implemented in anticipation of a better way, but without proper design and management, it creates various challenges.

3. Management Phase

It deals with document management, permissions, user roles, version control, and audit trails. Permissions are used to manage users’ access rights to documents and are therefore key to maintaining a secure document environment.

While permissions are often easy to understand, they can be challenging to promote and manage without suitable systems. To effectively enforce permissions, the business must first understand how users’ activities are related to the information they need to access and the processes they are involved in.

An audit trail stores records of every activity and transaction applied to a document, such as who created, modified, viewed, or re-versioned. Audit trails provide the ability to demonstrate effectiveness on all stored documents and are vital to maintaining security, especially in a data breach.

4. Protection Phase

Preserving documents and information is another crucial aspect of providing a secure document environment. Still, documents stored in traditional or electronic repositories require constant maintenance as the available space is limited.

Some documents must be kept for a specified year by law. Therefore, a record should be kept only to ensure that documents are removed beyond the retention period. It is also essential to ensure that all versions of documents covered by the retention policy are accounted for and decide whether users should manage their library or whether the process should be managed centrally.

Next, businesses need to set up policies to safely destroy all paper information, electronic files, and electronic libraries, by physical and electronic shredding, after the expiry or expiry of the retention period.

5. Delivery Phase

The delivery phase defines how an electronic document can be shared with other users or business partners. Document sharing is often done using shared folders or drives, but if not managed properly, it can result in files being found, accessed, and used by unauthorized users or groups of users.

Accessing documents from mobile devices can be part of the delivery phase, with much more complex issues to secure access.

6. Integration Phase

Integration is the process used to exchange information with other business applications such as accounting or ERP systems. For the integration to be successful, all previous stages must be consistent and accurate data provided.

Documentation Security Tips

Some of the main concerns of document security are security breaches, unstructured data, insecure files, human errors, and unauthorized access to storage. All of this means you can risk customer data, customer databases, financial details, and even existing deals.

While the topic of document security can be daunting, here are some document security tips to make sure nothing goes wrong:

1. Prevent employees from becoming victims of phishing.

Phishing e-mails now constitute the majority of all successful cyberattacks worldwide and the most significant domestic threat. So be sure first to check the actual e-mail address of the sender, not just the name. Typos, incorrect or slightly altered logos should also grab your attention. If you’re unsure, verify the e-mail with your IT team to avoid compromising sensitive documents.

2. Securely manage your documents.

Document protection is best achieved by granting access rights to information on a need-to-know basis. Locking documents with passwords and restricting access is an effective way to maintain a secure document environment.

Electronic document management systems can be beneficial. These systems will have audit trails that track documents and record any changes and general activities. Audit trails must be actively checked for suspicious activity that could pose a threat to document security standards.

If you need to destroy or store sensitive documents securely, you need to keep them securely.

3. Be aware of shared devices

Shared devices such as printers and scanners are another weak spot for document security. To limit the threat only authorized users should be allowed access to network applications and resources from these systems.

Protect printers with a password or smartcard-based authentication using your existing security infrastructure that reduces the need for extra passwords. Print management software can keep documents in a print queue and maintain a complete audit trail of document activity.

Access to physical ports is often restricted as a normal security measure to prevent anyone from stealing your sensitive documents or infecting your company’s network.

4. Protect your data

Lack of an effective encryption method can have harmful consequences for a business. Your company should also be protected against up-to-date antiviruses and spyware. What’s more, filtering company-wide Internet access reduces employees’ likelihood of becoming victims of external phishing sites or downloading malware that can spread throughout the organization.

Also, when public Wi-Fi is the only solution, you can use a VPN. You can also use hardware encryption to protect your documents from the theft of portable devices.

5. Change the document format

Sending documents as PDFs removes document format bottlenecks and transforms digital documents into password-protected files with safe encryption and authorization controls for regulatory compliance.

Changing the document format means that the document cannot be edited by anyone other than its creator, reducing the risk of forgery. PDFs also prevent hackers from retrieving the document creator’s metadata when using Word / PowerPoint formats.

What’s more, electronic signatures help senders get a quick signature on outbound documents and allow recipients to make sure that the documents they receive are actually from the person they claim to be and that no changes have been made after identity verification.

6. Use passwords effectively

A solid password policy combined with MFA (Multi-Factor Authentication) will make it even more difficult for attackers. Here are some basic rules for passwords:

  • Never write down or store passwords on sticky notes.
  • Do not reuse your password on multiple accounts and platforms.
  • The longer and more complex your password is, the better. Create by checking the strength of your password.

Documentation Security Checklist

The following is not an exhaustive list, but it will provide some suggestions for improving your security posture and protecting your documents and confidential data.

  • Identify potential risks and establish appropriate security policies.
  • Make sure the operating system and software updates are installed immediately.
  • Use antivirus, malware, and spyware tools.
  • Use user management to control data access.
  • Prevent unauthorized data access.
  • Use device-level monitoring to prevent unauthorized software from being installed and to ensure that all company-owned mobile devices have remote wipe capability in case of loss or theft.
  • Ensure security awareness training is a continuous process in which users are informed about the latest attack methods.
  • When disposing of the equipment, ensure the data is destroyed by sending it to a certified recycling company.
  • Make sure that data recovery is not possible by shredding or burning the device.
  • When destroying paper-based documents, use fine cross-cut or burning techniques.
  • Make sure that non-employees cannot infiltrate your facilities.
  • Take precautions against shoulder surfing in public places.
  • Confidential documentation should be locked down, along with in-house security.
  • Consider many ways of sharing files online and aim to restrict as many files as possible.
  • Protect your hardware with tamper-resistant labels and precautions.
  • Ensure the security of your Wi-Fi access.
  • Make sure employees are aware that shared social media information is often used to persuade fraudulent campaigns.
  • Never post anything that would aid social engineering or disclose company work.
  • Use encryption and password management.
  • If an employee leaves the company, remove data access immediately.

The above items are not a complete checklist for document security but will still give you a basis for document security.

Surkay Baykarahttp://www.pcidssguide.com
A passionate Senior Information Security Consultant working at Biznet. Over the past 15+ years my professional career has included several positions beginning as a developer and IT administrator, working my way up to a senior Technical Performance Consultant before joining Biznet back in 2015. I had several different roles at Biznet, including Penetration Tester and PCI DSS QSA. In my job as a QSA, I found my passion and worked closely with the Audit and Compliance team. I've been working inside InfoSec for over 15 years, coming from a highly technical background. I have earned several certifications during my professional career including; CEH, CISA, CISSP, and PCI QSA.

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