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Wikileaks, Tsunamis And Revolutions

Wikileaks, Tsunamis And Revolutions

Companies need to protect valuable information in order to achieve resilience, says Abed Shaheen, managing director at InfoFort.


During the First World War, the library of the University of Louvain in Belgium was destroyed during the German invasion. Within a few hours more than 300,000 books as well as many precious manuscripts were reduced to ashes.

In 2003, as flames engulfed Baghdad, its national library was also destroyed. Iraq lost ancient manuscripts, centuries-old books and historical documents from the ancient Sumerian, Babylonian and Assyrian civilizations.

Throughout history there are numerous examples of the loss of valuable information.

In today’s corporate world, companies also need to consider the consequences of losing valuable information, whose loss could threaten their very existence.
Information governance is the means by which an organization can manage corporate risk and improve its operational efficiency. It helps companies to achieve greater resilience as well as comply with regulations and laws governing enterprise information.

Driven by traditional business models, organizations have in the past focused on physical value chains. For instance, they would design and implement strategies that made sure their products could reach the shelves on schedule and in a cost effective way, eliminating or reducing the possibility of any disruptions in their supply chains.

In today’s world these measures are still necessary – but they are no longer sufficient. Companies need to rethink how information flows across their value chains, where it is stored and how accessible and secure it is, in the same way that in the past they thought about the flow of materials.

Nothing has made this more relevant than three major global events.


The first is Wikileaks, which highlighted how even the most secure organizations, including governments, are at risk of losing control of their information. What does this say about privately-owned or less sophisticated companies such as family businesses, manufacturers or banks? Managers and business owners should ask themselves how easy it would be for an employee to get hold of sensitive company information today. How about destroying or vandalizing it, or selling it to a rival?

So how do companies avoid sensitive information falling into the wrong hands?

A number of measures can be taken, such as transferring confidential and valuable information and documents offsite, where staff would have no access. Another way would be to hand over the management of documents to data management professionals.


The second event was a result of natural disaster. We all watched the tsunami that hit Japan and the terrifying scenes that followed. At the same time there was another, at first less obvious, fall-out from the disaster that would also have long-term consequences on people’s livelihoods. Once the cleaning up process had begun, companies and government entities faced the prospect that their records and valuable data had been lost, at the same time that their supply chains were being disrupted.

Similarly, after September 11, it took some time to realize how many companies had been put out of business because of the attacks. We also saw that those that emerged stronger and more competitive had comprehensive risk management and information governance strategies in place before disaster struck. Insurance policies can compensate for financial or material losses, but losing data can be catastrophic. While you can easily replace a lost laptop, you cannot easily retrieve the information you had on it. How about a title deed or a signed contract that carries a financial obligation, or is part of a legal case?


The third event was social change, in the form of revolution or political unrest. Whether in Greece, Egypt, the Middle East, or the UK, we have all seen the costs of change. Aside from the loss of life, we witnessed looting and, in several countries, buildings were also set on fire, including government buildings. We know that massive amounts of information (whether kept on paper or in other forms) were destroyed, lost or stolen. No doubt it would take years, if at all possible, to restore this data.

“That can never happen to me,” you might say. But as these events have shown, it’s the unforeseeable that catches us offguard, the so-called ‘black swans’.

Around the world companies have started implementing a Business Continuity Plan: the basics include ensuring multiple copies of their business model and confidential and customer data are stored securely offsite. The same applies to information stored on paper, tape, or other media, and even cheques. One simple solution is to convert documents into digital format and archive the back-ups offsite, in addition to keeping one on location.

Politics, profits and everything else aside, information has been and will always be the key to the progress of economies, societies and civilizations. Data is indeed the new essential raw material. Protecting that raw material should be a priority for all organizations.


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