dumpster-divingEvery day the news is littered with stories of data breaches at businesses large and small. Some stories are about hackers from Russia but more often it something as easy to prevent as a laptop in an interns car or records in the dumpster.

No business wants to see the local “action news team” at the door with a camera and some questions that don’t have good answers. To give some semblance of a solution the business might offer credit monitoring for those affected. At twenty dollars per person this can quickly become a tremendous expense. An even bigger threat is that of a class action lawsuit. The most recent example was filed against Certegy.

And what does a lawyer look for in a good class action case? They want a large number of people affected, clear culpability and something interesting. The perfect example of all three is throwing personal information into the trash.

To protect themselves, many business purchase paper shredders and place them around the office. However, this alone does not guarantee the documents are destroyed. PG&E had assigned someone to shred sensitive information and yet it was taken home and then used against the company to a tune of a twenty eight billion dollar settlement. The case was made famous in the movie Erin Brockovich. A more recent example is the medical files from Walter Reed that turned up in an apartment dumpster. In both cases an employee assigned the task and given a paper shredder but did they not perform the work.

Along with a shredder there must be supervision to verify that the volume of shredded paper is equal to that expected. There should also be documentation of the destruction. This documentation should include:

  1. Date and time of destruction
  2. Place of destruction
  3. Means of destruction
  4. Name of person performing the destruction
  5. Signature of manager who verified the destruction

A savvy business owner knows that paying two employees to spend the afternoon shredding is a poor use of resources. Document destruction must be done securely but also at a reasonable cost. The solution for many is to outsource the work to a shredding service.

A shredding service provides the security the job requires, the documentation required, and a price that is far below that of doing it in-house. A service uses industrial shredders that can destroy twenty thousand pounds of paper an hour to a smaller particle size, mix it with a large volume of other shredded paper and then recycle it all. This allows them to charge less than the business could do the work internally.

Business owners relying on their employees to shred everything with sensitive information better get a good haircut. It is only a matter of time before they make their television debut.