According to a cybersecurity risk assessment published by RAND Corporation and Juniper Networks, cybercrime and data breaches will cost more than $2 trillion by 2019. As hackers become more sophisticated, the threat of a cyber-attack increases. If you want to protect your customers and keep their information safe, you must take proactive steps to prevent fraud.
Insufficient privacy practices and data protection can end up costing your business and your customers. If your business is hacked, you will be faced with the possibility of multiple lawsuits as well as negative publicity and long-term damage to your company's reputation.
All businesses, no matter their size, should be taking the threat of a breach very seriously and aim to keep their customer data protected and secure. To do this, you must create an action plan. Continue reading to learn the top strategies that you should include when you are developing an effective plan to protect and secure your customers' information.
Data Security is a Company-Wide Responsibility
Most small businesses use an internal IT employee or an external IT service provider to keep their customer information safe and secure. The company's IT department is typically responsible for implementing technologies to store and secure data; however, protecting customer information is a company-wide responsibility. The IT department may be unaware of how data is being used or stored. If a laptop that contains a spreadsheet of your customer information gets stolen, a significant data breach can occur. For this reason, you need to schedule discussions with each member of your team, including the IT department, human resources department and sales team to ensure that access to your customers' data is managed and protected using the latest security practices.
Use the Latest Encryption Practices
Encryption processes and technologies are continually evolving to help protect against cyber criminals. If you have not updated your encryption practices, you are at an increased risk of a cyber attack. Regularly updating your encryption is vital to your data security plan.
Restrict Access to Sensitive Customer Information Access to sensitive customer data should be restricted to only those who need the information. Furthermore, all sensitive information should be protected and stored in a centralized location.
Develop a Policy Concerning Employee Devices
Allowing your employees to use their own devices (smartphones, tablets and laptops) can save you money; however, it can increase the risk of a data breach. One-fifth of U.S. employees have corporate data stored on their personal smartphones, according to a survey done by eVault. If the phone is lost or stolen, a significant security breach can occur. To minimize the risk, establish a policy that states that employees should only access company information using a secure virtual private network (VPN) and no sensitive information is stored on a personal laptop, tablet or smartphone. Here is a good VPN comparison site to check out the best VPN for you (here's another one). Additionally, you should develop a policy that requires employees to notify you if their device is lost or stolen as well as the security measures that will be used to prevent a data loss.
Use a Malware Monitoring Service
Many times a business will not know they have been hacked until after the fact. A solution like Semantic Endpoint Protection or HackAlert detects if your website has become infected with malicious code that can allow hackers to gain access to sensitive information.
Businesses that have all employee or consumer information must keep the information safe and that information must be disposed of properly, according to the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act (FACTA) Disposal Rules. All hard copies containing sensitive data must be pulverized, shredded or burned.
Multiple Security Layers on Your Company's Website
Hackers and cybercriminals use multiple approaches when trying to hack a website and steal data. When your company's website has multiple security layers, you can help keep your e-commerce website safe and secure. This means that you must have a firewall to protect your network, login boxes and use contact forms. The more things a cybercriminal must do to gain access to your data, they are less likely to succeed in obtaining sensitive information from your website.
Implement Security Measures and Train Your Employees
Have a clear policy that states all sensitive data and customer information must be protected. This means the information should never be texted or emailed because these types of communication methods cannot be secured. Regular training sessions on how to properly handle sensitive company and customer information and the laws that have been passed to protect that information are vital to the safety and security of your business information and customer data.
Do Not Store Sensitive Information
You should not hold customer credit card information, such as credit card numbers, card verification value codes (CVV2) and expiration dates, longer than necessary. Customer records should be purged regularly and only the minimum amount of data should be kept. Although this makes checkout easier for your customers, it increases the risk of a data breach; therefore, protect your customers by regularly purging this information. Most customers would rather reenter their sensitive information than run the risk of a data breach. Finally, when a site has no data that can be stolen, hackers will go elsewhere.
Require the Use of Strong Passwords
In addition to the security measures listed above, you can ask your customers to help keep their data safe by requiring strong passwords. A strong password should include upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. The longer and more complex a login is, the harder it is to breach. Requiring your customers to create long, complex passwords can help prevent their information from being stolen by cybercriminals.
If your company does not have a comprehensive protection plan to keep your customers' information secured and protected, you run the risk of a data breach. Cybercriminals and hackers are continually improving their hacking skills. They seek to steal the information and sell it to others who can use it. By developing a protection plan using the tips above, you can help keep sensitive company and customer information safe and secure.
Cormac Reynolds writes for alternativenetworks.com and has written for a variety of tech, business and marketing blogs in his time. He has worked full time in the marketing industry since 2011 and in that time has worked with a variety of great companies of all sizes.
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