Your Customer Data Is at Risk - Here's How to Secure It

Andre Oentoro

Data breaches, and cyber attacks in general, are not exclusive to big companies. In fact, smaller businesses get hit more often, we just don’t hear about it as much.

No matter how big of a digital footprint your brand has, if you’re handling customers, their data is at risk.

Even though cybercrime is on the rise, there’s no need to panic. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and that is exactly what we’re going to talk about.

1. Updates and software maintenance

Every IT security specialist will tell you that the very first step towards a more secure business is updates. It is a small step towards better cybersecurity standards, but people overlook it way too often.

Whoever is in charge of IT and apps needs to take this task seriously. OS updates are usually carrying the newest antidote to malware.

Your business probably also has all sorts of digital tools in the form of apps and plug-ins. Unfortunately, these also pose a risk, so keeping the apps and plug-ins updated is a must!

It wouldn’t hurt to familiarize yourself with the software you are using, making sure everyone on the team is on board with it.

2. Invest in high-quality data storage

The data your business handles (both customers’ and internal) has to be stored somewhere. In the best possible case, you will have backups in physical and digital forms. While paper is being phased out quickly, companies still decide to keep their most sensitive data in both forms.

You don’t need to do this. But investing in good data storage will enhance your security on virtually all levels.

You can develop a data storage system using servers (in-house or otherwise) and you can go about it through encrypted cloud storage.

A reliable data storage system will help you prevent data breaches. And in the case it does happen, you will efficiently mitigate the damage caused by it.

3. Use encryption

Using encrypted cloud data storage is a great way to protect your customers’ data. It provides an extra layer of protection that only you can control. But encryption doesn’t have to stop there.

Encryption is slowly but surely becoming a tech standard (just look at the crypto scene). The idea behind it is that you get to lock your data with a unique key. This means that the data can’t be intercepted and breached without the encryption key.

That is why a lot of brands turn to end-to-end encryption, even for internal communication.

4. Avoid hoarding customer data

One of the most common mistakes businesses new to the digital world make is information hoarding. But why does it happen?

Keeping track of important data is a crucial factor in the digital world. The logic is kind of sound there - the more data you have, the better and more precise your decisions in the future will be.

However, a lot of seemingly redundant (but sensitive) stored data is a lucrative gig for hackers. So, the best thing to do is to ask for the least amount of info from your customers. This way, you'll not only lower the chances of valuable data getting stolen, but your clients will like the overall experience more if you don’t ask too much of them.

5. Update your security standards regularly

By security standards, we’re not talking about big stuff (like GDPR) only. Your business’s security standards need to include regular checks of all the tools and apps you use. As your business scales up, so will the number of digital tools you use, and not all of them are entirely secure. At least not at all times.

Start by deleting, uninstalling, and unsubscribing from services you no longer use. Another good thing to do, besides regular updates, is to check on the latest security trends surrounding the tools you use. Trustworthy companies will let you know when something goes bad and when your business data is at risk.

Your security will be as strong as the digital tools you use, so make sure they are up to the industry standards as well.

6. Testing, testing, and more testing

In the end, we have to talk about testing. Stress tests, penetration tests, network security tests - these are all ways to figure out how to protect your (and by extension, your customers’) data more efficiently.

Testing and security checks will also allow you to prepare contingency plans in case something goes wrong. The best way to know the weak spots is to proactively search for them. However, this is something done by IT professionals and isn’t that available for people who are not in the field of network security.

To sum it up

How you handle customer data can make or break your business. Thanks to the expansion of the digital world, every business out there needs to stay ahead of the game and secure its data before it’s too late.

So - update regularly, don’t hoard data (but DO encrypt it), invest in quality data storage, and regularly test for weak spots in your network.

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