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August 11, 2015

Breach of the peace

Why physical documentation is as much at risk of data breaches as digital – and what your business can do about it.

By Cbr Rolling Blog

Breach of the peace: Why physical documentation is as much at risk of data breaches as digital – and what your business can do about it

"There are two kinds of consumers — those who know they’ve been breached, and those who don’t," said Eva Velasquez, Identity Theft Resource Center president and CEO in Time magazine1. Data security breaches are an all-too-common plague of the 21st century. From banks, healthcare firms, ecommerce companies, even to small bakeries, businesses of all size and their customers are at risk of having their data compromised. And chances are, it’s happened to you, whether or not you know about it.

Organisations have a legal and a moral requirement to protect customer data, and the regulatory environment is growing increasingly complex surrounding data protection. The Data Protection Act in the UK is in place to protect the privacy and integrity of data held on individuals, and gives individuals the rights to access their data, and correct it if appropriate, and applies to digital and paper-based systems.

For most businesses, when it comes to the minefield of data protection we think largely of digital information, but data in both digital and physical form need to be managed, maintained and protected. Digital data clearly pose many challenges in compliancy – and many of the high-profile cases of data breaches refer to digital communication.

However, many types of transactional printed communications, such as invoices, statements, insurance notices and product recalls are subject to the same regulations as electronic data. Data held in physical format is equally as high a security risk, but requires an entirely different strategic approach to its management.

This type of communication contains some of the most sensitive data on customers and individuals. As 61%2 of us prefer to receive bills and invoices by physical mail, it’s clear the pressure is on for those businesses generating high volumes of physical customer communications but seeking to maintain data security, protect customers and achieve compliance. Businesses need to address and overcome risks including:

– Human error: time-intensive, manual preparation of high-volume transactional post results in mistakes being made
– Inaccurately addressed transactional documentation remaining undelivered or being returned
– Intentional mail interception by staff during the mail production process to source customer data
– Customer data being lost during office moves due to inefficient physical filing methods
– Fraud, as post is deliberately diverted to alternative addresses
– Physical documentation being unlawfully removed during theft

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There are many secure methods of storing physical documentation such as bank safety boxes, an access-restricted document viewing room and off-premise archiving, but when a business is constantly generating physical communications, this movement and fluidity of documentation poses a major challenge. To address this and maintain data security and compliance, businesses are building safeguards into the earliest stages of a document’s creation by rolling out watertight Document Integrity processes and systems.

The objective of Document Integrity is to ensure the document creation and change processes generate sound, correct and valid documents – so from document creation through to print output and mail, every stage is specifically designed to protect data and achieve compliance. It enables businesses to provide evidence that appropriate best practices, processes and controls are in place.

Document Integrity ensures a high degree of data protection as with mailing for example, private information is inserted into the envelope without risk of being compromised by human handling; and inaccurate information, duplication of paperwork and missing content is eliminated. It also brings financial benefits, including:

– Reduced costs previously generated by manual handling
– Eliminated costs of returned and undelivered communications
– Minimised risk of penalties for non-compliance
– Elimination of loss of revenue from reduction of Customer Lifetime Value as customers remove their business when data is compromised

Document Integrity requires a thoughtful and diligent approach, ideally combining file-based processing with industry best practice: file-based processing provides the highest level of Document Integrity, with proof that every customer’s mail piece was assembled correctly.

It maximises accuracy without sacrificing production speed, letting businesses know what is happening at any time during the mail run. It also quickly identifies and fixes errors and provides an audit trail for every page processed. Until recently, File Based Processing was used almost exclusively for high-volume production environment. With advances in technology and new innovations, File Based Processing is becoming more accessible for SMBs.

File Based Processing Systems can:

– Include scanners and cameras to visually inspect documents and pick up inaccuracies that would remain undetected to the human eye
– Add barcodes, enabling precision in tracking documentation
– Add Optical Mark Reading (OMR), 1D and 2D Barcodes and Machine-Readable Data File (MRDF)
– Generate files necessary for highest levels of mail piece integrity
– Maintain compliance with industry regulations by ensuring the right piece goes in the right envelope, working with existing print streams to add scan codes for accurate mail assembly

Combining high-performance technology with industry best practices and rolling these out to suppliers, partners and staff, creates a robust protective environment for physical documentation. It means organisations can protect their physically printed information with the same level of security as their digital data.


1 As quoted in Time magazine
2 Pitney Bowes Leflein Associates research

By Andrew Ford, VP, Marketing & Communications, Pitney Bowes.

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