Why Paper Documents are a WFH Security Risk

This past year we’ve seen businesses from around the world make the shift towards having a more permanent work from home (WFH) setup. For many, this was because they needed to adapt to the demands of the ongoing pandemic. As of the publishing of this article, around 42% of the United States labour force is working full-time remotely. The remaining percentage is 33% of which are unemployed and 26% who do not have the option of remote work due to the nature of their occupation. 

For some businesses, the sudden shift to a work from home setup resulted in a few unaddressed security gaps. One of these is regarding paper documents. Paper documents that carry sensitive information can be lost, stolen, seen by someone who shouldn’t, and so on. These kinds of risks are amplified in the work from home setting because it is an even less controlled environment than the office setting. Additionally, not every home is equipped with a home office and filing cabinet to ensure the safe storage of sensitive paper documents. 

In this article, we will discuss the specific reasons why paper documents pose security risks and what you can do to minimize them. Let’s get started!

 Close up of someone putting a document inside an expandable envelope

Paper Documents Are Easily Accessible

While sensitive information on a digital device can be encrypted to hide their contents, paper documents are quite the opposite. As soon as something is printed, it’s contents are free-game for anyone to see.

This is a risk that is as important in the workplace as it is at home. The difference is that with working from home, you’re more lax with ensuring paper documents are properly stored and kept out of reach from any passerbys.

If the document contains sensitive information, there is a chance for it to be leaked. There is an additional risk if the employee who loses the document regularly entertains visitors, employs housekeepers, or resides with housemates. 

Paper Documents Can Get Lost or Thrown Away Unintentionally

Working from home means that employees need to juggle personal tasks and work tasks. It’s easy to get distracted by urgent matters in the house, such as a surprise visitor, a whistling kettle, or a crying toddler. Paper documents can be set down unwittingly where it shouldn’t be – and may be mistaken for trash by another resident of the house. 

Furthermore, once a document is lost or thrown away unshredded, it would be impossible to track down. You will never know where it is or who has possession of it. If the paper document falls into the wrong hands, there can be consequences such as the leaking of sensitive information, fraud, or identity theft.

It is never advisable to rely solely on a document’s hard copy – especially if the paper document would be the only version bearing important signatures, stamps, and the like. Once this document is lost, it is not only a security risk, but there would also be repercussions to replacing it. In addition, if the document has an important signature, it would draw suspicion or distrust if they realize they are signing the same document again. 

 Work from home setup with a laptop, notebooks, and paper documents

Paper Documents Can Get Stolen

Not all employees are prepared with a fully-equipped home office. If you’ve entrusted important paper documents for safe-keeping to your employees, it’s likely that these documents are just sitting somewhere on their desk or inside a drawer.

There is no certainty that all the important paper documents pertinent to your business are nestled safely in a filing cabinet or a locked drawer. As such, if any incident of burglary happens, these documents are at risk. There may also be cases where important documents may be purposefully stolen. Though this may be a remote possibility, it’s still a security risk to be aware of and prepare for.

The Solution: Digitize Your Paper Documents

Now that we’ve covered the risks associated with paper documents in a work from home setup, let’s talk about the solutions. Be aware that you can make use of these solutions whether you are currently in a remote working setup or not! 

The main solution to avoiding any paper document risks is to lessen the use of paper. No matter what industry you operate in, there are a number of options for you to do this. This includes:

  • Use online forms to get customer data
  • Make use of digital signatures on digital documents
  • Offer the option of emailed receipts, statement of accounts, and so on
  • Make use of tools to digitally fill up PDF’s instead of writing on their printed versions

If your business has relied on paper for quite a while, you might be wondering what you can do with the boxes and boxes of paper documents that you currently have stored somewhere. Scanning these documents may be a solution that comes to mind – however, there is an even better option for you – and it is through digitizing.

The main difference between scanning and digitizing is that scanning only gives you a static image of your paper document. Meanwhile, through digitizing, you can convert the paper documents into a digital counterpart with elements that you can interact with. 

Digitizing documents has the following benefits:

  • Through Optical Character Recognition, the text on the paper document can be converted into machine-encoded text which you can edit 
  • You can automatically have sensitive information redacted
  • If needed, you will be able to automatically track the document’s retention period and maintain compliance

Secure Your Digital Documents with Digital Document Management

In this article, we have covered the various security risks associated with having paper documents and how you can easily transition towards digitizing documents instead. However, this doesn’t mean that digital documents are completely safe. Digital documents that are easily accessible through the internet still face risks such as unauthorized access, editing, and deletion.

To help you minimize all of the above risks, Integr8 offers a top-notch digital document management system that allows you to seamlessly track, store, and manage all kinds of digital documents. On top of this, the system automatically assigns the right metadata and checks for missing/incorrect information. 

Learn more about digitizing your paper documents and what we, at Integr8 can offer you by contacting us today!

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