Securing customers’ data should be at the top of every business’s priorities. Larger enterprises do experience data breaches, but small to mid-sized businesses have it worse. In fact, 43% of cyberattacks are aimed at small businesses, and only 14% of them are prepared for such attacks.
Cyber threats will continue as we transition to a more digital and smart approach in every industry. Data collection becomes valuable for businesses to analyze their customers’ behavior and create better ideas.
But the more businesses collect and store customers’ data, the more responsibilities they should take to protect privacy. If data breaches occur, customers’ data are not only taken illegally but can be identified by the attacker. Cybercriminals can de-identify or re-identify the data to sell them.
That’s why businesses, no matter what size, should find ways to protect their customers’ data to avoid facing dreadful consequences.
What Happens When Your Customers’ Data Has Been Stolen?
A data breach is an attack that steals sensitive, confidential, and protected information in an unauthorized manner. It can occur on any business size and security measures they apply.
The information they steal depends. It can be personal health information, identifiable information, or other confidential information. The most common type of information attackers steal is personal information, particularly the card number, social security, driver’s license, and health record.
When hackers gain access to this information, they use them in many ways. They can steal money, use the person’s identity, or sell them on the dark web.
Businesses that collect data and disregard customers’ privacy and data security will end up with multiple consequences.
The most hard-hitting consequence of a data breach is financial loss. According to Ponemon Institute, their 2020 study has shown that data breach costs $3.83 million on average globally. It can cover affected customers’ data, investigation of the attacks, legal fees, penalties, and more.
For small businesses, putting out such an amount can be a lot. It can even lead to the filing of bankruptcy.
Halt on Business Operation
Businesses need to stop their operation when a data breach occurs, as it is best to investigate the situation by going through what system has been accessed. They need to shut their business to work on the breach. It may take hours, days, or even weeks, depending on the data affected. Hence, it can put a temporary stop to the operation, which means there’s a loss of revenue.
Each country has its own privacy act and data protection regulation. Businesses need to consider all these steps before operation. If not, victims can proceed to seek legal action.
Victims can seek monetary compensation for their loss of vital information. Whether data loss is accidental or due to negligence, companies face the consequence.
What is the Privacy Act?
It is a set of rules and regulations to promote and protect individuals by keeping their personal information safe. Businesses or anyone collecting and managing personal data needs to learn about their country’s Privacy Act.
Here’s a copy of New Zealand’s Privacy Act.
When a business encounters a data breach, it can even cause havoc to their company’s reputation. Customers and clients will stop conducting business with an organization that has experienced a data breach, as they fear that their data might be stolen again.
Furthermore, experiencing a data breach can also affect the potential relationship with future customers. Any negative press on a business can be damaging to its reputation.
Since most people value their data, businesses need to protect it as much as they can. Or else it might affect the entire operation.
The best way to avoid customers’ data loss is to practice keeping them safe and secure. You’ll also need to abide by all the rules and regulations regarding managing privacy data.
Ways to Keep Your Customers’ Data Safe
Limit and be Mindful of the Data Collected
If you want to avoid compromising your customers’ data, collect information that only improves the customers’ experience. Do not ask for unnecessary information, and store it on your server.
Better yet, give your customers the right to choose what information they want to share. Let them have full control over their information. However, the best way is to never store them at all. Destroy the customers’ data once you are done with it. You will less likely experience loss of data and lawsuits.
Make sure you have destroyed the data before getting rid of it. Some hackers can recycle data that has been tossed out. Therefore, make sure to wipe the drive clean with tools like Iolo.
Limit Data Access
Take control of your customers’ data. Make sure that it is not shared with a third party to avoid the possibility of a data breach.
Remember that the data a business collects is not a commodity they can give away. Instead, they only have the right to keep it.
Limiting those who can access the data you collect can prevent multiple users or parties from using the data of your customers. Hence, it becomes safer.
Keep It Within a Private Server and Network
It’s no surprise that customers’ data is so vital to business owners. That’s why you need to create a barrier to protect the data you have collected from possible intruders. To do so, you need to move your data to a secure private server or network.
Also, it gives you complete control over your server and private network, ensuring that only you have access to it and reducing the risk of outside interference. Furthermore, you will be able to monitor everything that occurs on the servers and networks.
Update, Update, Update
Every business must update the software, firmware, systems they use or have in their company. You can be sure to avoid zero-day attacks, malware, or other threats that can use outdated software as their point of entry.
Update popups can be annoying, and they can even interrupt the work process. But it’s best to take action seriously. You can set for auto-updates or update all your software after or before working hours.
Developers update their software to get rid of bugs, patch vulnerabilities, and offer new and improved features. So, keep that in mind the next time you click the “Later” or “Ignore” button.
Invest in the Best Cybersecurity Tools and Practices
We have written a cybersecurity checklist you can use for your small business if you need one. Getting the best antivirus or antimalware tool for your webshop can be helpful. You can even use software to keep your data secure or maintain your privacy as you go through your customers’ data.
Create Strong Passwords
Brute Force Attacks are the most common form of technique hackers use to get access to an account. They use tools that can decipher passwords as fast as they can. Sometimes they even do it manually by using a trial-and-error method.
The simpler and shorter the password you use, the easier it is for hackers to guess it.
Keep hackers away from your accounts by using complex passwords. Using a combination of upper and lower characters, numbers, and symbols will make it complicated.
Other tips to remember:
- Don’t use personal information as a password
- Don’t use similar passwords with other employees
- Avoid recycling passwords
Comply with PCI Standards
If you accept credit card payments, you need to comply with all the standards of the PCI DSS. All customers’ data your store, process, and transmit must follow this standard. PCI DSS ensures that when you collect the data, you know what you are doing with them. Also, customers will trust a business that implements the basics of PCI compliance.
Manage Physical or Portable Copies with Caution
Some businesses do have physical copies of their data or those they keep on-premise. Hard copies must be kept in a secure place with additional security. Aside from a padlock, use biometric verifications if you can. Same as for portable media.
Manage Your Employees Devices
The BYOD method is what most small businesses use instead of offering devices to their employees. If you want to avoid insider threats, you can create rules on how your employees can use personal devices and portable media. Make sure that devices are encrypted when managing company data.
Train Your Staff
The best way to avoid a data breach is to train your staff. Knowing the first sign of an attack, knowing what a phishing email is, and more are the best practices to avoid customers’ data loss.
The most common cause of a data breach is employees’ negligence. To get rid of this common issue, implement cybersecurity training and workshops for your employees.
Check on Vulnerabilities
After implementing the essential strategies to keep your customers’ data safe, check your business’s weaknesses or vulnerabilities.
Although it’s a bit expensive, hiring an ethical hacker to check your system can be beneficial. They can go through your system and see if you missed out on something. Or if there are parts that a hacker can access.
When collecting your customers’ data, be clear about what you collect and how you intend to use the data. Customers want to know how their data is being used. If they are aware of it, they can be sure to conduct business with you.
Monitor Your Data
If you want to protect your customers’ data, you need to know what you have and where it is stored. By doing so, you can easily monitor your data and see if there are any potential threats.
Protecting your customers’ data should be a priority. Hackers target these data all the time to exploit them and gain money. You’ll need the best protection to keep your customers’ data safe and avoid financial loss and legal action.
Furthermore, keeping your data safe can even help your business survive and build trust with your customers.