What is Document Security — & Why Does It Matter?

Haley Osborne
November 19, 2022
min read
September 19, 2023
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Documentation is the best way to track and manage internal knowledge. But if that documentation isn't secure, things can quickly go wrong. Let's talk document security.
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Protecting internal documents should be a high priority for your business. Documents containing customer information, contracts, trademarks or anything sensitive are always a target for threat actors. 

Document security means protecting the information contained in documents. This article will explain everything you need to know about document security and how you can protect your sensitive data. We will focus on digital documents, as they are the most vulnerable, and there are many other resources for protecting physical documents.

What is document security?

Document security involves everything regarding the protection of information contained in documents. It includes preventing unauthorized access to documents, preventing theft, and ensuring documents aren’t altered or counterfeited. 

In the past, document security was easier since it only required physical safeguarding. But, organizing an increasing number of documents became difficult, harming business performance. Naturally, as technology evolved, businesses began keeping digital records and documents. Now, document security mainly refers to user access control and other preventive measures to ensure the integrity and security of digital documents.

The importance of document security

Data is the new oil. Your business is only as valuable as your data. Documents are a big part of that data, as they contain valuable information about your business, partners, customers and patents.

Security breaches are more common than ever. Hacker groups target everyone looking to get their hands on sensitive business data. They do this to extract a ransom from victims or sell the data on the dark web.

On top of that, the amount of data each business handles has made human error more likely, resulting in data leaks or loss. Because of these threats, every business must prioritize the security of its documents.

Documents must be handled with care. Yet, achieving document security is easier said than done. Each year, the number of documents each business handles increases. Managing permissions and access to sensitive documents is impossible without a clear document security plan.

How to improve document security

There are several ways any business can improve document security. File encryption is a fundamental measure to ensure document protection. Sending or uploading files in plain text makes them readable to anyone. When documents are encrypted, they can’t be altered or viewed even if they fall into the wrong hands. 

There are two main threats to document security: internal and external.

Internal security

Before instilling measures that protect you from outside threats, you must ensure your documents are secured internally. The best way to do that is through stricter user permissions.

Your business probably has various documents like contracts, employment agreements, NDAs, etc. There is no need for everyone in the company to be able to see these documents. User permissions help you narrow down document access to those people that need it. 

Divide your users into groups and provide each group access at the folder or document level. Granting access to groups instead of individuals is easier as the number of users grows. Only users in that group can view, alter, share, or download the assigned documents. This alone will significantly reduce the risk of internal threats. 

External security

Another threat you must consider is hackers or other malicious external actors who may try to access your documents. Your online accounts, particularly messaging and data storage platforms, are crucial for document security. 

Protect these accounts with strong passwords to maximize security. Provide your employees with an enterprise password manager to easily generate and store strong passwords for crucial accounts. That will immensely decrease the possibility of a successful cyberattack, directed at your business.

User access control will also help with external threats as there will be a limit on how many employees can share documents throughout the organization or externally.

Other document security tips

Delete documents you no longer need

It’s inevitable that the number of documents you deal with increases over the years. But that doesn’t mean you can’t control the increase. Delete all documents that are no longer needed or are outdated. For example, expired contracts, old employment agreements, outdated internal documentation, etc.

Create backups

Having a single copy of a sensitive document is playing with fire. A simple mistake can destroy the only copy you have and disrupt operations. You should create multiple backups, especially for critical documents. With the right settings, cloud storage allows for an easy and consistent way to create backups.

Include watermarks on documents

Adding watermarks on public-facing documents is a great way to signal ownership. It can also signal confidentiality, prompting users to be more careful when dealing with such documents.

Final thoughts

Document security is a challenging yet necessary step that businesses must take continuously. Security breaches and human error are the main ways your documents can come under threat. Implement strict user access control rules and protect your cloud storage with strong passwords to maximize security.

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