How to Protect Confidential Information in the Digital Workplace


Last Updated: July 8th, 2020

Guest Post by Lori Wade

The current business environment is incredibly competitive and relentless. With excessive competition, companies will take any measure necessary to surpass the competition. That includes stealing sensitive information from their competitors. This is a serious offense that could cost the company millions in fines, while CEOs get prison time for several years. Nevertheless, companies still take that risk.

However, companies are not the only threats that you face in this industry, as hackers can hold your private and confidential information ransom. Hence why your company must protect its confidential information, especially since all it takes to hack into a company is an internet connection and a laptop.

To preserve the integrity of your business, here are a few ways that you can protect and improve the protection of your confidential information:

1. Limit access

The first thing that you can do to secure your company better is to limit the access of confidential information to a handful of people. And although transparency is vital to building trust within the company, it should not come at the cost of the company’s secrets. For this, we recommend using virtual data room security. Keep employees on a need to know basis and keep a handful of people that you can trust with sensitive information.

Giving only a few people access to sensitive information can reduce the risk of information spreading. Furthermore, when fewer people know, the easier it will be to track down the leak in the system.

2. Notify the new employer

Employees leave their jobs to move on and develop their careers elsewhere; it’s a part of their journey and happens all the time. Whether it is because of disputes over the locale, payment, or travel times, it is not uncommon for employees to go for better jobs; especially when they are in higher positions. And if that employee had access to confidential information, you can send a letter to your competitor, informing them about the legal obligations that their new employee has.

While this may not be news to the recipient, it shows that the former company is aware of its legal bindings. This makes for a chilling legal effect, which can stop the new company from enticing your former employees.

3. Conduct an exit interview

Speaking of your employees leaving, it is always important for you to conduct an exit interview before they leave. The exit interview is not just a formality; it is a reminder that your employee should return any tangible confidential information to the company. This is also the time that you should remind them of their legal obligation to your company about the disclosure of company secrets.

Of course, the exit interview should not be a threat to your employee; treat it instead like a friendly reminder of their agreements.

4. Review NDAs of all your employees

NDAs, or non-disclosure agreements, are paramount in the information age. They legally bind your employees to keep company secrets; otherwise, the company can take them to court. However, these NDAs are only valid until a certain period, after which confidential information is no longer subject to the contract.

You will have to look out for this, as the end of the NDA means that employees can freely share confidential information without any consequence. So be sure to check this timeframe on your NDAs before signing them.

5. Add a confidentiality policy to your employee handbook

If you do not already have a confidentiality policy in your employee handbook, now would be a good time to include one. This clause also has to spell out how your employees will be handling this confidential information. A good example of this is the disposing of documents.

Instead of simply placing documents in the recycling bin or the garbage, employees handling sensitive information should shred tangible evidence and permanently delete files. This agreement will also have to be consistent with other employment agreements as well as other legal obligations.

6. Add non-disclosure provisions to employment contracts

Now, this is not necessary for every employee in a company. After all, not everyone will have access to confidential information. That being said, this should be a part of any employment contract in which the employee will be allowed to access company secrets. The contract should also be clear on what the company considers confidential or not.

The contract should hold the employee accountable for returning tangible company secrets to the rightful owners. And even though there are laws regarding confidentiality among employees, these provisions show that your company takes this matter very seriously.

7. Label the information

In court, employees who violate their NDA and disclose company secrets can claim that they did not know the information was confidential. And if proved to be correct, the employee will not have to face any charges. Therefore, putting distinctly visible labels on classified documents can save your company a fortune and can avoid mistakes like your employees accidentally disclosing company secrets.

Labeling should be on both hardcopy documents and softcopy files, and the label can be something simple like "Property of XYZ Company" or "Classified."

8. Develop confidentiality training

Other than spelling out confidential proceedings for your employees in their handbook, a training program can also prove to be very beneficial for them. As part of an onboarding process, employees will be able to learn how to handle classified information.

Of course, seminars held in the office are not necessary, as online training and videos can also make for great learning experiences. The benefit of online videos is also that employees can access it at any time.

The bottom line

All of the different points and suggestions above can be summarized to train your employees, to handle classified information and inform them of confidential policies. These two alone are possibly the best ways to improve the security of company secrets and will allow your company to protect its assets better.

The best part about these steps is that none of them violate your employee’s trust, while still allowing you to maintain a healthy relationship with your employees. In conclusion, taking active steps to protect your confidential information is a necessity in the age of a digital workplace.

Lori Wade is a writer who is interested in a wide range of spheres from business to entrepreneurship and new technologies. If you are interested in M&A or virtual data room industry, you can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn or find her on other social media. 

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