The need to enhance the security and total protection of vital information and critical digital records in an organization or business environment is of great importance. Prediction of the occurrence of emergency is a complex process yet the need to enhance business continuity through proper planning and putting down of strategic business processes to safeguard information continues to be of utmost importance (Handmer and Smith 1994).
Putting in place the strategic data management and record recovery mechanisms helps to enhance protection of vital governmental and banking records and the existing digital data in the event of a national level catastrophic event (NLCE).
This paper describes and analyses the different vital required actions that need to be taken in the event of a NLCE, the challenges faced in the securing and protection of the crucial records, and the identification of facilities necessary for the identification, protection, and preservation of the vital records and the ultimate incorporation of records and the digital data emergency planning needed to streamline the agency continuity of operations plans (COOP).
National Level Catastrophic Events Vital records emergency planning and protection is normally emphasized on due to the great importance associated with them. Policies, processes, and procedures needed to enhance adequate planning and ultimate recovery from an emergency are crucial in ensuring that vital records are adequately safeguarded. Numerous catastrophic events, both natural and manmade, could lead to serious destruction of vital information and crucial digital records.
Hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, solar flares of large magnitude, lighting, extreme storms, and pollution discharges are some of the catastrophic events that could cause great harm, damage, and ultimate total loss of very critical information if mechanisms to prevent the damage and safeguard data and information or to recover from the catastrophe are not put in place. National catastrophic events have previously been addressed through the existing national emergency departments and the diverse states’ local health departments.
Little emphasis has been accorded to the need to accord special attention to the vital information and the existing digital records which could also be destroyed should national catastrophic events occur. According to Harold (2008), specific environmental conditions are required in order to adequately and efficiently protect certain types of records such as the federal and the banking sector critical records which if lost would totally compromise the authenticity and reliability of information and the banking services being rendered.
The continued inventions and growth of technology has continued to witness more efficient, cost effective, reliable, secure, and easy to manage methodologies of storing information that is of national importance. Concepts of an Emergency Response Program for Critical Records Management and packaging of digital information remains to be a great challenge in the effort to safeguard essential information and the existing digital records.
A well planned and organized emergency program for critical records needs to be put in place to ensure that all the basic security enhancement procedures and mechanisms are put in order. An emergency response program need to ensure that the essential information to be safeguarded and the existing digital records are identified and appropriate mechanisms through which they could be safeguarded in case of a national emergency are identified.
Most of the emergencies that occur demand the application of unique strategies in order to safeguard the crucial information and data necessary to enhance efficiency and effectiveness of the organization operational continuity (Daniel, 2008, 23-67). An emergency program for the critical records generally need to outline the degree of integrity of information that need to be maintained, the manner in which authenticity, and validation of the information users would be done with the aim of ensuring that access is only restricted to specific individuals based on the assigned priority levels.
The location of the critical records need to be known, adequate planning measures outlined, and appropriate recovery strategies clearly stated in a timely manner. Emergency response programs should either target to totally protect vital information and digital records from being damaged in case an emergency occurs or to lay mechanisms for recovery and backup in case certain emergencies occur. Replication of records is vital in enhancing efficiency and effectiveness in the storage and data recovery process in case national catastrophes occur.
Criticality Ranking For Records In order to enhance continuity of banking and governmental operations, fundamental and adequate planning and understanding of the sensitivity of the available records need to be done. Though widely ignored, criticality ranking involves ensuring that all the available information, data, and digital records are organized well and their value rated in order to fully determine the most sensitive information which needs to be accorded first priority should a national emergency occur.
Panic and confusion normally prevail in case of an emergency thus the need to ensure that adequate advance planning and organization of the diverse protection and recovery efforts long before an emergency could be witnessed. Whether hard copy or soft copy, both digital and none digital information and data need to be safeguarded in order to ensure that the information is accessible in case of a national catastrophe. The failure rate and likelihood of a national catastrophe occurring should be used in the determination of the emergency occurrence.
From the government perspective, intelligent information and digital records that relate to the sovereignty, independence, and integrity of the nation should be well planned and properly streamlined in order to ensure that adequate planning and organization of the information is done. Information warfare techniques should be employed in ensuring that more crucial data and digital records are allocated higher security levels in order to prevent any loss of such information in case a national catastrophe occurs.
Additionally, for a government or state department that continues to face hostile attacks on the critical national information, the national information need to be allocated unique attention and better infrastructural facilities that would prevent cyber attacks and unauthorized to information and digital records put in place. Governmental records that are of national importance and which aim to protect the integrity and sovereignty of a country should be accorded higher priority while other vital information that relates to basic national information could be accorded less priority and complexity standards in the storage process.
However, offsite storage, record retrieval, storage supplies, and stipulation of restrictions to safeguard information should be done to all forms of records media that include paper, photographic, digital data, and other forms of electronic media. The criticality ranking mechanisms should never be based on the form of media and nature of information storage of the data but rather on the degree of importance and the critical role associated with the data and the vital digital records in question.
