How to Encrypt Documents That Contain Sensitive Attendee Information

How to Plan a Meeting

Thanks to the May 2018 implementation of the European Union's General Data Protection Rule (GDPR), meeting professionals all over the world have spent the last year talking about data privacy and protection. And while many organizations have made great strides, the truth is: Most are still falling short.

"Personal data is not entirely safe, even when encrypted and password-protected, as high-profile breaches reveal. And without those measures, it's easy pickings for hackers," Meetings & Conventions editor in chief Loren Edelstein writes in a recent article for Northstar Meetings Group. "All too often, common practices in the meetings industry equate to easy pickings."

Although encryption isn't foolproof, it's an important first step toward protecting attendees' personal data, data-security expert Kevin Iwamoto tells Edelstein.

But let's face it: You're a meeting professional, not an IT expert. So, how do you encrypt a document in the first place?

Iwamoto, senior vice president at GoldSpring Consulting, explains. "You can purchase encryption software. And a lot of programs, including Excel, have a feature that lets you assign a password to documents," he says. "There's also Virtual Private Network protection, which uses encryption technology to create a secure link between your device and a VPN server. If you're an independent planner and you don't have a corporate VPN to mask your online activities and transactions, you can purchase inexpensive VPN protection on an annual or multiple-year basis.

"I would highly recommend that independent planners -- and anyone else -- invest in [VPN protection]," Iwamoto continues, "especially when they're traveling or working on-site and using open networks, which are the most vulnerable. You can type VPN into any search engine, and you'll see a host of a different companies and their pricing pop up."

Don't forget to purchase multidevice protection to cover your computer, phone and tablet. "This is critical if you use all your devices on-site at the event and in your hotel room," Iwamoto concludes. "Remember, hackers target and exploit the vulnerabilities of people, processes and technologies."

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