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We usually think of electronic files as the only medium to be targeted by hackers. Paper seems invulnerable to hacks. If the bad actors don’t have the paper documents, they don’t have the data. But is that really true?

Cyber attacks have been common occurrences. Many times, however, such hacks were preventable: Passwords were not protected, download and upload protocols were not observed, file-sharing rules weren’t enforced.

You may think paper-based data isn’t hackable. But if we define “hacking” as the theft of information, no matter the medium, paper documents have been hacked repeatedly, for many, many years. (Pentagon Papers, anyone?)

Now that employees are returning to the workplace, paper documents are once again reappearing on desks, in copiers, and in file folders. Those supposedly safe documents can be hacked in a number of ways. A few examples:

  • A confidential document left in a copier tray
  • A sensitive document tossed in the trash
  • A password written on a sticky note and pasted to a computer
  • A private report left in a conference room after a presentation

In each case, the information can easily make its way into the hands of people who shouldn’t have this sensitive data.

One way to make paper documents less hackable is to digitize them. Digitization converts a paper document’s information into electronic format, bringing it into the cyber world where new technology can keep it more secure. Digitization gives bad actors one less way to access information.

Document conversion simplifies data security because there is only one primary medium to secure. Security advocates recommend bringing paper documents into the purview of Chief Information Officers, who have traditionally focused on securing only electronic data. Digitizing paper documents makes them more manageable for CIO’s. With the reduction of paper-based information, there is only one door for criminals to get at sensitive information. And CIO’s can enforce strict data hygiene to protect that single door, and keep information safe.

Return-to-the-office, whether full time or hybrid, gives businesses an opportunity to reassess their information security. Now is the time to institute a digitization program and eliminate a significant security vulnerability.

Photo © Andrey Popov / AdobeStock