5 Tips for Keeping Your Customer Data Safe

Digitizing, storing and sorting customer data is essential for creating useful client databases. However, as much as technology helps us better serve our clients, it also makes it possible for hackers to exploit it. According to Statista findings, there were 444,259 ransomware attacks in 2018 alone. This is nothing compared to the 10.52 billion malware attacks that happened throughout the same year. Evidently, there are far too many businesses and individuals exposed to cyberattacks.

For the majority, such attacks can have devastating consequences. First of all, letting hackers enter your systems is proof that you do not have full control over your infrastructure. Secondly, letting sensitive personal information fall into the hands of cybercriminals can completely ruin your reputation as a trusted brand. Therefore, businesses small and large must put up strong cybersecurity defenses.

Make Security Your First Priority

According to MediaPros’s recent State of Privacy and Security Awareness Report, 75% of 1000 interviewed respondents present security risks to their organizations. What is worse, employees in management positions have lower levels of security awareness than entry- and mid-level employees. This is troubling because executives usually have access to sensitive customer information such as personal or credit card data.

People are the biggest risk when it comes to the security of an organization. Luckily, the human factor can be eliminated with proper security awareness training. This kind of training is becoming increasingly popular due to cloud migration and the use of connected devices in the workplace. Such practices pose great risks to the security of a business and we can eliminate them with proper education. By having your employees learn about the best practices, you will have a company culture embedded with security.

Comply With Data Security Standards

Handling sensitive customer data is crucial to the success of any business. Even Google got fined bigtime for the lack of transparency when onboarding new Android users. And though large enterprises such as Alphabet can afford to pay $57 million, small and mid-market businesses just can’t afford this kind of luxury. Regardless, any serious business must protect its customers’ data, especially if the client is an EU resident, gives you credit card information, or requires you to be certified against a certain security standard.

You have probably heard of GDPR, a new data privacy regulation that has for its aim to protect personal information of EU citizens. If you have clients that are EU residents, you are required to implement GDPR. If you are handling sensitive credit card information you are required to comply with PCI DSS – a set of security standards used to protect credit card information. ISO 27001 is yet another essential security standard which specifies an information security management system (ISMS). Implementing and complying with these security standards immensely enhances your security efforts.

Reduce BYOD and Shadow IoT Security Risks

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is a policy that allows employees to use their own smartphones, tablets or laptops for work-related tasks. This policy can be useful in terms of cutting down expenses for buying new hardware. Furthermore, letting employees bring their own devices to work increases their productivity and satisfaction. However, if not handled properly, this kind of policy can be devastating.

As much as BYOD is good for employee morale and efficiency, it leads to the problems of shadow IoT. Shadow IoT refers to the devices the IT department is completely unaware of. This is a huge security issue because companies have little control over IoT devices. All data stored on the devices must be backed-up. Companies need to encrypt information on IoT devices and make sure no employee has access to sensitive client data. And since these devices can easily get lost or stolen, you need to be able to wipe them remotely.

Dispose of Information Properly

Customer personal and financial data must be protected at all costs. The sheer negligence of letting it fall into the wrong hands can destroy your business. Still, there are too many businesses that do not dispose of information properly. Throwing away data you no longer need is just not good enough. You must put in place a policy that requires you to make the data you plan to throw away completely unreadable. In other words, you need to shred, burn or pulverize the papers before throwing them away.

When you want to get rid of an old computer or a storage device, you need to clear data using wipe utility programs. These programs completely remove the information, making it unretrievable. The same goes for employees working remotely. Make sure they dispose of all sensitive data in a secure way. You should keep in mind that if you are using consumer credit reports for business purposes, you will need to adhere to FTC’s Disposal Rule.

Choose the Right Contractors and Service Providers

If you don’t have a security professional in-house, you will probably have to work with a contractor or a service provider. You will have to hire a professional to handle your business’ security. Naturally, this is an extremely important step in the path to protecting customer data and achieving complete security. Therefore, when hiring a security professional make sure to investigate their security practices beforehand.

Be it payroll, data processing or customer call center operations, you will need to have confidence in the security professionals you work with. You should put the security expectations in writing and present it to the service providers. Don’t forget to check if they are in compliance with the relevant standards. Always insist that the contractors or service providers let you know of any security incidents that may occur, even if they don’t compromise your data.

Earn Client Trust by Keeping their Data Safe

Today, there are too many ways in which hackers can exploit regular consumers. Malware, spyware, ransomware, SQL injections, phishing and social engineering to name a few are security threats we all face on a daily basis. So when you take this into account, clients are already under siege and looking to do businesses with someone who can be trusted. And you must keep your clients if you want to run a successful business.

Start with educating yourself and your employees on the current security threats and ways to deal with them. Remember that complying with the relevant security standards will help you immensely because it sets the foundation for how you deal with security incidents and threats. Think about your BYOD policy and how you can control these potentially harmful shadow devices. Lastly, learn how to properly dispose of information and be extremely careful about who you work with.

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