Nitro Blog

Why Paper Documents are a Security Risk in the Workplace


With the proliferation of mobile devices and cloud solutions, it’s no surprise that security has become a top priority for IT professionals in 2015. According to a 2013 study by Ponemon Institute, 75% of companies are reporting external data security breaches, most of which are happening in the areas of business and customer information.

Internal security risks are on the minds of IT leaders as well: 54% of participants in an IDC study found that their organization is exposed to considerable risk because of stored company content that is not correctly identified. Additionally, 90% of US organizations experience leakage or loss of sensitive or confidential documents.

Aside from the negative impression these internal security risks could make on clients and customers, 76% say that issues with the way internal document processes are managed impact revenue recognition and can create issues with auditors.

Where is the risk coming from?

Paper creates risk—and employees are still using a lot of it. Our 2014 knowledge worker survey found that 58% of respondents still default to printing out and hand-signing documents received via email, and 27% choose to print out any PDF they need to review.

Paper-filed documents can also cause a lot of trouble—for example, 61% of data breaches within companies of less than 500 employees involve paper records. It’s a format that’s just too easy to destroy, and impossible to track, version or protect. Are you aware how much your organization depends on paper?

Lack of proper tools creates risk. Just 26% of employees in companies with more than 100 employees have access to PDF editors, which leaves the majority with no standard, secure way of getting their PDF files converted. They don’t have time to wait for the IT team (or a friendly PDF editor-equipped neighbor) to transform their files, and a “free PDF converter” is just a Google search away.

A busy user who just wants to be able to work on their file won’t likely take the time to vet the legitimacy of the various free conversion options. Though their file may be converted successfully, its contents have been uploaded to a database somewhere, and whether or not that information remains secure is anyone’s guess.

Ad-hoc sharing creates risk. Does your organization provide a secure document sharing/mobile access solution for your employees? Well, 77% do NOT.

In fact, 85% rely on sharing tools like DropBox,, USB drives, and email attachments—none of which are truly secure. With the most common occurrences of data theft or loss of sensitive information happening in these (often selected) channels, it appears that people are engaging in some risky business.

Lack of visibility and traceability creates risk. When you send an email attachment, it goes to the person on the “to” line…doesn’t it?

When you can’t track the path of a doc, you don’t know if it’s getting to the right people at the right time. You don’t know who else might be seeing it, or if it’s being processed in the intended manner. Case in point, an IDC study that reports:

  • 55% can’t tell whether a doc has been viewed/reviewed/signed by appropriate people, and cite difficulty getting status and visibility into the process.
  • 38% cite difficulty relating documents or versions of docs to important context.

How can you lock it down?

First thing’s first—nix the paper. It’s on its way out of the business ecosystem anyway, and really presents more cons than pros in the grand scheme.

Simultaneously, make sure employees have the right tools to create, edit, sign, and collaborate on documents with colleagues—since paper will be on its way out. A good document productivity tool such as Nitro is a great option for meeting these needs, and its ease of deployment and familiar interface means you can get up and running with it in no time.

Click here to find out more about why IT leaders are switching to Nitro.

You also need to get smart with your document tracking, but what exactly does that mean? There are tools available that will allow you to track a document through its entire lifecycle, ensuring the right people see it at the right time, and that they’re handling the document correctly.

When it comes time to store the document, you can also enact permissions to ensure only select people have access. It’s the way of the future! (But really, it’s happening right now—check it out here.)

Business leaders see real upside in this approach, and say that resolving issues with document processes like those cited above will result in a 23% risk reduction, according to an IDC study.

Want to learn more about how document issues affect security? Join us for our free webinar—you can register here.

You can explore how Nitro improves your organization’s document processes without making any commitment by getting started with a free team trial—just click here to let us know you’re interested.

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