While we're all concerned about protecting our own information, when you're a business owner it's also vital that you protect your customers' information as well. Your reputation relies on safeguarding the details they provide to you in order to retain their trust and feel comfortable continuing to do business with you. Here's a few things to consider to keep that info safe and your customers feeling secure:
- Don't collect what you don't need. The more valuable information you have, the bigger a target you might be. Avoid using social security numbers or other personal information for customer identification. Opt instead for log in identification and passwords. More layers of identification help keep attackers from being able to simulate users. Consider deleting personal information that you don't really need.
- Install - and update - the right software. Running anti-virus, anti-malware and/or anti-spyware software is your first line of defense. But you must make sure it is regularly updated. Because hackers are constantly revising their tactics, your odds of beating them are best if you update frequently. If given the option, always select the "update automatically" setting to be sure you're running the latest and greatest software version.
- Use a secure network. Invest in a secure, dedicated server used only by your business and your employees. While it may be cheaper upfront to share your server, by using a secure network you significantly lower the risk of leaving your customers' information open to hacking. And always back up all of your data. By having backups of everything, you won't be devastated by "ransomware," a type of malware that blocks access to your data until you pay a ransom.
- Scan all new devices and encrypt everything. Be sure to scan all USB and other devices before they are attached to your network. Using encryption technology is another way to really safeguard customer information. Invest in the latest encryption software and keep it updated. It's also wise to encrypt your email if you're sending/receiving sensitive data.
- Educate employees. Employees are often the handlers of customer data. They therefore need to be kept up-to-date on how to protect that information to make sure it does not accidentally land in the wrong hands. They should be educated about the newest fraud schemes and urged to employ best practices such as not responding to or opening attachments or clicking suspicious links in unsolicited email messages.