Data Breach Risk: Paper Records vs. Digital Records

Four small wooden block each with a different letter spelling out the words "RISK." A small measuring tape is being stretched out above the blocks.I overheard someone say, “Electronic records are safer than paper records because you can’t encrypt paper.” There’s a grain of truth to that otherwise-inaccurate statement. Here’s why.

Same but Different

Encryption of digital records is a great security device because it is relatively affordable and can be updated regularly in an attempt to stay ahead of the cyber thieves. Paper, on the other hand, requires physical “encryption” by way of locked cabinets, offices and buildings with alarms, and other security measures.

In reality, a big difference between protecting physical records and digital records is that the likelihood of thieves breaking into a physical building for paper records is low compared to the armies of hackers constantly searching for ways to steal your information from the comforts of their own computer. So, while it is important to secure a building full of sensitive information, the risk is much lower to begin with.

The bottom line is that paper and digital records are both at risk for data breaches, but for very different reasons.

Digital Breach vs. Paper Breach

Statistics show the number of data breaches in the US has doubled in the past decade. Paper documents are included in this statistic, with a high risk of being exposed through getting lost, being left unattended, and being incorrectly disposed of or shredded.

A report from December 2020 indicated that 47 percent of Americans experienced financial identity theft in 2020. Since 2018, 37 percent of consumers have been victims of application fraud, and 38 percent experienced account takeovers. In addition to cyber hacks, digital records are also at risk of data breach when hard drives are resold (even after deleting the files) or when obsolete equipment is improperly disposed of.

When it comes to a security breach, switching from paper to digital records, or vice versa, isn’t going to guarantee information security. However, there are some reasons that might make switching from paper to electronic worthwhile:

  1. Your business has multiple offices, and the same documents are needed at each location. This is a setup for files being lost or stolen in transit.
  2. An employee travels to client locations or works remotely.
  3. Your business works in cooperation with other organizations that edit the same client records.
  4. A third-party payer requires that documents be submitted electronically.
  5. Office space is limited and freeing up space used by records would help.

Lowering the Risk

Whether your business relies primarily on paper or digital information, human error is one of the biggest data breach culprits. Often, organizations don’t take the required precaution to prevent the loss or theft of confidential documents through secure disposal.

Simple actions like improper disposal of paper documents or hard drives can leave your business open to legal action, liability, fines loss of business and client confidence. One way of ensuring that risk is considerably lowered is to seek the disposal services of a NAID AAA Certified shredding company that complies with all state and federal laws.

Richards & Richards Shredding serves companies in the Nashville region with paper shredding and hard drive shredding, and decreasing your risk of both paper and digital data breaches. We also offer Seal ‘N Shred Bags which are ideal for home offices to ensure secure document destruction. For more information, give us a call at 615-242-9600 or complete the form on this page. We look forward to hearing from you!

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