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Are PDF forms and manual data intake processes putting your business at risk?

Are PDF forms and manual data intake processes putting your business at risk? | EasySend blog
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4 minutes

In the insurance sector, PDFs are used for everything, from customer onboarding to claims management. Obviously PDFs have their advantages - they’re easy to create with a variety of tools and can be viewed on almost any device without needing additional software. But the PDF format has serious limitations and risks, making it unsuitable to the pivotal role that the insurance industry has given it. 

PDFs are insecure

PDF forms aren’t nearly as secure as the insurance industry needs them to be, resulting in critical vulnerability for an insurance company and its customers. After all, insurance companies are processing highly sensitive data including individuals’ identifying details, credit card numbers, health histories, legal backgrounds, and more. It’s absolutely crucial that insurers use highly secure tools and processes in order to ensure that their customers’ data won’t be compromised. 

PDFs not only put your customer data at risk, but also endanger your business as a whole. Maintaining your customer’s trust is crucial - the last thing you want is for your organization’s reputation to be forever tied to poor security. 

In fact, Palo Alto Networks claims that in 2021, there was a 1,160% increase in malicious PDFs, and that this is set to rise.

Hacking

PDF forms can be easily hacked and the data stolen, even if they’re encrypted (and especially if they aren’t). Without encryption, they can simply be opened and the data stolen. 

Online PDFs have open parameters that can be injected with malicious code that can infect both user computers as well as company networks and servers. 

For encrypted PDFs, there are several methods used for hacking. For example, the “direct exfiltration” method uses the fact that PDF software doesn’t encrypt an entire PDF file. The script tampers with the unencrypted fields, so that when the recipient opens the file, the decrypted data is sent to the attacker. 

Phishing and malicious code injection

Hackers also use PDFs for phishing and to inject malicious code. Since scammers know people are more likely to open a PDF than an email (especially if they think it is a bank statement), they use PDFs for their attacks. 

One method of doing this is by inserting a virus script into the fill & sign fields. Once someone (a customer or company employee) opens the PDF, it quickly infects the user’s computer and even an entire network. 

Another hacking method uses CBC gadgets to modify the encrypted content, inserting a malicious script into the plaintext data that can infect user laptops as well as remote servers. 

PDFs are prone to human error

Another major problem with PDFs is that they require manual data entry as both customers and agents fill them out by hand or on a computer. Since PDFs don’t have any validation rules, bad data is entered directly into your systems without being corrected at the point of entry. 

In addition, PDFs aren’t user-friendly, making it more likely that customers will make mistakes. These errors tend to lead to costly mistakes and the loss of important data that your business can’t afford to lose.

The solution to the PDF problem

Okay, so PDFs are out. That much is clear. But what are you supposed to do instead? 

Digital data intake uses modern, digital technologies to collect customer information. Using responsive, personalized flows, this advanced, flexible method of data intake is faster and far more efficient than manual processes, especially since digital systems can be designed collect data from multiple sources, parse the information as necessary, and store it in a secure database. 

In addition, digital data intake is much more secure than manual data entry, providing several extra layers of protection:

  • Data encryption: Sensitive data is encrypted using TLS protocol, ensuring only authorized parties have access
  • Auto-delete for sensitive data: For sensitive data, it’s possible to assign an expiration date 
  • Vulnerability management: Regular testing for common vulnerabilities and scanning source code ensures that customer data is kept safe

Data intake transformation also offers a far better experience for customers, who can easily input their information in a fast, convenient way.

Beyond that, digital data intake is much more accurate than manual data entry. Rather than relying on error-prone humans, digital data intake journeys lean on technology that is programmed and taught to be precise, accurate, and exact. Digital data intake systems also validate data at the point of entry, reducing the number of errors that usually occur with manual data collection. In the long run, this saves a lot of grief, time, and money that otherwise would have been spent on fixing mistakes both big and small. 

PDF and manual data intake security issues | EasySend blog

There are several steps in the automatic data intake workflow process:

  1. Data intake: This refers to capturing the initial data from customers in an electronic format via digital journeys. Two-way integration with your internal systems means that you only collect the data you need by prefilling fields with data you already have. 
  2. Processing: Once the data has been recorded, technology is used to clean the data for easier analysis.
  3. Verification: Validates characters and fields for improved accuracy. You can also configure validation rules based on the needs of your business, using both standard validation rules (e.g, for emails, phone numbers, zip codes) or custom validation rules (e.g, for customer numbers).
  4. Output: This feeds the data to a third-party solution, such as ERP or ECM (enterprise content management).  

Digital data intake is easy to implement

With low-code and no-code platforms, the barrier to entry for businesses of all sizes to take advantage of digital data intake nearly disappears. With a minimal investment, insurance companies can quickly transform their manual data intake processes into digital ones. It requires no coding skills, which means you can skip hiring a developer or investing in costly technology. Any staff member with basic digital literacy will be able to easily adapt an digital data collection  solution to fit your organization’s specific needs. 

Protect your business with automated data capture

Change is challenging, but InsurTech disrupters have demonstrated that, like it or not, the insurance industry is changing. To keep up, insurance companies must be ready to accept and even embrace digital transformation

An easy place to start is with digital data intake, a solution that can replace PDF manual data collection processes with something significantly more secure and reliable. This way, you can protect your business and ensure the accuracy of your customer data. 

Best of all, you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg to do it. Modern low-code and no-code technology enable businesses of all sizes to implement digital data intake, helping you keep up with the evolving insurance industry in a secure, efficient way. 

Vera Smirnoff
Vera Smirnoff

Vera Smirnoff is the demand generation manager at EasySend. She covers digital transformation in insurance and banking and the latest trends in InsurTech and digital customer experience.