How To Protect Your Client’s Privacy
Small businesses across the country are easy targets for cyber criminals. Many lack the understanding necessary to keep their customers’ information safe. But customer data must be protected at all costs. Thankfully, these costs don’t have to cut deeply into your bottom line.
What is PII?
When a business needs to consider customer data privacy, this usually means how it will protect personally identifiable information (PII). PII is, according to LifeLock, any kind of information that might identify an individual. A few examples are email addresses, driver’s license numbers, and credit card account numbers. As a small business, you likely collect this type of information when you sell a product or service to a customer.
Your Business: An Easy Target
Because you collect data, you are automatically interesting to cyber criminals. And since your small business likely doesn’t have the budget to hire a 24/7 crew of cybersecurity experts to sit around and monitor your online activities, the target on your back get seven bigger. Unfortunately, SMBs that experience a data breach often wind up spending more than $5 million on cleanup in the two years following the attack.
Types of Breach
Since your customers’ information is vulnerable to a data breach, if you want to keep it safe, you have to understand where weaknesses lie. The four most common causes of unintended access are cyber attacks, device misplacement, employee data theft, and human error.
A cyber attack is carried out by a hacker. This is an individual who uses many different techniques to sneak into your networks. Phishing is a common practice that involves creating a fake, or spoofed, email address and sending correspondence to your customers from it. This email will be cleverly designed to look official and will request information regarding the employee, a customer, or an internal system.
When this happens, you must act quickly to minimize damage. If you don’t have dedicated tech support, you’ll save money and headaches in the long run by outsourcing this to a data recovery firm such as Secure Data Recovery. Ideally, your data recovery experts can repair your database or servers quickly so that your systems are not down for an extended time.
Once you’ve gotten your data back and your systems are recovered, your next step is to train your employees to identify this type of correspondence. Webroot explains that most scam emails display several red flags. The first of these is that they often contain blatant grammatical errors. Many will play on your employees’ sense of trust and urgency. They might, for example, claim that the employee must click a link to update their login credentials within a matter of minutes. One telltale sign that the email is fake is that the sender’s address will be different as displayed compared to when hovered over by a mouse.
Another unfortunate reason that cybersecurity becomes compromised is when employees misplace their company devices. This is increasingly common as more companies offer flexible schedules and remote work opportunities. Obviously, you can’t prevent every instance of loss or theft. But you can require employees to take crucial steps to keep the information contained on their device. This includes using multiple passwords and encrypting the hard drive. Further, any information input into a device should be backed up to a secure server.
You also have to protect devices used by multiple people. If you use a clock-in kiosk, make sure that it is outfitted with software that requires employee pin numbers, which ensures secure timesheet records. ClockInEasy is a secure option that costs as little as $4 per user per month.
In addition to unintentional loss, data may also be compromised when an employee leaks information out of anger. Insider leaks are a major problem, and more than 60 percent of IT leaders think their employees have offered up sensitive company information as a malicious act within the last year. While you can’t prevent angry employees from trying to take revenge, you can protect yourself by limiting who has access to your most sensitive files. Another step you can take, which does not cost anything, is to have all employees sign a nondisclosure agreement. This is a form that legally forbids them from speaking about or leaking any information about your company not available to the general public.
Now, we come to the topic of human error. Unfortunately, information may accidentally be shared by well-meeting employees. This might happen when someone tries to send an email, and their system auto-inputs a similar recipient. For example, Jane needs to send financial notes to company CEO Michael. As she types in the name, her email program automatically fills in her most frequently used similar contact, which might be Michelle, the buyer for her company’s best-selling product. Employees might also inadvertently fail to put security into place on servers or might mistakenly upload information to public access channels.
The vast majority of data breaches happen because employees are not trained in the fundamentals of information technology. Training can go a long, and even free online classes can give your employees a basic understanding of data security. When you offer training, don’t limit it only to office personnel; it’s best to make company privacy everybody’s business.
A final step in prioritizing sensitive information is to let your customers know what measures you’ve put into place. Draft a data privacy statement but offer your customers a quick email with bullet points instead of long, drawn-out explanations. Be clear and concise, and encourage them to reach out to you if they have any questions. If nothing else, telling your customers what to expect is a great way to keep yourself and your employees accountable for your actions.
There are many other things you can do to keep your company’s information safe. These include physically storing papers and receipts under lock and key and continually updating your systems to their latest iteration.
As you can see, data security does not have tobe an expensive undertaking. While you will incur some expenses, such as data recovery, the time and money you spend will enhance your company’s digital security now and in the future. It’s work, but, eventually, these practices will just become part of your everyday operation and are much less expensive than losing your reputation because of an unfortunate mistake.