Data privacy is one of the hottest issues facing companies today. To comply with an increasing number of governmental regulations and better protect sensitive customer information, you must take data privacy seriously. What can your organization do to better secure its customer data? Here are seven ways any enterprise should take.
Why is It Important to Secure Customer Data?
There are several reasons why securing customer data is important.
First, customers expect it. Consumers are increasingly warning of what happens to the personal data they share with various companies and want to do business only with those companies that properly ensure data privacy. In fact, 71% of consumers say they’ll stop doing business with companies that give away their personal information without permission
Second, governments across the country and around the globe are issuing an increasing number of regulations regarding data privacy. These include the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). In addition, many industries, such as finance and healthcare, have their data privacy regulations. Noncompliance with these regulations can be costly, in terms of hefty fines.
Finally, if you don’t properly secure your customer data you make your company a target for hackers and cybercriminals. Customer data is worth plenty on the dark web, and malicious actors will go after poorly secured data. There’s a reason that the number of data breaches jumped 68% in 2021—and you don’t want to add your company to that number.
7 Effective Ways to Secure Customer Data
When it comes to complying with data privacy expectations and regulations, there are several best practices every enterprise should adopt. Here are seven of the most effective ways your company can better secure your customer data.
1. Collect Only the Data You Need
The first way to better secure your customer data is to not collect so much of it. The more data you collect the more data you need to secure—and the bigger target you make for cybercriminals. A better approach is to collect only the data you need for your specific business purposes and forget the rest.
Evaluate all of the data you’re currently collecting and determine what you need and what you don’t need to be collecting. Do you need to store customer phone numbers, birthdates, or credit card info? If not, don’t collect that data. The less data you collect, the less valuable your data is to the criminal element—and the less interested they’ll be in it.
2. Delete Data When You’re Done with It
Along the same lines, don’t store data any longer than you need to. When you’re done using a set of data, purge it from your system. Don’t sell it to third parties and don’t keep it in your system just to have it. If you no longer need it, destroy it.
3. Take Traditional Cybersecurity Precautions
To ensure data privacy, you need to protect the data. This falls under the general heading of cybersecurity, and you should take all necessary steps to protect your data from unwanted access by unauthorized parties. This is IT security 101 but necessary to guard against data breaches and cyberattacks.
What types of precautions should you take? Here’s a starter list:
- Install an anti-malware tool and keep it regularly updated
- Enable a strong firewall
- Verify PCI compliance for all credit card transactions
- Require employees to create strong passwords—and change them regularly
- Back up all your data regularly
4. Restrict Access to Customer Data
There is no reason for employees to have unfettered access to any data your company stores, and that includes customer data. You can reduce the risk of data breaches by limiting access to customer information. The fewer people who have access to the data, the fewer points of vulnerability for that data.
One of the best ways to limit data access is to embrace zero-trust security. Instead of granting universal access based on employee title or level, limit access to only those who need access to specific data. Zero-trust takes a “trust no one” approach that makes your data more secure.
5. Secure All Employee Devices
With more and more employees working remotely, the issue of device security becomes increasingly important. Remote workers tend to use their personal devices for business use and their business devices for personal use. Since personal devices—computers, tablets, and smartphones—are less secure than company-issued devices, this becomes an issue.
Work with your remote employees to ensure that all the devices they use—personal and work-issued—are properly secured. Require strong passwords and, when possible, encrypt data stored on those devices. Train your employees on best practices for device use, including minimizing the risk of device loss or theft. Include instructions on how to securely connect to your enterprise network from non-secure locations.
6. Eliminate Data Silos
Data silos build up over time when different departments and locations create their own individual data stores. Storing customer data in separate silos is not only inefficient, but it also makes it harder to secure customer data. If you don’t know where all your company’s customer data is stored, you can’t adequately protect it.
For this reason, your IT staff needs to eliminate all data silos. Store all your customer data in a central database, either on-premises or in the cloud. A central database is easier to protect than multiple databases spread across multiple data silos.
7. Encrypt Everything—Including Your Communications
Encrypted data is secure data. Even if malicious actors breach your system and access your customer data, they can’t read or use that data if it’s encrypted. Use the strongest encryption available and, without the proper decryption key, your data will be safe from unauthorized use.
You should also employ encryption to secure all your employee communications, including text messages, audio calls, and video meetings. Insist on end-to-end encryption to ensure that all data and communications remain encrypted while in transit.
Let Wickr Help You Secure Your Customer Data
To ensure the privacy of your customer data in all communications, turn to Wickr’s secure communications and collaboration platform. Wickr employs robust end-to-end encryption and other military-grade security to ensure that text, voice, and video communications remain secure and private, both at rest and in transit. It’s an essential component of any enterprise-level data privacy strategy.
Contact Wickr today to learn more about securing customer data during communications.