4 tips that will help you protect customer data for your business

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Due to an increase in data breach cases, people have become cautious about sharing their personal information with businesses. Consumers also expect customer data privacy to be companies’ top priority. That makes sense considering 70% of Americans believe their personal data is far less secure than it was a few years ago.

Therefore, data privacy protections and transparency will not only help you win customers and keep them. It will also build your brand reputation and help you stand out from your competitors. Top-level protection for your network, data, and users is essential to ensuring your customer data privacy.

The following tips will help your business protect customer data privacy so that sensitive data does not get into the wrong hands.

Encrypt user data

Encryption is the process of encoding information. You make the data readable only to the intended party and unreadable to the rest. 

Sending an email is like dropping a postcard in a mailbox. Anyone who picks it up can read it. Financial criminals use very advanced programs to search for unencrypted emails.

If you work in an organization that sees an exchange of emails containing sensitive information, you must protect your emails to safeguard your company’s information and customer data privacy. Encrypting an email message means converting the email from readable text into ciphertext. The recipient has a key that will be used to decrypt the message.

Data encryption prevents information theft. It is one of the best ways to protect your business information and customer data privacy. Cybercriminals target encrypted data far less frequently, as encoded data is considered useless without the proper passcode. 

If your company sends automatic recurring emails, such as payroll requests or invoices, to clients, ensure these are also encrypted. Encryption helps you protect data while it’s being exchanged and stored. You can protect your business from lawsuits and fines in the case of loss or theft of data when you use encryption. 

Here’s how Santander Bank uses encryption when handling its clients’ information

Using industry-standard security measures that encrypt data, all information exchanged between the client and Santander Bank is encrypted. None of the customer’s personal information is saved on the client's mobile device when they use the bank’s mobile banking app.

Businesses that accept credit card payments must follow Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard requirements. PCI DSS is a set of security regulations that businesses must meet in order to protect credit card data. One of these controls is making online transactions secure by encrypting data.

Consider obtaining an SSL Certificate for an encrypted link between your website and a user’s browser. Use strong FTP passwords, too. Strong passwords do not contain your personal information like name, birth date, Social Security number, or phone number. In addition, they need to contain a specific minimum number of alphanumeric and special characters to increase their complexity.

Create an honest privacy policy

A data privacy policy is a legal document placed on your website. It should detail, at the minimum, what data is collected, how it’s collected, and how it is used.

The data that organizations often collect can include the following:

  • contact information
  • passwords and usernames
  • cookies
  • order history
  • website behaviors
  • personally identifiable information
  • app engagement

Be transparent about your company's privacy practices and the information collected. Clear privacy practices will help your business look trustworthy in the eyes of your customers.

Google, for example, explains in its privacy policy that the company collects information to provide better services to the users. The company understands users' growing privacy concerns.

The document incorporates a few videos to help people understand the message better.

 

Google also states that the company will ask for the user's consent before using their information for a purpose that isn’t covered in the document. Reassurances like that make people trust the service more.

Test for any vulnerabilities

Vulnerability testing helps you identify, diagnose, and triage application vulnerabilities. The aim is to better understand an application’s behavior and identify suspicious activity.

It doesn’t stop with the applications, either. If your company has APIs or uses cloud services, you’ll need to test those platforms as well. Remember, a single vulnerability at only one point can compromise the whole system and bring your entire business to its knees. So you have to test and protect your applications, whether they’re in the cloud, on-premises, or hybrid.

Analyzing the test’s results and making decisions based on them requires a team of highly skilled professionals. If your company doesn’t have a cybersecurity team, consider hiring an ethical hacking company to try to break your website, web applications, and mobile apps.

You can use automated vulnerability scanners on some of your web applications to identify potential vulnerabilities. The other option is to contract white hat hackers. White hat hackers can fix coding bugs and systems and software security problems so nothing can leak. You may also consider hiring security researchers and pen-testing companies to test your security.

Update regularly

Regularly updating the software on your PC and mobile device is key to protecting your business from cybercriminals. As cyberthreats are constantly evolving, failing to update leads to vulnerabilities.

Updating your OS is one of the easiest ways to keep your business on top of changing threats. But here is the other thing. Sometimes updates come with vulnerabilities. For example, hackers recently exploited a Windows zero-day vulnerability to spread malware among users.

Therefore, while updating your systems is usually helpful, it’s vital that you stay on guard and watch out for any vulnerabilities that may come with the updates.

Just to illustrate the importance of keeping your programs up to date, here’s what can happen.

During the Equifax data breach of 2017, hackers were able to access customers’ data through a known vulnerability in a website application. Sensitive information, including birth dates and the home addresses of 143 million Americans, was put at risk. It turned out that the fix for the security hole the hackers exploited had already been available two months before the cyberattack.

In that instance, Equifax failed its customers. The lesson we’ve learned from the Equifax incident is that regular software updates give you fixes to security gaps. It’s critical not to disregard them.

In Closing

If your clients’ data gets into the wrong hands, it’s not just your business that will suffer. Cybercriminals won’t hesitate to steal people's money or illegally use their identities. Privacy protections should be a priority for any business and organization.

You can protect customer data by using encryption, updating regularly, and testing for vulnerabilities that can be potential targets for threats. Be transparent with the company’s privacy practices and keep your brand’s promises. Organizations that address security threats proactively win because they earn their clients’ trust.

Barracuda Email Protection provides comprehensive email protection that prevents email threats from compromising your business, data, and employees. See how it works and get a free trial here.

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