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Top UK information security threat is... paper?

A little insight into life at ITProPortal – aside from bringing you daily news, features, guides and regular podcasts and live blogs, we cover interesting studies published by tech companies, which usually correspond with something topical. This particular study by PwC and Iron Mountain ties in very nicely with World Paper Free Day, which you can celebrate with a trip down memory lane, here.

From a survey of senior managers in over 1,000 North American and European businesses, it was established that just 15 per cent of companies had a team focused specifically on paper protection, though 85 per cent did have a team that managed both paper and information risk.

PwC also found that two thirds of mid-sized companies in the UK regard the management of information on paper as a serious security risk – more than the number that fear external threats to digital content such as hacking and malware.

Read more: A guide to adopting a system of paperless notes

Sue Trombley, managing director of professional services at Iron Mountain said: "All information is vulnerable in some way, but paper and digital records carry different risks that firms need to understand and govern appropriately. In the absence of proper controls and policies, paper can be photocopied – not just once, but many times. It is easily shared and removed and can be left lying around, filed randomly or disposed of in any bin.

"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."

The main difference between physical and digital records, of course, is that paper requires a human hand to steal, so an information leak would have to come from an actual theft, an employee turned rogue, or it getting into the wrong hands by accident. With a photocopier to hand, a physical document can be easily copied and distributed. We've all done it. Right?

Read more: Going paperless: Papworth hospital and CCube

Iron Mountain recommends an "annual clean-up day" to put more focus on the control of paper records, and proper consideration for getting physical documents out of the office environment. With proper guidance, employees can help determine whether to destroy records or send them to a secure off-site storage facility.

PwC surveyed senior managers at 600 European and 600 North American businesses with 250 to 2500 employees and a further 600 firms across both continents with up to 100,000 employees, in the legal, financial services, pharmaceutical, insurance and manufacturing and engineering sectors.

What do you think? Do you need to keep tabs on your office's paper documents? Or is this a load of scare-mongering? Let us know in the comments section below, or stop by for a chat with the ITProPortal team and other readers on ITProPortal's tech talk live chat.