World Paper Free Day: ignore this paper thin security scare


So, today is 'World Paper Free Day' apparently and I'm not sure whether it's appropriate to buy a card in the circumstances. Joking aside, what I am sure of is that such Hallmark days do provide an opportunity for press releases to be thrown in my general direction. And so it was that yesterday one pops into my inbox proclaiming "Paper revealed as the top threat to information security." What rot! Before even reading a word of the release itself I knew that it was going to be rubbish that, if it were on paper, I would screw into a ball and with an athletic flounce chuck into the bin. I was not wrong, and here's why.

"Paper the top threat to information security say two-thirds of UK firms. Iron Mountain/PwC study reveals just 15 per cent have a team focused specifically on paper protection" screams the strap line. "The handling of paper documents is the single greatest threat to the protection of information, according to a recent study by storage and information management company Iron Mountain and PwC launched ahead of World Paper Free Day on November 6th" it continues, before informing me that 66 per cent of mid-sized companies regard the management of information on paper as a serious security risk, and that's more than double the number that fear external threats to digital content such as hacking and malware.

Can you spot the two big problems there? The first is obvious, and that is this bit of news was brought to you by a 'storage and information management' company, so no vested interest there then. The second is the wholly ridiculous claim that handling of paper is 'the single greatest threat' to information protection. Have I said "what rot" already? Yes, I have, good. If this was actually the case, in an increasingly digital world, then all our fears about cyber criminals, malware and data breaches could be solved by concentrating on removing paper from the equation and by so doing eliminating paper. How does that apply to those businesses who are, indeed, pretty much paper-free already? Can they save a small fortune by not bothering about protecting the digital data now then?

Look, I'm not completely stupid; I do understand that paper documents represent a security risk within any organisation that does not have appropriate strategies in place to mitigate risk wherever it occurs in the business. That means ensuring that any legacy archives are properly secured, access properly restricted and disposal properly supervised. All that should go without saying, as should suggesting that paper is the major risk we need to be concentrating on as far as data security is concerned.

I agree with Sue Trombley, Managing Director of Professional Services at Iron Mountain when she says that "organisations need to introduce and monitor effective processes and responsibilities for keeping paper documents safe. While we may never be completely free of paper, we can significantly reduce its associated risk by raising awareness, providing practical processes, and monitoring compliance" and if that was all the press release said I probably wouldn't be writing this news rant right now.

Unfortunately it went further, a lot further, and entered FUD territory by trying to hook a scare story on the back of a Hallmark day with that 'paper top threat to information security' headline...

About the Author

A freelance technology journalist for 30 years, I have been a Contributing Editor at PC Pro (one of the best selling computer magazines in the UK) for most of them. As well as currently contributing to, The Times and Sunday Times via Raconteur Special Reports, SC Magazine UK, Digital Health, IT Pro and Infosecurity Magazine, I am also something of a prolific author. My last book, Being Virtual: Who You Really are Online, which was published in 2008 as part of the Science Museum TechKnow Series by John Wiley & Sons. I am also the only three times winner (2006, 2008, 2010) of the BT Information Security Journalist of the Year title, and was humbled to be presented with the ‘Enigma Award’ for a ‘lifetime contribution to information security journalism’ in 2011 despite my life being far from over...

RobertHDD 15 Posting Whiz in Training

I wish there was a worldwide event that people can get free stuff in an hour

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