There are a number of instances when you would need to trust an outsider with confidential details about your business. Talking to an agency to take over your marketing operations would require you to divulge your current sales figures. An investor looking at sponsoring your next round of funding will need to know your revenue and profit numbers. Any potential leak of information could be quite devastating for your business. So how do you make sure that details you divulge to a third party is not leaked to your competitors?
Get an NDA signed
Getting a non-disclosure agreement signed by your vendor or investor is the first and most important step when it comes to protecting your trade information. While the rest of the tips provided in this article are precautionary, none of those will come to your aid when your details are actually leaked by a third party. A business entity that signs an NDA is legally obliged to keep the information obtained from you secret. Failure to do so opens them up to a lawsuit. In other words, an NDA is the only weapon you need to enforce a third party from leaking your confidential information.
Use secure document sharing
Too often, confidential details about your business get leaked, not from third party contractors, but from one of your own employees. Confidential documents are often shared over regular file sharing services that may be accessible to third party users. Some file sharing services also allow their shared files to be crawled by Google which could potentially make your files accessible to everyone. This is why it’s important to invest in a virtual data room that will ensure that your documents are only accessible to people you authorized to have access to them. Virtual data rooms are extremely popular during M&As, fundraising, IPOs and strategic partnerships.
Shred documents periodically
In the age of digital data there is no real excuse to still hold on to physical copies of information. Thanks to laws like the ESIGN act, even agreements and contracts may be electronically signed. In other words, your business should actively dissuade its employees from printing any document, confidential or otherwise, unless it is absolutely essential. It is also a good idea to establish a company-wide practice to shred all physical documents in circulation at least once a week. This is an effective step to prevent any document from inadvertently landing in the wrong hands.
Secure your computer
It may be a tad unrealistic to block your employees’ access to the internet, especially to social media sites like Facebook. But in doing so, you are opening your computer to potential hacking as well as risk getting affected by viruses, spyware and ransomeware scripts. Healthcare and financial institutions that have a legal obligation to protect customer information ought to completely block these records from being stored on the same networks that also accesses public internet services.
Other institutions will need to look at other ways to secure business data from being hacked. One of the most effective ways to do this is to house all documents on the cloud which can then be accessed by users authorized via 2FA (two-factor authentication). In addition to this, keep the antivirus software on your staff computers up to date and regularly conduct workshops that teach your employees what they can and cannot do from a work computer.