Whats In Your FilesIt’s a fact: technology has created a more productive and agile workforce. With 37% of employees working from multiple locations and 53% using multiple devices, workers now have the ability to be connected 24/7. But the modern-day worker continues to bring a score of challenges for IT. As employees continue to access work documents on the go, data security threats around sharing confidential content is also increasing. And one alarming security threat that’s on the rise, that you may not be familiar with is the inadvertent sharing of hidden information in documents through metadata.

So what is metadata? You may have heard the term in relation to Edward Snowden, the NSA, and recent government snooping but simply put, metadata is data about data. Metadata exists as hidden information within every document, and it’s not always visible to the author, but could potentially cause serious harm if it were to fall into the wrong hands. This information could include details such as tracked changes, comments, document author names or time spent on the document. And while this may seem like an unlikely threat to some, a recent survey from Workshare found that the risks of metadata are very real! The research, which surveyed 800 knowledge workers, found that 80% of respondents put corporate data at risk due to unsecured file sharing methods.

In addition to the possible reputable damage and loss of customer confidence that accompany data breaches, companies that do not take action to protect their data have also been paying the price. According to recent research by Ponemon Institute’s, the total average cost of a data breach worldwide has increased 15% over the past year to more than $3.5 million. With 36% of data breaches caused by inadvertent human error, how can organizations mitigate the risks of metadata leaks?

KfW Banking Group, one of Europe’s largest financial institutions, understands the importance of protecting their corporate and customer data. Every day they deal with huge amounts of confidential information and in order to maintain their organization’s reputation, they must keep the trust of their customers. “Trust and responsibility are cornerstones of our bank. Data protection is of the highest importance to us, and we are constantly looking for ways to improve it” described Mr. Schutz, Data Protection Officer.

To ensure that the 4,000 KfW Banking Group employees were sharing sensitive documents securely, KfW put a metadata removal application in place – Workshare Protect. Protect was chosen to secure the flow of documents and to eliminate the risk of data leaks by removing metadata. After implementation and roll out, KfW saw a huge increase in the security around documents, which ensured that the trust between bank, customer, and partner was maintained.

At Workshare, we want to continue to generate awareness around the risks caused by metadata, so we developed Detect. Workshare Detect is a free tool that anyone can use to identify what metadata is hidden within documents. By scanning a document into Detect, a report is produced detailing what metadata is found and what ‘risk level’ that particular document has as a result.

Taking note from Kfw Banking Group, organizations (particularly those dealing with sensitive documents) must take the necessary steps to reduce data risk. What’s clear is that data security is as important if not even more so in today’s the digital age, as mobile working increases and the volume of data being created soars. In order to maintain the security and integrity of your business, data security applications, and metadata removal tools like Workshare Protect, must be seriously considered.