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AU Government Secrets Sold At A Furniture Store?! 3 Strategies That Could Have Prevented It

If you’ve seen the documentary, sorry, fictional series, Utopia on the ABC, we’d forgive you for thinking the recent Cabinet Files loss of documents came straight from a script of this show. Unless you’ve been having a news free week, you would have seen that a filing cabinet containing a trove of Cabinet documents containing government secrets was sold through a second-hand office furniture store in Canberra.

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, who have accepted responsibility of the loss of the information, got rid of the cabinets when they lost its keys and there was no record of the cabinet containing the documents. The purchaser was able to drill through the locks and subsequently passed all the information to journalists at the ABC.

The publication of the documents has caused significant embarrassment both for the government and the Department that clearly had no control over its information, with the Australian Federal Police also investigating how the documents left the possession of the Commonwealth.

government secrets

A Wake Up Call For Record Management

While it’s still unclear exactly what lead to the loss of the documents. What is clear, is there was no coordinated approach to information management and security across the organisation.

If there ever was a wake-up call about the importance of information management, this is it. There have been other significant losses of information in the digital space in recent times however, these have not seen the same level of scrutiny, as you would rightly expect from the embarassing loss of Government Cabinet documents.

But when push comes to shove, managing information, cannot continue in this haphazard and disorganized way.

If you’re curious about the way your data is secured and governed, be sure to check out our FREE WEBINAR, “Proactive Operational Governance in Office 365” on Feb. 21 at 11 a.m. EST!

Three Record Management and Information Management Strategies To Mitigate Risk

If you have been looking for an opportunity to engage an organisation on information management, that time has arrived. Here are three things a Records Manager should do to take advantage of the current scrutiny that information management is currently undergoing.

  1. Unite your organisation for a coordinated approach to information management. Do you have disparate teams looking after information security? Maybe the Property team looks after physical security, IT looks after digital security and records management are responsible for the systems that hold all the information.

Ensuring everyone is on the same page, working to the same outcome to ensure that information is protected and governed in the most appropriate way. If you’re not already working together to make this happen, the opportunity is here to bring everyone together and make certain you are aligned in your activities.

Heat map of sensitive data
Heat map of sensitive data

2. Take a risk-based approach to information management. This means that the information that presents the highest risk or value to the organisation requires the most management oversight.

Identifying and understanding what this information is and then working with the different areas of the business to ensure information management according to their needs.

Often, this can mean removing the tasks from end users and automating using technology where you can. Simple user error is far more likely to result in a breach than a malicious attack.  Reducing the compliance burden for users reduces your risk.

The sheer volume of information an organisation holds is also far too large to have individual oversight. Managing your information according to its risk factor means you can spend more of your time managing what is most valuable.

  1. Manage both physical and electronic information consistently. This doesn’t mean you should manage them in the same way. But you need to have consistent oversight of  your holdings.

This may mean you need oversight systems of which you may not have been traditionally responsible. Or, you must spend some in-depth time tracking down exactly where physical files reside in the organisation.

Records management is no longer confined to what is captured in a traditional electronic and document management system. It now includes all information captured anywhere across the organisation. This is a challenge facing us all, but an exciting opportunity to play a role in its solution.

How AvePoint Records Improves Information Management and Security

government secrets


AvePoint Records provides advanced information management capabilities designed to facilitate the automated classification, retention, archiving and eventual disposition of content by centrally configuring business rules and enforcing them globally across Microsoft SharePoint and Office 365.

The solution supports the capture and management of content from the time of creation. This ensures the information remains useful and accessible across the information lifecycle.  Information management business rules such as classification and retention and disposal are applied without end user intervention. This enables management of the information through to its eventual end of life.

Content can be transferred to secondary storage or archival facilities and additionally can be converted to long-term preservation formats. This way, it’s easily transferred to archival authorities, in compliance with information management policies as required.

AvePoint Records removes the burden from end users to perform traditional records management tasks. The solution drives automation aligned with organisational requirements so that information management tasks is performed in the background without the user being aware they are occurring.

This drives user efficiency and organisational productivity. It also ensuring that compliance with information management requirements becomes integrated with day to day working practices.

These types of solutions and approaches are critical for ensuring your physical records remain secure. As embarrassing as this data breach is for the Australian government, it can happen to any organisation. A robust and proactive records management strategy that is aligned with the way we work today is crucial.

Want to see AvePoint Records in action? Request a demo from our records management experts.

Alyssa B.
Alyssa B.
Alyssa Blackburn is the Director of Records & Information Strategy at AvePoint, where she helps organisations achieve business value from their information. In her role, Alyssa provides records and information consulting services as well as system implementations, allowing customers to optimise the structure of their information to maximize business benefits while meeting data governance and compliance objectives. With 20 years of experience in the information management industry, Alyssa has worked with both public and private sector organisations to deliver guidance for information management success in the digital age. She is responsible for the development of AvePoint’s information management solution, and has been involved with implementing our records management solution with government agencies and commercial clients. Alyssa is actively involved in the information management industry and has spoken at a number of events including at Inforum 2016 in Perth. She has been published in the RIMPA IQ magazine and recently won the 2016 award article of the year for the RIMPA IQ magazine for her article titled, "Why you need to think differently about information management."


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