6 Ways Companies Can Protect Customer and Client Data

Miles Oliver

Take a look at this list of the biggest data breaches of the 21st century. You’ll notice that no company or industry is completely safe from the dangers of hackers and cybercrime. Many business owners tend to think they have a handle on the situation and that a few virus scans each month will be enough to spot dangerous malware and protect their client data.

However, the fact is that as technology continues to evolve and as we move to a completely digital world, hackers are provided with more opportunities to breach your systems and steal your customer’s information.

It’s time to update your tactics when it comes to cybercrime, and these six steps are a great starting point.

1. Understand the Importance

The first way you can prevent the potential for cybercrime at your company is to fully comprehend just how essential it is to make this your top priority. Look at those examples of the largest data breaches, and you’ll see that, in most cases, thousands to millions of users were affected by those intrusions. There’s a high cost when that many records are involved, and it can take millions of dollars to recover. Your business may not have enough to survive that hit.

There’s also the fact that good cybersecurity can improve the customer experience, and that’s because when customers can trust you, they’ll keep coming back. When they provide their personal and payment information, people put a lot of faith in companies. They’ll continue shopping with you if they know you have their best interests at heart, but mess it up, and they may leave. Once you have a good cybersecurity process in place, inform your customers of your data policies, and they’ll be grateful for the transparency. 

2. Realize Customer Protections May Be Required

The other main reason you need to prioritize cybersecurity at your business is that failure to take it seriously could violate the rights of your customers. There are two regulations in effect that tell you just how important cybersecurity is and how customers can get involved. One of the most important acts passed through California was the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (CCPA). This was an initiative to improve the privacy rights of California residents. It allows them to ask a company what personal information is being collected and shared with third parties.

Customers can then ask the company to delete that information and opt out of future data collection. Then, there’s the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA), which began in 2020. It strengthens the original protections and enforces non-compliance penalties, including expensive fines and potential injunctions by the Attorney General.

Customers know companies are collecting and storing their information. In addition to following the guidelines of the CCPA, companies need to ensure the data they do have is protected. Those who do not comply may hear from a government body. Therefore, it’s essential to implement an information security policy that:

  • Details your data protection goal.
  • Establishes company-wide accountability.
  • Classifies data based on levels of sensitivity.
  • Identifies potential data breach avenues and sets up response protocols.

3. Know Who Cybercriminals Target

One of the best ways to protect your company’s customer and client data is to know where hackers intend to strike the most. While any piece of personal data, from a birth date to a credit card number, will be alluring to hackers, they know where the good stuff is hidden, and it’s at the executive level.

Hackers typically target corporate executives because they have access to the most highly privileged information in the company. In addition to the ability to access customer data, upper management also has access to high-level corporate data. That information can be stolen and used maliciously by hackers and corporate spies.

You must protect the computers and devices used by executives because they’re subjected to phishing scams, fraud, and the exploitation of out-of-date software. To keep these high-level employees protected, ensure that they go through the same cybersecurity training as everyone else. It’s important for executives to be able to identify threats when they see them. Also, verify that their systems are updated regularly and that virus scans are run weekly to stop any threats in their tracks.

4. Thwart Insider Threats

Many companies are keeping the doorway open to hackers because they’re more focused on stopping outside threats, and they forget about the inside threats. The fact is that 67% of businesses experience 40+ insider threats every year, and insider threats are worse because the employee knows more about your systems than a typical hacker, so they can often steal the most sensitive data. Sometimes an insider threat isn’t made on purpose, but instead, it’s an employee who’s not following the company’s cybersecurity guidelines. So, they may have a weak password that a hacker can easily guess, or they might unknowingly answer a phishing email and allow a virus to infiltrate their computer.

To prevent insider threats, provide everyone on the staff with comprehensive cybersecurity training, and at the end, have everyone sign off on what they learned so they can be held accountable.

5. Keep an Eye on Your Software

As your company grows, it can be challenging to watch every single computer, keep tabs on your software and ensure that every program is updated when a new version becomes available; however, it must be done.

Hackers watch this kind of stuff, and they’ll pay attention to whether you’ve updated software or not, and when they see that you haven’t, they’ll take advantage of those weak points. Whenever a new version of any software becomes available, the new patch guards against the newest cybersecurity threats, so update whenever you can and stay protected.

The other issue many companies face is that an employee will unknowingly install a pirated piece of software that may be advertised as free or an unexpected add-on. The software can be loaded with malware, and once installed, those viruses leak into the system. Advise employees to only download software if they get the IT team involved.

6. Avoid Ransomware at All Costs

One of the worst threats a company can experience is the possibility of ransomware. Ransomware allows hackers to access your system and take it over until you pay a hefty sum of money. Ransomware is often the result of file sharing gone awry because employees can use programs like Google Drive to share information, but sometimes they accept it from an unverified source, and that source could be a hacker.

Prevent the possibility of ransomware by using smart passwords and educating teams never to click on links they were not expecting. It’s also wise to back up all of your essential data on external servers. If your information is taken for ransom, you can use the backup data and get up and running while you contact the authorities.

These are six big ways that business owners can stand tall and fight the attempts of cybercriminals looking to undermine their enterprises. Make cybersecurity your absolute number one priority and protect your investment and your customers.

Tags: ,