By Jamie Maguire
Have you ever been embarrassed by something a co-worker saw on your computer screen? Has someone sent an embarrassing email from your unlocked PC while you were getting a cup of coffee? Is there a chance you gave away information to a stranger looking at your screen in a coffee shop? In any of these scenarios, you could have unknowingly exposed sensitive information.
Sensitive information could be user names, passwords, social security numbers or credit card information. Sensitive business information could include emails, financial data, customer records or trade secrets. Unfortunately, prying eyes and unlocked computers can lead to data leaks. That’s why protecting sensitive information is everyone’s responsibility.
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Follow these four tips for securing your sensitive information:
- Declutter your Workspace
Be conscious of what information is visible on your desk when others are in the room. Stacks of paper invite prying eyes. Put printed documents, sticky notes and notebooks in a drawer when you leave your desk. Any documents that you need to keep for a period of time should be kept out-of-site – locked drawers and filing cabinets are good choices. Remove any items such as sticky notes or documents that may contain sensitive information that
areno longer needed.
- Securely dispose of information
Any files or documents that are removed as a result of your decluttering should be disposed of securely. This includes shredding them yourself with a paper shredder or using a trusted third-party service. Shredding the documents ensures that even if the documents are recovered as a result of dumpster diving, they will be useless. When disposing of computers,
the harddrives should be securely wiped or destroyed.
- Lock your workstation
Be conscious of what information is displayed for others to view, even if they are just walking by your workspace. If you’re leaving your desk for even a minute to grab a cup of coffee or water, it is always a good idea to lock your workstation. If your workstation is locked, this prevents anyone from tampering with your PC. A popular prank at our office is to change a victim’s desktop background to an unsavory picture. On a more serious note, leaving your workstation unlocked could expose sensitive information the same way leaving out documents or sticky notes could. Locking your PC is as simple as hitting the “Windows” and “L” key at the same time.
- Protect data outside of the office
When working in a public setting such as an airport or coffee shop, it’s a good idea to make sure that sensitive information cannot be viewed by anyone around you. This is often called “Shoulder Surfing” and scammers use this technique to gather information. You might want to consider a computer screen privacy filter. When storing a laptop in a car, place it in the vehicle’s trunk or under a seat so it is not visible. Often vehicle break ins are crimes of opportunity, so it is recommended to keep valuables out of sight. For the IT folks: consider encrypting the hard drives on laptops, then if a laptop does go missing you have less to worry about.