Confessions of a professional paper shredder
Data leak from a company's waste could have serious consequences
When you throw photocopies of your passport or bank account details into the bin, are you disposing of them properly?
Mr Duncan Brown, general manager of document destruction service provider Shred-it, feels people do not realise how much danger their waste opens them up to.
Mr Brown, who is in his 30s, told The New Paper: "It surprises me how easy it is to get hold of data in Singapore. Paper is traded on the streets in the (Central Business District) and cleaning teams take them out onto the streets.
"This data comes from companies, so often it contains personal data or very sensitive corporate info."
Shred-it offers professional shredding services to ensure that the disposal of both paper and non-paper information is done properly.
The company has five shredding trucks that travel across the island to its clients.
They handle 170,000kg of paper every month, and also help companies dispose of data storage hardware.
Shred-it places secure bins in their clients' offices so that employees can dispose waste like paper documents or storage devices like thumbdrives and harddisks. Only Shred-it staff and a manager in the office have access to these bins.
Depending on the customer's request for frequency, Shred-it sends a shredder to the office to destroy the documents. Staff then open up these bins and take the waste down to their truck, where it is destroyed.
The shredder is operated by one of Shred-it's staff members in the truck.
TNP saw how one of Shred-it's machines made quick work of the waste that came from an office, almost instantly breaking the documents down.
Mr Brown said the shredded items are recycled.
He said a data leak from a company's waste could have serious consequences because the data collected would not be used for the purpose it was intended for.
"There is also a knock-on effect that tends to affect customer perception," said Mr Brown.
"Companies will have to spend more to rebuild their reputation or spend more to attract customers because of this deficit in trust."
Last year, a report from online news website The Middle Ground revealed an entire trash bag filled with UOB documents was found in June behind the bank's headquarters at Raffles Place, including several corporate statements, loan applications, and internal reports from the bank.
“I have seen people throw away documents containing bank account numbers, passport details, salary information, credit card information...”Mr Duncan Brown of Shred-it
Mr Brown said: "That really isn't the worst that I have come across. I have seen people throw away documents containing bank account numbers, passport details, salary information, credit card information, the list goes on."
Secrets of the trade
- You have to be a meticulous person to handle the sensitive information of clients. There is no room for error.
- There are strict protocols to follow when it comes to the proper disposal of data. You and your staff have to follow them, so people management skills are essential.
- Different companies have different concerns when it comes to the management of their data, so it helps to keep an open mind.
One of the most dangerous things that can happen when criminals get hold of your information is that they impersonate you and then commit fraud, warned Mr Brown.
But he added the situation in Singapore is improving, with the Personal Data Protection Act in place.
Still, he said: "You don't need to hack to get people's information these days.
"If you would password-protect your computer, if you would have a passcode to restrict access to your office and your secure documents, shouldn't you think about how they're disposed of as well?"