To concerned consumers, it seems like a new security breach hits the news every day. Some big-box stores are so vulnerable to security attacks that purchasing anything from them triggers an immediate call from the bank and, possibly, a debit card lock.
Retail stores are not the only targets. This makes it easy to understand why customers are wary and worried about possible data breaches any time they make a purchase, whether they’re buying a new piece of furniture or getting gas at the pump.
Customers shouldn’t worry about having their information stolen when they work with you. As a business owner, the onus is on you to put fail-safe protections in place. Doing so is an enormous benefit to both your company and your customers. When you keep their info safe, you help them build their trust for you. With that in mind, here are six tips to protect your customers’ data.
- Put the Kibosh on Personal Downloads and Surfing
It’s tempting to give your employees all the freedom they want when they work on company-owned computers and networks, but you’re begging for trouble. It’s not necessarily that your colleagues are doing anything bad or wrong on their business laptops and tablets. However, every time they send a tweet or play a game, they make themselves—and the office—vulnerable.
Inadvertently downloading spyware onto a company device is bad enough. Left alone, spyware can disrupt the inner workings of the computer while tracking behaviors that it has no business knowing. Worse, downloading malware is always a concern. It might be stuck to a file, buried so deeply that not even an antivirus program can detect it. Once that happens, every bit of customer data is in danger and up for grabs.
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- Customer Info Should Be on a Need-to-Know Basis
How many people in your company have access to client info or customer details? If it’s more than a few, then it’s too many. There’s no need for every employee to see customer information. That’s like sharing a secret with the entire office. The more people who know the secret, the greater the odds of a security breach. It doesn’t have anything to do with the trust you have for your employees, either. Every person in your organization may have unimpeachable integrity, but that doesn’t make them infallible or immune to mistakes.
Anyone who has access to customer data has the potential to be a vulnerable chink in your company’s armor. A determined hacker can easily seek out the weak points and slither into the system. That’s more difficult to do when only a few people have open access to customer files, private details, and other data. Reorganize your office structure to limit the number of employees who can access crucial client details.
- Keep Your Software Updated
Ideally, you have an antivirus protector in place. It should be a powerhouse that offers email protection and identity theft production in addition to keeping users safe while they browse the Internet and work with customer files. It’s wise to invest in anti-malware and anti-spyware software, as well. You need to cover all of your bases.
However, those programs are only effective when they’re updated and running smoothly. You can’t trust automatic updates, either. An outdated antivirus program is basically worthless. Hackers can bypass vulnerable points and gain access to private information with ease. Rather than dealing with the fallout of such a catastrophe, take a few moments each week to ensure that safety measures are updated on every device used by your employees.
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- Encrypt Everything
Encryption technology is a must-have safeguard against security breaches. Not only should you have an encryption process in place for protecting customer information, but you also need to protect your employees. Email encryption, for example, reduces the risk of hackers discovering vulnerable information passed through email, while cloud encryption offers another layer of protection for saved data.
As with your antivirus software, you should do your due diligence to ensure that all of your encryption technologies are updated. Make sure you’re running the latest version and that all updates have been installed, otherwise you leave yourself open to attack.
- Rely on a Secure Network
On the surface, sharing a network provided by your office suite might seem like a smart way to save money. Sharing a network with another business in the building may seem like a way to build rapport with other professionals. In truth, network-sharing is a terrible idea. You never know what someone else is doing on the network, nor can you be sure that other people care about safety and security the same way you do.
Invest in a secure network that’s only available to your company and its employees. Don’t give out the password, don’t share the WiFi, and leave nothing open for guests. People might complain, but your customers won’t, and strong cybersecurity is more important than a little bandwidth.
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- Stop Asking For So Much Information
There’s plenty of information about your customers that you don’t need. Collecting less information is safer in the long run because, in case of a potential breach, there’s not as much data to be stolen. Only collect what you need to conduct your business successfully, in a way that benefits the customers. Consider giving your client base the option of sharing personal details and information, and give them the opportunity to opt out if they choose. There are other ways to get to know your target market.
What are some of the ways you keep customer data safe? How would you deal with a security breach?