What Happens to Confidential Documents After Shredding Is Part of Document Security Too

By pippalou @ morguefile

According to a recent article in the Palm Beach Post, the Internal Revenue Service estimates it will send out $26 billion in fraudulent tax refunds in the next five years. This is just one way that thieves are profiting from the vital information that’s often too easily available.

All an identity thief needs in order to file a tax return is a Social Security number and a date of birth, a combination of numbers that can be found in many business and personnel files in many offices across the country. Ensuring safe storage and destruction of those confidential documents is of utmost importance to protect your staff and customers from identity thieves.

Shredding of all paper files that contain personal information is standard practice today, but it is not unusual to see bags of shredded paper outside commercial offices awaiting trash or recycling pickup. While companies may feel secure that those shredded documents are safely destroyed, that feeling of security is misplaced. Shredded confidential documents can be reassembled, and new computer programs and technologies that aid in the process are becoming increasingly sophisticated.

High-tech software is not always even required to glean valuable information from shredded documents. In an admittedly extreme example, shredded police documents found their way to the 2012 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade as confetti, according to USA Today. Because the documents were shredded horizontally, entire lines of text were readable right from the strips, including Social Security numbers and phone numbers.

Even cross-shredded files can be recompiled, as was proven by a DARPA shredding challenge, where companies were challenged to reassemble multipage documents that had been shredded into more than 10,000 pieces. The winning team used a combination of software and human verification to assemble the documents and extract the information in only 33 days.

It’s not just the danger to your corporate and customer information that you need to be concerned about. Fines for noncompliance with state and federal privacy legislation can bring hefty penalties that can damage your company’s financial situation. The loss of business that can result from a publicly revealed leak can be catastrophic to a small company.

So, how should a small- or medium-size business secure confidential documents before and after shredding for maximum security?

Documents headed for secure disposal should be placed in locked boxes before they are shredded. This will keep prying eyes and hands of staff, visitors and third-party contractors away.

Companies concerned about document security should not let their document destruction practices begin or end at the process of shredding. Creating a companywide plan that identifies confidential documents and ensures they are safely disposed of can save a company’s secrets, its reputation and keep it in compliance with all the laws relevant to the industry in which it operates.

Gardening With Politicians

Heading back to my community garden plot to water my less-than-happy plants, I found myself keeping company with a local politician. The weird thing about conversations with politicians (not that there aren’t a lot of weird things I could say about politicians in general) is that they seem to need to say their name, given and surname, as frequently as possible in any conversation.

Since I am not a politician, I am quite content to introduce myself with only my given name. After all, a casual introduction at a garden plot does not require any follow-up communication that would require a surname, phone number, or any other details about me.

But after half-introducing myself as “Wendy” and accepting the surname-included introduction of the politician, I somehow felt as though I had been rude by not offering my full name.

There are a number of people that I know only by their first names. Unless I’m very much mistaken, they don’t have any idea of my last name either, yet at least once a week or so we greet each other and have a chat about life, the weather, the number of spider parts allowed in a box of cereal, and other non-essential topics.

And now I’m left wondering if we’ve all been stunting our potential careers in politics by not ensuring that every last person we meet is aware of our full name and middle initial. Mine is J. by the way. Can I count on your vote?

Tales From A Community Garden

The town where I live has started several community garden projects – one at the new community center, and two near elementary schools – to encourage local food production by residents who would not otherwise be able to garden.

I have tried, over the years, to do a bit of container gardening, and even had a tiny raised bed one year, but I have never gone beyond five or six plants. Gardening intimidates me, and the fear of a small failure is less of a hurdle to overcome than failure on a larger scale, square footage-wise.

This year, on a crazy impulse, I decided to take one of the new plots at the community gardens, giving me about three times the gardening space of my largest attempt to date. While this is intimidating, I have high hopes for my success for a number of reasons.

First, at a community garden, gardening is a social activity. The first time I went to the garden to cultivate the plot before planting, I met a number of my fellow gardeners and we griped about the weather and discussed planting strategies while we worked. I was actually a bit disappointed when the job was done as I was enjoying the social time.

Second, there’s a certain amount of peer pressure not to neglect your plot, especially if you’ve met your neighbours. When your garden is hidden in your backyard, it’s a little easier to let your plants drown in weeds or miss out on some watering than when it’s out in the open for the world to see.

Finally, rather than making a garden the reason you can’t go out, a community garden plot makes gardening an outing. I can take my son and we can stop by the garden to water and weed to get out of the house for a while. It helps that the garden is near a 7-11, so after doing a bit of gardening  we can treat ourselves to a Slurpee on hot days.  Now gardening is an outing rather than an excuse for my anti-social behaviour.

So, what am I planting?

So far, I’ve planted a few tomato plants – I’ve had mixed results in the past with tomatoes, but I planted two different types in my garden on the advice of the lovely lady from the garden center who sells at the farmer’s market. I also planted onions, leeks, cabbages, and broccoli.  I put in a row of spinach, though it may be too late to get anything but small leaves before it becomes too hot for the plants, and several rows of carrots.

cukeThe last section of my garden is going to be dedicated to cucumbers, which are my son’s favorite. I haven’t planted them yet, because until yesterday our weather was still a little on the cool side, which I’ve been told is not great for cukes. So, I’ve still got my cucumber plants growing in my windowsill in ever-elegant Red Solo cups. They’ve already started flowering, so I probably should get them to their new home soon.

The weather was just too awful to plant spring lettuce, and now that we’re into June, it’s too late to plant outdoors until fall, but I’ve got a stash of loose leaf and head lettuce seeds I’ll plant in August. Until then I’ll keep planting my lettuce indoors in containers. It doesn’t give me a huge crop, but it’s enough for hamburgers and sandwiches, even if it won’t supply me with meal-size salads.