How to Properly (and Legally) Destroy Documents

With the recent news that the Chinese government has breached the data of possibly 4 million federal employees, as well as the overwhelming amount of cyber-attacks committed in the past three years, it’s obvious that protecting your online data is imperative. But what about physical documents, like applications and lease agreements?

It’s safe to assume that you probably don’t have Indiana Jones’ level of security, but it’s not a bad idea to check that your physical security measures are as solid as the giant boulder that chased Indie’.
security breachJust last year, simply by cutting their storage locker’s latches, 40,000 medical records were stolen from a doctor’s office in New Jersey. This is just one case out of millions of physical data breaches that have occurred due to security negligence.

Although protecting physical documents are notoriously less glamorous than cyber security, they are just as important, not just to protect you from outside sources, but to protect your company from infringing on the law.

Under the Code of Federal Regulations 682.3, “any person who maintains or otherwise possesses consumer information for a business purpose must properly dispose of such information by taking reasonable measures to protect against unauthorized access to or use of the information in connection with its disposal”. For physical documents, the CFR requires the “burning, pulverizing, or shredding of papers containing consumer information so that the information cannot practicably be read or reconstructed”, however criminals are getting craftier.

A simple shredder won’t cut it anymore. Paper strips from basic strip-cut machines don’t fully destroy personal information, as the document can easily be pieced back together. Instead, you should have cross-cut shredders in place, allowing your sensitive information to be cut not only once, but twice. In addition to using a cross-cut shredder, physical documents that you’re disposing of should be shredded immediately. If you keep a shred pile on your desk, make sure that the documents are not in plain view and deposit them into a shred box at the end of each day. With these document disposal procedures in place, your physical security might as well have pitfalls and booby traps.

While we might not all have a cool whip and a rugged hat lying around in our closet, cross-cut shredders are our best accessory. Stay updated on security advancements and laws to keep the criminals at bay and to protect the sensitive information contained in your physical documents. You never know what kind of treasure hunters might be knocking at your door.


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Becky Bower is the Content Strategist here at the CIC Blog. She holds a degree in English, with a focus in creative writing, from CSU Channel Islands. Her biggest weakness is cake and favorite superhero is Batman.

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