5 Tips Small Business Owners Can Use to Ensure Customer Data Stays Protected

by Chelsea Lamb of BusinessPop.net

As a consumer, you’ve likely received an email, letter, or automated phone call at some point stating your information may have been among the many that were potentially breached. As a small business owner, having to notify your customers about a data breach is a nightmare. Not only are you having to admit that private customer information was compromised, but your business (and profits) likely take a hit as customers are no longer as trusting and supportive.

The numbers aren’t looking good either. According to a report from lead cybersecurity and intelligence firm 4iQ, the number of data breaches increased 424 percent from 2017 to 2018, leaking 14.9 billion records. Even more frightening is that hackers have now set their sights on smaller businesses with seemingly easier security measures to infiltrate. To protect your customer’s data and prevent hackers from destroying your reputability as a small business owner, here are five tips to protect customer data and stay ahead of the hacker.

Follow Legal Regulations

With cyber attacks on the rise, more and more states are taking action, making it your legal obligation as a business owner to keep your customer’s data secure. One such example is the NYDFS Cybersecurity Regulation, which requires certain types of businesses in New York to have a strong infrastructure to ward off cybersecurity threats. Other states such as Arizona are implementing and/or strengthening data breach notification laws, thereby supporting the rights of consumers to know when their data has been potentially leaked and holding businesses accountable in their obligation to remain open and transparent with customers.

Strengthen Your Privacy Policy

This policy explains how a business uses a customer’s information, and a strong privacy policy can build trust with your customers and show your dedication to protecting their information. Make sure your policy is clear and straightforward in language that is easy to understand, as a vague or overly complicated policy can make it seem as though you are trying to hide something. Make your privacy policy easy to locate on your website as well.

Use Multiple Levels of Encryption

If a hacker singles you out as their next target, they’ll take any path they can get into your files. For this reason, make sure you use layers of encryption to make it difficult to access information and discourage attempts altogether. Encryption can be used in various ways, such as using a virtual private network (VPN) as opposed to a public Wi-Fi network, encrypting files on removable USBs and hard drives, or encrypting cloud storage. Doing so touts many benefits, including creating a competitive edge, giving customers an extra layer of peace of mind, and securing remote offices (a common format in small businesses).

Educate Your Employees

Hackers know ways to access customer information, but it is important that employees aren’t making it easier for them to do so. Consider having all employees attend a yearly data protection training class. Explain the importance of data privacy, data lifecycles, data backup, and encryption. Be sure to educate on the business consequences of non-compliance. In addition, explain the repercussions of accidentally and intentionally leaking customer information, which in most cases would be termination and loss of reputation.

Protect Against Viruses and Malware

It doesn’t matter how careful you and your employees are or how high tech your computers are; hackers can and will find a way to deposit viruses and malware on your technology to leach information. Use this list courtesy of TechRadar to find the best virus protection software with both paid for and free options. Do your research before settling on a program to avoid unintentionally installing a virus on your computer.

Your customers depend on you to protect their information at all costs. To avoid a data breach, stay on top of regulations, implement multiple methods of protection, and ensure everyone is on the same page. Hackers are a scary part of being a business owner, but by taking the right steps, you can show those hackers who’s boss.

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