Technology and the College Generation

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  • As a professor who favors pop quizzes, Cedrick May is used to grimaces from students caught unprepared. But a couple of years ago, in his class on early American literature at the University of Texas at Arlington, he said he noticed “horrible, pained looks” from the whole class when they saw the questions. He soon learned that the students did not know he had changed the reading assignment because they did not check their e-mail regularly, if at all. To the students, e-mail was as antiquated as the spellings “chuse” and “musick” in the works by Cotton Mather and Jonathan Edwards that they read on their electronic books.

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Silent Circle will “move on” from NSA-associated encryption standards, but is that necessary?

Gigaom

The secure communications provider Silent Circle is pretty upset about the apparent betrayal of the cryptographic community by the NSA, so it’s moving away from encryption standards that the intelligence agency helped develop.

Silent Circle, co-founded by PGP author Phil Zimmermann, provides encrypted mobile and desktop voice and text services for personal and enterprise use. In a blog post on Monday, the company said it would soon adopt new defaults to replace certain widely-used standards that came out of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) with the co-operation or guidance of NSA representatives.

Steering clear

While NIST is a highly-respected standards body, it was recently forced to advise against the use of its own Dual_EC_DRBG random number generator after Edward Snowden’s leaks suggested it had been subverted by NSA representatives involved in the standardization process. Long story short: the NSA seems to have set constants in…

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DerSpiegel – NSA Aftermath: German Firms Scramble To Boost Data Protection

General Keith Alexander, director of NSA, chief of CSS and commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, speaks during a hacker convention in Las Vegas

SPIEGEL ONLINE International Companies in Germany Scramble to Strengthen Data Protection Abilities NSA Aftermath: German Firms Scramble to Boost Data Protection By SPIEGEL Staff REUTERS German companies have long suspected China and Russia of trying to steal their secrets. But the NSA scandal has turned their attention west, forcing them to worry about prying American […]

Once more unto the breach, dear friends

2040 information law blog

For some time, the Information Commissioner’s Office has advised organisations of all shapes and sizes to indulge in the masochistic activity of ‘breach notification’. Though taken to absurd levels of hair-shirtery in the NHS and some councils, the belief that any attention-grabbing data-related cock-up must automatically be reported to the ICO is widely held. I offer a modest prize for anyone can find me the interview in which Christopher Graham – earlier in his tenure – mistakenly claimed that breach notification was mandatory. I sometimes cause a frisson in training sessions when I quietly suggest that there is no such obligation, and on one memorable occasion, I was even shouted at by an angry Data Protection Officer who had just told his employer that they were obliged to report. My advice, gentle reader, is that if you think that reporting an incident to the ICO will improve your compliance with…

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Knowledge is power: Industrial espionage, data protection and the quest for meaning

There are people who suffer from a specific condition of the mind called hyperthymesia. It is a neurological condition where one cannot forget anything that has ever taken place in his life. The effect of such a condition is destructive because knowledge is based on forgetting.

Without this ability, we wouldn’t be able to make sense of anything since everything would be always present. Meaning comes through the choice of what needs to be remembered and what can and should be forgotten. Like when you bring in your mind the image of a forest, first, we need to forget about the details of all those single trees.

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If this is the condition of the human mind, what does this mean in a world based on data collection and management? Or, to pose the question in a different manner, if in order to create knowledge the human mind needs to forget, what data does an organization or a business needs to put aside? Should there be an expiration date, where after it passes, certain data collected loses meaning and has to be deleted or should we hold on to all data forever? Would this be meaningful? What needs to be protected?

The right management of data is power. The choices organizations make on what to keep and what to “forget” makes them more or less effective. What remains is all that gives meaning to their existence; valuable pieces of data which when combined produce knowledge.

Knowledge is Power. People know it, companies know it, nation states know it. In this context, certain data need to be protected just like certain data can be forgotten. It makes sense.

In a recent article from Der Spiegel, after the recent NSA scandal and the revelations of large scale data mining by the USA, the author claims that data protection and security has become an issue of even greater importance.

As noted in the article, executives in many companies in Germany have become increasingly nervous and have taken extreme defensive measures. Specific documents that were sent by email are now delivered in paper to the recipient. The only data that are still sent via email are those that have no real value and the company would have no issue posting publicly.

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It has become common knowledge among companies that they have to protect themselves from the eyes of competitors. Spies are everywhere.

They might be working for an intelligence agency or an industrial giant. They might be plain amateurs. What is clear though is that there is a secret war taking place in the web. Just like in real wars, there are armies of mercenaries waiting for the highest bidder to buy their services. Knowledge is power.

In Germany, the number of attacks every day is in the hundreds of thousands. The United Kingdom reports 120.000 attacks every day. Only in the state of Utah according to a report made by the chief information officer and executive director of the Utah Department of Technology Services there are more than 20.000.000 attacks per day, while in a most alarming news story, according to officials of the National Nuclear Security Administration, the agency in charge of U.S.A.’s nuclear weapons, reports their computer systems face millions of hacking attempts daily! The number of attacks increases by the day all over the world. It is well documented.

To secure your business’s data, in these conditions, is not an easy task. However, there are trained professionals that have proven themselves on the field of data protection. Companies that can give you a sense of security when it comes to insuring that your valuable pieces of data that give meaning to your organization’s existence and well being will not be lost. Companies that will help you manage effectively the increasing cost and complexity of data growth, of what to keep and what to “forget”. That will train your staff on critical elements of data protection.

