Embrace Green Energy Initiatives — With an Eye Toward Security

When we think of green energy initiatives, our mind often travels in many different directions depending upon context. Many think of green energy sources such as wind, hydro, solar and tidal power generation, all of which fall under the rubric of renewable and green; for others, it means adjusting the expenditures of energy in the conduct of their business in order to lower their operational expenses (opex) by reducing their carbon footprint. Both concepts are correct, but it underscores why context is so important to the conversation surrounding green energy initiatives.

Reducing the Carbon Footprint

The Carbon Fund states that all companies are able to reduce their energy expenditures and opex by taking a few simple steps. These include wrangling the power management settings on computers, printers and other devices so they shut down and don’t transition into standby mode and continue using energy.

Enterprises can also print less and use shared drives more, which saves not only paper, but the energy to print on the paper, as well. If you must print, then make sure you use both sides of the paper. Similarly, the building power management should turn lights off and use neutral climate control for uninhabited areas of an office space, again reducing the overall energy draw.

All of these strategies are very easy to implement and will undoubtedly reduce the overall energy expenditure of the company. More substantial initiatives include reducing office size and increasing the number of employees who operate remotely from their residence or less expensive office pods (full disclosure: I’ve worked remotely since 2006), as well as increasing the use of teleconferencing to reduce the need for physical travel.

Keep Your Eye on Privacy and Security

These larger initiatives require companies to keep their collective eyes on the privacy and security of their intellectual property, processes, customer data, etc. Rebecca Herold, also known as the Privacy Professor, was asked to comment on the potential security and privacy speed bumps that companies may encounter when embracing green energy initiatives.

“Often when going green, companies stop printing hard copies and allow more remote, mobile and home computing, using personally owned computing devices and storage equipment. They also recycle more, as well — all in the name of a noble cause,” Herold shared. “However, in the process of getting green, new information security and privacy concerns emerge. Here are just three of what could be a very long list:

  • Old computing devices and storage equipment are donated to others without first completely removing the data from them — often resulting in a breach. Irreversibly remove/delete data before throwing away or donating to others.
  • The physical security of computing devices and the viewing of such from those in the environment when working … at home can also make data vulnerable and result in breaches. Make sure work areas, everywhere and anywhere, have security controls and actions implemented.
  • As part of the green efforts, all paper content was scanned and digitized — great! However, make sure when you dispose of all that paper you no longer need that you don’t just throw it in the dumpster. It could contain personal or other types of sensitive information, and a breach could occur. Finely shred or burn (safely of course) all paper documents containing information you do not want others to see.”

Let’s take a closer look at these issues, which should be top of mind for all professionals responsible for security and privacy implementations.

Device Disposal and Recycling

There is a rich history of data breaches caused by equipment or files/file cabinets being disposed or recycled while still containing personally identifiable information (PII), protected health information (PHI) or trade secrets and intellectual property, and there is no denying the cost of a data breach is increasing.

Guaranteeing the data on drives is rendered useless can be difficult. For example, solid-state drives (SSD) require a different type of data destruction than traditional magnetic hard disk drives (HDD) prior to recycle or disposal. If your company does not have the knowledge or expertise to do this itself, ensure a vendor is able to destroy the resident data and verify the same to you.

Physically Securing Your Data

As noted by Herold, the implementation of green energy initiatives often includes bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies, lowering opex even further. There is little debate on the positive effects of having employees mobile and available 24/7/365. There is, however, a need to focus on ensuring the BYOD implementation protects the company’s data and ensures continued customer privacy.

While BYOD is clearly an area of concern, the locale of where company business is conducted should also be reviewed and direction provided to employees who are working from home or in public environments. What type of data should be stored at home? Are there any access restrictions? Periodic reviews with personnel on the need to protect critical data from roommates and visitors are essential given the high probability that the home is less secure than the office environment.

Green energy should be embraced, but the privacy and security factors that constantly remain in play must be handled with care and due attention.

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Christopher Burgess

CEO at Prevendra

Christopher Burgess is the CEO of Prevendra, a security, privacy and intelligence company. He is also an author, speaker and advocate for effective security strategies, be they for your company, home or family. Christopher co-authored "Secrets Stolen, Fortunes Lost: Preventing Intellectual Property Theft and Economic Espionage in the 21st Century" (Syngress, March 2008) and authored the e-book, "Senior Online Safety" (Prevendra, March 2014) and is the voice behind the website, "Senior Online Safety." Prior to the founding of Prevendra, Christopher held a variety of private and public sector positions, which included, chief operating office and chief security officer of a big data analytic company, Atigeo; Senior Security Advisor to the CSO of Cisco, a Fortune 100, and 30+ years within the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA awarded him the Distinguished Career Intelligence Medal upon his retirement. Christopher resides in Woodinville, WA with his family, two dogs and two horses.