Restrictions should be applied to the access of records perceived to more vital and sensitive to the entire public. In the banking sector, criticality ranking should be based on the amount of money the customers have in their account, the shareholder value of the customer, the nature of competition in the industry, the strategic position of the bank among its competitors, and the amount of money the bank either owe or is owed.
Records about the employees, creditors, debtors, financial statements, huge long term loans issued, the sales tax, and the financial performance analysis could be more crucial to a bank than to a hotel industry thus the relevant digital records and vital information should be more secured with great care and integrity than other record types. Cash balances and withdrawal records of clients should also be more secured in order to ensure that, in case of an emergency, the digital and the hardcopy records are fully safeguarded. Hazards and Risks to Vital Records
Different file access methods and levels are used in determining individuals that are authorized to access data and information within an organization. Whether it is a government of a banking sector, vital records are prone to diverse hazards and risks whenever a national catastrophe occurs. Both record hazards and risks relates to the various dangers posed to the stored data and digital records which, if allowed to take place, could hinder the authenticity and reliability of data and information available (Huang and Long 2008, 1-8).
Vital records and essential information faces risks such as total loss of the records through being washed away with floods and Hurricane Katrina, being burned by fire, being buried in debris ones an earthquake has occurred, theft and burglary during the confusion process that normally takes places during or after a national catastrophic event, among many other threats and security risks.
For instance, criticality risks, read after the write process risk, hard disk failures and crash, degradation of the storage media, due to crash, hacking, thieves, user error risks, and cyber crimes are common vital records-security risks that occur whenever a national catastrophe occurs.
The risks are mainly attributed to the fact that immediately after the occurrence of national disaster, hackers and other individuals that perform cyber crimes normally take advantage of the sluggish nature of individuals, the haste and panic, and the diverted attention to attend to the victims of the catastrophe, and the problem of lack of trained personnel and correct equipments to address the emergencies always lead to improper attention being accorded to the efforts of safeguarding the records.
Hard copy materials suffer from the risk of totally catching fire, the writings on them being faded, and also being buried in debris after earthquakes or earth traumas (Ward and Chapman 2003, 128-318). Such risks could be attributed to the various governments and private security agencies’ lack of the appropriate expertise needed to develop suitable protective measures for the vital records and the lack of proper infrastructure needed to have a distributed system for data warehouse that would provide backup and enhance other security mechanisms.
Furthermore, technical data losses in the occurrence of a national catastrophe could result to the overall loss of data and information that could in turn lead to sudden data losses. Protection Strategies for Vital Records Daily data storage and update at an offsite station, though not an efficient and effective protection strategy, could be used as one of the protection strategies necessary for storing vital records.
Storage of the data and record backups to an offsite station on a nightly basis is a complex process that could also be very costly. In fact, Marakas and O’Brien (2008, 78-185) elaborates on the fact that backing up of data and vital digital records on a nightly basis could also be a very costly endeavor if implemented on a national scale or to an organization that deals with many hard copy and digital form records.
Remote back up of data and digital records is very fundamental in ensuring that proper and adequate data storage is implemented. Diverse efficient and effective protection strategies that related to the various hazards and risks posed to the government, banking sector, and sectors of the economy, in reference to the vital digital records and very essential records should be employed based on the specific risks in question.
To begin with, risks and hazards such as tornadoes, floods, lightning, earthquakes, fire, and hurricanes which could totally terminate the operations of a government or banking industry should be addressed by ensuring that the disaster preparedness mechanisms and procedures put in place are streamlined to ensure that the digital data and vital records and data is stored in more locations. Distributed systems could be employed to facilitate real time storage of digital records in different locations.
Working in a distributed environment facilitates a near automatic backing up of data and information stored within the system thus ensures that information is made available even after the occurrence of a disaster. The multiple data locations ensures that catastrophic events such as floods in one location only interferes with the data at that particular location while the backed-up data in other locations remains available to the users (Ozsu and Valduriez, 2004, 32-112).
The problem of reliance on a central site data access and other associated disasters are eliminated. In a bank environment, utilization of a distributed system as vital records protection strategy ensures that customers continue to receive the banking services in other locations should a given branch of the bank be seriously hampered with. Storage of hard copy records in a national archive in an online system, after the hard copy records have been scanned and stored in a digital format, is another strategy which could be employed and be used to protect vital records.
Vital records could also be protected from national catastrophes through the use of external backup storage mechanisms and strategies meant to ensure that data and records are saved in other locations in hard drives, DVDs, and other forms of backup media. Due to the risks prone to the magnetic fields and storage media, vital data should be stored in large data warehouse by specialized organizations and companies that could every be paid for offering data backup services for certain amounts of data and digital records.
As discussed by Stewart, for corporate data storage and protection services, different data size units are employed in ensuring that different protection mechanisms and storage sizes are employed in enhancing storage capacities (2001, 231-379). Backup of files and vital records in external hard drives and optical medias ensures there is an automatic file backup, restoration of lost of spoilt data is done in much faster and efficient manner, the operating systems restoration in its previous normal state is done much faster with minimal or no need for technical expertise, and with the extended data recovery platform.
