Security should be a top priority for every proposal team as they take on bids from local to federal. Your information needs to be guarded at all stages and your collaboration needs to be free from security gaps. While the internet has revolutionized the ways in which we conduct business and the ways in which we work on proposals, with new technology comes new ways in which security can be breached.
The Old Days
In the past — before the age of the internet — the requirements to maintain security were difficult to accommodate. Teams would need to meet in one secure room to discuss proposal updates and collaborate on ideas in house.Federal proposalsmeant shredding and dumping all information in a secure dumpster before leaving the room. The type of security was much more physical. Everything was done on paper, and in some ways, that made it much easier to track possible security breaches.
As proposal collaboration went online into email, collaborators needed to update their methods of security to match different and unknown methods of hacking threats. While communicating via email was more convenient, it wasn't necessarily more secure. Often, teams were simply relying on the security of their technology and their server, hoping they wouldn't be targeted. There are still some teams that collaborate in this way, and the risk has only increased over time.
Fear of the Unknown
The more you collaborate online, the more your content is at risk. The primary concern with hosted collaboration is that the provider itself will be attacked, potentially leaving your data vulnerable to theft. You could be target to attack based on the volume and value of the data passing through the provider via your business interactions. Even within email, you need a system that adds a layer of security and diverts information away from your emails. Otherwise, your shared data is only as secure as your email server.
While hacking is a big concern, the most common threat to your proposal security is more basic. The proliferation of files on individual computers, thumb drives and in email (resulting from erial editing processes) means that your data is out there, uncontrolled, and vulnerable to unintentional release, or intentional hacking. Using modern tools that create secure, virtual workplaces will keep your data in one place and alleviate risk.
Every user and employee needs to be on guard for potential threats to their information security. However, the stakes are even higher when collaborating on proposals that require information to remain secure in order to be competitive. If your private proposal information is leaked to a competitor, then your edge is dulled. That competitor has the upper hand to lower their price or include a better offering, which may lose you the bid. Likewise, you need to ensure your interactions are always compliant. Improved security operations are a must for compliance.
On the other hand, you don't want to be paranoid about your proposal interactions. Cyber attacks can feel unavoidable when you don't have the full picture of how your systems are being secured and how you can trust them. So, ensure your data is encrypted and that the encryption keys (if your service provider is holding keys) are stored at a different location than the data - so potential attackers would have to breach into two data centers to gain access to usable data from your organization.
Most proposal interactions — and business interactions in general — are now conducted online. Understanding how your systems keep your proposal information and collaboration secure will make a difference in how you feel about your security and how you can work to improve it.
Research Your Options
If you're looking to enhance your security, then start consulting your IT team to help you understand where possible gaps in security might occur and why. If you feel you need further information, security consultants are a useful option.
Tools built specifically for proposal management and collaboration are the most secure option for teams operating across distances and via the internet to deliver high-quality proposals. When considering your options for secure proposals, make sure you look for software that enables multi-layered levels of defense. For example, your information needs to be hosted securely on premise or in a cloud.
Here are some key components you should look for in a secure collaboration platform:
Password protected: Requires username and password for two-factor identification.
SOX compliant: Certain security protocol for internal processes, especially for federal projects.
Transport layer security: Industry standard for securing information over the internet.
Man-in-the-middle prevention: Prevents cyber attacks by creating a buffer layer in between two communicating systems.
Cross-site scripting: Injects code to prevent and protect against code that a hacker might use to disrupt your processes and retrieve information.
Automatic alerts: Ensures you are able to keep tabs on what is happening within your proposal.
You can't sacrifice the convenience and efficiency of collaborating online across distances — and why would you? Ensure your proposal process starts off on the right foot and ease your fears about unknown cyber attacks by staying safe against potential threats.
The right proposal collaboration software will allow you and your team to work together in real time, securely. Start there and the rest will follow.
Cheryl Smith has been writing and managing proposals since 1998. Shipley trained, she has helped establish proposal centers and advised on capture strategy, coached orals teams and lead marketing, communications and knowledge management programs. Cheryl is a graduate of The George Washington University with degrees in Theatre, Communications and Literature. When she’s not sharing her passion for work, she loves drawing, writing, cooking and exploring the Virginia woodlands with her husband, their dog Chase and the fuzzy guests they host for Rover. She recently joined Xait’s Customer Success team as part of their acquisition of Privia.
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