Maybe this is the most crucial choice that you will have to make. The choice of the professional you will trust to help you fight most effectively a war of increasing importance; the war for knowledge.

And this is something you should not forget: this war is not a matter of choice.

Records Management And Its Importance

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Brazil (1985), Terry Gilliam’s masterwork

Have you seen the film Brazil from director Terry Gilliam? It is a futuristic sci-fi dystopian story with a comic element of a man lost inside a bureaucratic world of paper and archives. A man trying to find the woman of his dreams – a woman that appears in his dreams – while working in a mind-numbing job, in a consumer driven world where everyone is over relied on poorly maintained and functioning machines.

In the world of Brazil “errors” happen often. Just like when a fly got jammed in a printer causing it to misprint a file. The result of this “error” was the death of Mr. Archibald Buttle instead of the suspected “terrorist” Archibald Tuttle.

Well, this doesn’t have to be the way your life looks like. Even if you haven’t found your dream girl yet – in your dreams or in reality – in a world based on information, archiving and managing correctly saves time, space and money. And prevents costly errors that could put you and your organization in trouble!

The term that describes this process is “records management”.

Records management is all about maintaining the different kinds of records of a specific type of an organization from the time they start existing to their eventual disposal.

But it is not just about maintaining records. It is also about organizing these records in a way that they can be functional and easy to use.

Moreover, it is about making sure that everything that should be kept as a record will be retained while also deciding for how long this record should be kept, in which specific location, who will have access. And when (if ever) it should be destroyed.

Therefore we speak of a process that includes classification, storage, security, preservation and even destruction (when necessary) of records. It is a process which while it might seem boring or trivial it is crucial for the well being of any type of organization.

Either you believe it or not, there is even an ISO standard for those who develop a records management program. According to Wikipedia, the ISO 15489-1:2001 standard defines record management as:

“[the] field of management responsible for the efficient and systematic control of the creation, receipt, maintenance, use and disposition of records, including the processes for capturing and maintaining evidence of and information about business activities and transactions in the form of records”

Even like that, even when there is an accepted standard of records management which makes it systematic and scientific, the decision of what is a record, and how long it should be kept is never an easy one. The choice seems to be made through a combination of prescribed practice and an unavoidable amount of subjectivity depending of course on the documents in question.

So let’s start from the beginning and ask the key question: “what is a record?”

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Film and media storage at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington

While for you fans of music, a record might be a round thin object that when put in a specific type of machine called record player, you can hear the music of your choice, in reality, a record can be this and many more different things: From a tangible object like a paper note, to bits and bytes in your computer.

In a hospital a record might be the medical x-rays of patients with a specific disease, or the documents that describe who would eat what and when. It could be databases of materials used and the cost of these materials, even emails. Different types of information and evidence in different formats. Records, therefore, have value and add to the intrinsic worth of the organization.

For example, for an organization like a hospital it is crucial to have the information on a patient in a correct and an efficient manner. Any time lost or any information given incorrectly might be extremely costly. Therefore, what is then evident is that it is necessary to make crucial choices about what the value of information is: To create a functioning hierarchy of necessities based on time and space.

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Medical Records

To make it simple what we have to do is to decide what is more important, what is going to be used more often, what might not be used so often but is of great interest and value to the organization.

So, what are records for an organization?

1)    Records are the foundation of a business daily functioning and therefore need to be organized in an efficient and meaningful manner. The more efficiently an organization’s records are managed the greater their value for the organization. If it is not easy to access and use them efficiently it makes life much more difficult, a bit like the film Brazil, a bureaucratic nightmare. And we do not want that. Do we?

2)    Records are vital. There is unique and irreplaceable information that might not have to do with a business daily functioning but require special protection, such as annual reports or shareholder records. For these specific pieces of information there should be a well defined disaster recovery plan or operation.

3)    Records can also be the source of an organization’s richness, the heart that makes everything working. Such a record, for example, is the secret recipe that makes Coca-cola what it is. It is the “heart” of the organization and needs to be protected at any cost.

4)    Records are finally a necessity by law. In Greece, for example, every television station is obliged by the law to keep a 24 hour record of its program for a time period of 12 months. In many different countries companies are obliged by the law to keep and store records for many different purposes.

For all this and many more reasons, either you are a small or a big company, you need an expert in record management.

Iron Mountain is the industry leader in storage and information management services since 1951 with 156.000 customers in 32 different countries on 5 continents bringing solutions on every records management issue that your business might have. Iron Mountain has clients in healthcare, in the public sector and the entertainment industry, in the energy sector and the manufacturing industries.  Iron Mountain is also considered an expert for those small or medium enterprises who just want to make sure that they will have this competitive advantage that will permit them to keep growing.

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Records Management & Document Storage Solutions by Iron Mountain

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Iron Mountain truck in downtown Boston.

So here you have it. Record management is a crucial part for the everyday activities of any organization.

An efficient management can make our lives a lot easier. And this is crucial not just for those who work within these organizations but also for the efficiency of these organizations and those people who interact with these organizations. These might be customers, or employees from different organizations, patients if we speak of hospitals or students if we speak of schools.

An efficient record management makes life better for everyone. It makes society better. And that is the issue. To avoid those “errors” that can have a cost. To make life simpler. And that is not a small thing. Don’t you agree?