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Defending Your Data
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In his "Nip Impressions" newsletter, Jim Thompson continually reminds us that "safety is an active state of mind." We need to continually be mindful of safety concerns and take steps to protect ourselves.

In the mill, that may mean wearing ear plugs to protect hearing, being aware of where the forklift truck is heading, or otherwise avoiding physical harm.

At the corporate, administrative, and mill management levels, the current hazards of most concern are computer related. Information—one of the most valuable assets a company owns—can be lost or corrupted through cyber crime, hackers, theft, natural disasters, equipment failure, and simple carelessness.

At best, losing data is an inconvenience. At worst, it can lead to lawsuits, customer resentment, unfavorable media attention, and lost revenues. Many companies never recover from a major lose of data and end up going out of business.

As we've become more and more reliant on information technology, we've likewise put considerable trust in the IT department to maintain and protect our data systems. We trust them to regularly backup the data and keep copies of critical information in a secure, off-site location. We trust them to check for viruses and maintain a strong firewall. In essence, we trust them with our very business.

A careless employee may be all it takes to undermine the best efforts of the IT staff, however.

Laptops and jump drives make it easy to transport files and work on the road. They are also easily lost or stolen, along with all the information they carry.

All employees should receive regular training in ways to protect their data and the computer systems they use at work, at home, and anywhere else. They should use secure pass codes, for example, and change them periodically. If they leave their desk – even to go use the restroom – they should not leave sensitive information open on their computer screen. It may be wise to log off to prevent easy access to system files.

Business laptops should be restricted to business use. Employees should not allow other people to use their business laptop. That includes family members and friends.

Jump drives are inexpensive and easy to misplace, yet they can contain extremely valuable information. You might keep better track of these small devices if you imagine they are each made of solid gold (or maybe that the files include naked pictures of yourself).

In planning how to protect company information, think forward and backwards, logically and creatively. What procedures are needed to safeguard data? What steps would you follow if data were lost? What are the weakest points in your data defenses and what can you do to limit your vulnerability?

Remember, protecting computer data is not just IT's job. Every employee has a role in keeping company information secure.

Let's be safe out there.

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