Some of the most valuable property owned by businesses is not physical in nature. This certainly includes customer data. Customer data is integral to marketing and selling your product in the modern marketplace. Unfortunately, many criminals also know the value of this data and often try to steal it through hacking and other malicious means. Such theft can lead to huge losses and lawsuits. Below are five steps to ensure your customer data remains confidential.
You should view customer data like you would a poisonous cleaner in a household with children. While the cleaner is very useful to you, it can lead to disaster if it falls into the wrong hands. As such, as few people as possible in your network should be granted access to this kind of customer data, especially in larger data sets.
Only people who absolutely need it for their jobs should be given direct access to things like tables of customer data. Your scrutiny should be even stronger when working with outside parties. While you may want third-party customer service reps to have access to some data, they should not have access to it all and especially not in a form where it can be easily extracted and sent off to others.
Train Your Staff on Cyber Security
Any investment into cyber security that does not include a training program for employees may end up being ultimately ineffective. What you should be aware of is that it’s your own employees that will be responsible for most data breaches. 94 percent of organizations, not just businesses, have experienced this type of breach.
While some of these were maliciously done on purpose, many more are the result of human error. As such, better cyber security training can have a real and immediate effect in regards to preventing future data breaches from occurring.
One of the most certain ways to keep data protected from hackers and cybercriminals is to keep it in an encrypted format. This should include the data stored on your own machines, the data backed up with others, and data that is in transit to and from your network. Work with your digital partners to ensure that your wishes for data encryption are being adhered to.
For example, if you are a lawyer, you may want to work with a law firm cloud service that can provide you with things like customer relationship management and practice management features. While you may benefit from the convenience of utilizing the cloud with your law work, make sure the cloud partner you choose encrypts important customer data since it is your obligation as a lawyer to keep such data private.
Limit the Devices that Can Access the Data
In the past, companies had “bring your own device” policies in place in which people would bring their own laptops, tablets, phones, and other devices into the office to do work. However, this can create a security nightmare for companies that need to protect sensitive customer data.
Those employees’ devices may be filled with things like spyware, malware, viruses, and more. Instead, you should restrict what devices can access customer data. Overall, it’s a good policy to only allow access to tightly monitored company machines that run software designed to eliminate the possibility of intrusions as much as possible. Allowing devices you don’t have complete control over to access such data on your network is extremely foolhardy.
Review Your Data Collection and Retention Policies
Your processes used for customer data collection and storage can also be fine-tuned to prevent abuse if the information were ever to be leaked. For one, not all information regarding your customers has to be retained. Only keep information that you would actually need to sell your products or provide customer service.
For example, household income may be something that hackers want to know about but would be of little use to you if you don’t sell luxury products. Also, routinely purging your computers of customer data may be a good idea. While you may want to keep customer data for longer periods for marketing purposes, it’s okay to eliminate the data of customers who no longer do business with you and will not respond to marketing emails.
Overall, you have to be proactive if you want to protect sensitive customer data. This includes taking steps like training employees, reviewing your data retention policies, restricting employee access, restricting device access, and encrypting the data itself. If you don’t, the consequences could be severe. You could end up being sued and losing a large portion of your customer base.