Since vital records refer to the records and data in any format that is essential for the survival of an organization, duplication and dispersal of the vital records in different locations is a very essential protection strategy which should be combined with other protection strategies.
This could be achieved through the establishment of public private partnership aimed at streamlining security efforts and protection mechanisms to ensure that the existing vital information is adequately protected from other threats such as serious viruses and spywares that could in the end compromise the levels of integrity of the stored information in case an emergency occur. Based on the argument of Young, dispersal and duplication of records through photocopying, scanning and saving in digital media, and manual transfer of the duplicate records in distant locations should be done in order to offer protection to the data (1983, 2-29).
The organizational catalogues, books, manuals, company blue prints, and other sensitive information in digital form through scanning them and storing the scanned information on compact disks, digital video disks, and other optical formats that would facilitate adequate storage and minimize the level of data loss and spoilage that could occur should national disasters of large magnitude occur. This is best done through well planned and streamlined digital storage formats and management programs meant to provide proper planning and management strategies through the use of secondary data locations.
Online storage of data and information is another strategy for the protection of vital records. Electronic data storage facilities and online storage spaces could be used to store and adequately preserve vital information. Network attached storage and storage area networks are employed as both storage and recovery strategies. This option provides for remote storage of scanned records and digital records intended to ensure that the data stored facilitate protection of data in case of a national disaster.
Online mailing systems and file cabinets could also be used to store and protect vital records in case of a national catastrophe due to its advantage of being accessed from any location. This could also be done through the use of DRM secure file storage systems. Before data is stored on online systems, data encryption and deception strategies need to be established in order for the government and the concerned bank to be sure that the stored information is not accessed and mishandled with unauthorized persons, who may have malicious intentions.
The encryption and strategies to be used should employ the use of both private and public encryption keys so as to assign access levels to the users based on the user priority, information sensitivity, and emergency levels of the data and digital records to be accessed. National catastrophes such as sudden total loss of power from the major national power supplies could be addressed through the use of solar panels, utility power supply techniques, batteries, and other forms of secondary sources of power supply.
This ensures that crucial records that had not been saved at the time of the occurrence of such catastrophes are saved, critical transactions fully completed, and the best way forwards determined before the machines are turned off. On the other hand, fire resistant file cabinets that are designed for microfilms and hard copy vital records. The storage facilities for back-up should be located in far disasters to ensure that in case of a catastrophe; at least one of the locations is spared. Loss Assessment Loss assessment should be done based on the level of priority of records involved in the catastrophe.
Important records, useful records, and non-essential records should all be assessed based on the level of priority and their central role in the overall organizational operations. The assessment of the loss suffered could be undertaken based on the different categories of media involved in such as optical disks, microfilms, disks, magnetic tapes, cassettes, paper documents, photographic media, DVDS, CD ROMS among others. Loss assessment also needs to be based on whether or not the data and the vital records lost had offsite storage capacities or not.
Availability of offsite storage that is not involved in the catastrophe leads to a reduced cost of recovery. Highly level of disciple is needed to conduct constant offsite on onsite storage. Financial issues and losses should be differentiated from the economic ones before the correlation between the two types of losses could be established. This could also be undertaken through the analysis of the number of people served by the data lost, the frequency at which the people concerned require the data, and the strategic importance of the data to the overall organizational processes.
Additionally, the recovery costs should be put into consideration in determining the extent of loss. Ones a national disaster has been suffered, loss assessment should be undertaken through the identification of the loss event and the process involved, consultation of information gathering process, definition of the loss timeframe, determine the timing of the loss to the organization, identify the diverse types of losses suffered, estimate the cost of losses incurred, and the collect and present the results of all forms of losses suffered and their impact to the organization. Record Recovery Techniques
Record prioritization need to be done in the event that a disaster occurs in order to ensure that vital information, data, and records are not totally lost. Recovery mission and plan need to be prepared in order to ensure that the least amount of time and resources are utilized by the government, a banking organization in its effort to resume the normal operations. An appropriate tracking plan, relocation destinations that are secure, transportation arrangements, and appropriate communication strategies need to be put in place with the aim of streamlining the record recovery efforts (Penning-Rowsell and Chatterton 1977).
Concerned persons should be trained to handle and preserve the records recovered from the disaster based on the concerned media type. Vital records must be prioritized for recovery and restoration purposes. For lost data through being overwriting in case a disaster occurs, Daniel believes that electron microscopy transmission scanning methods could be used to recover the lost data (2008, 23-67). This could also be performed through the utilization of computer forensics data recovery technique.
On the other hand, diverse specialized data recovery software applications need to be used in recovering corrupt file systems in case of emergencies. In such situations, government and bank departments that does recovery need to employ specialized physical equipments. Consequently, for data that had been stored in remote locations, online data recovery should be performed regularly over the internet. Convenience and flexibility is enhanced in this recovery technique due perform recovery from any location provided that a computer machine with internet is in place. Conclusion