Whether you’re juggling invoices, offer letters, agreements, or contracts, data security may not be the first thing on your mind. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore it completely. A mishandled contract or lost file can quickly diminish trust with customers, suppliers, or potential recruits—and cost you millions in fines.
To help, we’ve created a checklist that covers the best practices for keeping your files secure:
- Convert paper documents to digital
- Provide training for staff
- Regularly review access permissions
- Educate your team on secure passwords
- Take advantage of encrypted storage
- Prevent fraud with audit trails
Let’s explore each of these in more detail
1. Convert paper to digital
Printed documents are easily lost, stolen, or damaged. So if you still use paper documents for invoices, contracts, and other forms, you should consider making the switch to digital.
Security practices are advancing and when implemented correctly, a paperless office gives your business greater control over its documents, better data security, and instant backups and versions. Digital documents can be accessed from anywhere, encrypted for added protection, and recovered if accidentally deleted. If you haven’t already, you can start embracing digital practices by:
- Sharing online forms or capturing customer, client, and employee information over email
- Using eSignature solutions to sign documents
- Setting up a document management system to store your files
2. Undergo frequent data security training
You can have powerful systems set up to manage your contracts, documents, and agreements—but if your staff don’t know how to use them, what’s the use?
It’s why routine, ongoing data security training for employees is so important.
For the US, the FTC has some great free downloads and interactive quizzes to help your team brush up on cybersecurity basics. They offer downloadable guides on everything from phishing to remote access, so be sure to share them with your employees or use them as a jumping-off point for more detailed training further down the line.
You also need to take the time to teach your staff how to use your tools, applications, and software safely. Be sure to educate them on potential threats and outline the measures they can take to protect your organization.
3. Regularly review access permissions
There are inherent risks introduced when a user has access to files, sensitive documents, tools, or contracts that they shouldn’t. According to Verizon, 17% of data breaches are caused by human error. Without proper care, files can easily be lost, misplaced, or accidentally shared with the wrong people.
To keep your data and documents secure, consider developing a formal access policy that outlines who has access to confidential information and periodically reviewing your permissions so the right staff have access to the information they need, while confidential data is safe from those who don’t. In your policy, you should outline:
- Who has access
- The level of access users have
- Any steps or security measures that are in place
Aim to revisit and update your access policy every quarter and update any permissions that may have changed.
4. Educate your team on secure passwords
Educating your team on what is and isn’t a secure password adds an additional layer of protection against nefarious attacks.
It takes, on average, just 10 minutes to brute force attack a six-character lowercase password. Yet, the password “123456” still tops the list of the most commonly used passwords—taking a hacker a mere second to decipher.
The longer your password is, the harder it is to guess. That’s why a combination of at least 12 characters–with upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols–makes for a strong password that’s difficult to crack.
When creating passwords, avoid personal information like names, birthdays, and addresses. And steer clear of common phrases, sequences, and keyboard patterns. Lastly, make sure your password is unique. Don’t use the same password for multiple accounts, as it increases your risk and the likelihood of a breach.
5. Keep documents in centralized, encrypted storage
How do you store your documents? Do you keep them safe and protected with a dedicated storage solution—or do you keep them on your desktop or printed out on your desk? If you’re guilty of the latter, you could be opening yourself up for a security breach.
Encrypted storage gives your documents an extra layer of protection, which can be invaluable if you handle sensitive data.
HelloSign, for example, uses two layers of encryption. First, each of your documents is stored behind a firewall and protected using AES 256-bit encryption. Then, each document is further encrypted with a unique key and each key is encrypted with a regularly rotated master key. Multiple layers of encryption means that even if a hacker bypassed physical security and gained access to your hard drive, they wouldn’t be able to decrypt your data.
If you’re especially concerned about unauthorized users gaining access to your files and documents, encrypted storage is a great tool to have in your security arsenal.
6. Prevent fraud with audit trails
Our January 2022 research report revealed that fraud is the leading security concern for businesses in 2022. And it’s no surprise. Criminals can use sophisticated software to manipulate, modify, and fake paper documents.
However, with the right technology, you can prevent detect fraud if it happens.
An eSignature solution like HelloSign automatically creates a transaction trail on all electronic documents between signing parties. Audit trails give businesses a comprehensive history of all actions, edits, and amendments—which are then timestamped and aligned against the relevant IP address.
So you can quickly identify if anyone has modified or tampered with the document without your prior knowledge. When it comes to fraud, eSignatures are more secure than their traditional paper counterparts, and should be your first port of call if you’re looking to beef up your security and protect against tampering.
Take your document security to the next level
Ultimately, your security is underpinned by the tools you use, so you need to make sure you’re using secure tools to create, manage, and store your documents.
With HelloSign, security is effortlessly built into the Dropbox system. Users can send and store documents with ease—all while having access to added protections to keep all files secure. If that’s something that interests you, book a demo with our team today and find out how HelloSign can give your document security a serious upgrade.