October 17, 2022

Best Practices to Protect Printed Classified Documents

Printed classified documents pose several challenges related to information breach. Get practical tips to store them securely.

Classified documents are essential for storing and transferring sensitive information. And the security of these documents is maintained by keeping them locked in a safe or filing cabinet. However, when you print these documents, you risk losing them and compromising their content. In this article, we share practical tips on maintaining classified documents to ensure the integrity of their data remains protected.

What are Classified Documents and What’s the Need for Protecting them?

A classified document is a document marked as requiring special handling. The markings may specify the level of secrecy, such as confidential, secret, and top secret. The purpose of marking a document as classified is to protect sensitive information from unauthorized disclosure.

Classified documents are usually produced by government agencies and contractors working on government projects. They find a range of uses, including protecting sources and methods and preventing the release of sensitive information.

Ways to Protect Printed Classified Documents

Here are some tips you can use to protect classified documents.

Store Physical Documents in a Safe

If you're storing physical documents, the most important thing you can do to protect them is to keep them in a safe. It will help prevent theft and damage and make it harder for someone who doesn't have permission to access the documents.

The safe's door should be strong enough to resist damage from fire or water leaks. It should also remain resistant to prying open with a crowbar or other tools. The inside of the safe should have shelves for holding files. There may also be space for flash drives if you want to store those items in your safe.

Use a Paper Shredder

When you no longer need your classified document, instead of just tossing it in the trash, use a paper shredder. You can find paper shredders at any office supply store, and they come in all shapes and sizes.

Shredding your documents before you dispose of them will make it much more difficult for people to read them. While you can use a regular office shredder, we recommend using a heavy-duty paper shredder that can handle more than one page at once.

You should also essentially use a cross-cut shredder instead of a strip-cut one so that the pieces are small enough to be unusable by anyone who might try and reassemble them.

Promote a Clean-Desk Policy

A desk is an extension of an employee. It is where they keep everything from their laptop to files and every other document they are working on. And it is also a space that’s not privy to everyone.

When you implement a clean-desk policy, ensure all employees are familiar with it and adhere to the norms. It means no papers on desks, no stacks of paper or documents placed on top of cabinets or file drawers. The aim is to keep things organized and reduce the likelihood of documents getting misplaced or lost.

Create Information Backup

You may think that physical documents are safe, but they can actually be more vulnerable than you think. They're easier to damage and difficult to protect than electronic copies and remain susceptible to theft.

You should ensure your company's most sensitive documents remain backed up and stored in a secure location. It is also better to consider scanning your classified documents into digital form and placing them on a secure server. They will never be lost or damaged in the event of an emergency.

Conduct Training and Awareness Sessions

Conduct regular training and awareness sessions on the importance of protecting classified documents. You want everyone to know how important it is to keep this data safe from unauthorized access or release. It is also critical for employees to understand what could happen if they don't follow procedures for handling this information appropriately.

Ask Employees to Share Non-Disclosure Agreements

Non-disclosure agreements are a great way to protect your company's intellectual property and classified information. If you have an employee who has access to sensitive documents, ask them to sign an NDA at the beginning of their employment. This will ensure they understand the importance of protecting your company's information.

If your employees are unsure how to handle confidential information, consider adding a section to their annual review process. It should address the importance of keeping information confidential and have clear guidelines on how they can do that while still doing their jobs.

Implement a Strict Policy

Every company needs a strict policy regarding the handling of confidential data. The policy should clearly state who has access to what information and how it should be stored, retrieved, deleted, etc.

The norms should be according to the requirements of each department within the organization. It will not cause any confusion among employees regarding where they can find information related to their work.

Limit Access to Information

Only certain people should have access to certain documents and files. You also need to ensure these people are trustworthy enough to handle this kind of information and that they will not share it with anyone else.

It is also critical for you to know who has access to what information. If something does happen, such as a breach in security, you can take action quickly and minimize any damage.


Best Practices While Protecting Classified Information

If you are a professional who needs to protect classified information, you should be aware of the following:


Classified information can be classified at the lowest level, confidential, or higher levels, such as top secret. Most organizations use a standard classification system for all documents with classified information. You may find that some other companies use different classification systems. In these cases, you will need to determine how your company's system is structured around protecting classified confidential data.

Protective Markings

The words "classified" or "confidential" may not always be present on documents containing classified information. When they are not present, you should be very careful about whom you share this information with.

Marking your Workstation

Your workstation should have a marking with the appropriate classification level for everything. It includes hard drives and memory sticks that store classified data and any printed material with classified information.

Rules and Regulations

You should always follow the rules and regulations of your organization. The organization will have its own policies and procedures governing the handling and storage of sensitive material. You should always follow these guidelines. Failure to do so may result in disciplinary action or even criminal charges.

Handling Precautions

Always use appropriate precautions when handling sensitive material. For example, when transporting classified information from one place to another, you should send it by secure methods. Your organization may also have specific rules regarding what device you can use to store classified information (e.g., no flash drives).

Bottom Line

There are several means you can adopt to protect your classified information, ranging from old-school to high-tech. It is essential to evaluate the options based on your budget, resources, and the classification level of the material you're trying to protect. If possible, try more than one method to ensure you get good coverage.

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