How to Improve the Way You Protect Customer Data

As the new year dawns, the need for businesses to closely protect confidential information is more urgent than ever. No one can predict what new hacking techniques will emerge in the year to come, but it’s a safe bet that cybercriminals will actively hunt for ways to steal sensitive information regarding both your business and your customers.

Your job is to keep this from happening.  DSC7549

Here at Baillie Lumber, we make every effort to protect customer data very seriously. We strive to maintain a culture where everyone throughout the organization recognizes this urgency as well.  

Here are tips to keep in mind on behalf of your customers: 

Stay up to date on encryption techniques. Technology to protect business data is always evolving. While your company may not need the absolute latest, state-of-the-art security software, nonetheless it’s vital to regularly review and revise the anti-virus technology you do employ. Advanced encryption and two-factor authentication are among the most power anti-cybercrime tools at your disposal. 

Maintain a tough privacy policy. Protecting customer data is (or should be) at the top of your organizational priorities. Craft and enforce a detailed policy and make sure everyone (including your customers) knows about it.  

Just as importantly, be very clear with customers about the type of data you collect and your commitment to safeguarding it. “Being honest with [customers] will help you build consumer trust and show you value their data and are working to protect it,” notes Small Business Trends. 

Gather only the data needed to fulfill customer needs. Don’t be one of those businesses that require an abundance of customers’ personal information, in order to complete a transaction.  

Unnecessary data (such as Social Security numbers) “provides a large cache for cyber hackers to target,” notes Huff Post, “not to mention makes some customers nervous about why you need all this information in the first place.” Generally speaking, proper log-in identification processes and the use of complex passwords addresses protection concerns. 

Promote a company culture of data protection. Employees should understand they are expected to protect customer data as if it were their very own. Consider holding regular all-staff meetings with a focus on detailing the latest hacking and cyber-fraud efforts out there. Also make it a strict requirement for employees to use complex passwords in their own work and to never download or open suspicious-looking email attachments from people they don’t know. 

Limit access to data. Speaking of employees, do you know how many workers have access to your sensitive business information? Beware of complacency in this area. Data falling into the hands of employees who don’t need it for their jobs can lead to trouble.

Depending on the circumstances and customer relationships, carefully select trusted employees (and/or third-party suppliers and vendors) who can view this information. Once you decide who qualifies, maintain a thorough record of staff given this privilege. Minimize the risk of data theft by restricting who gets to access it in the first place. 

Destroy paper documents and electronic files efficiently. Even in our digital era, paper documents sometimes contain sensitive data and are susceptible to theft. All such paperwork should be shredded when no longer in use. As for email and online documentation, make sure everyone understands that simply moving them to the “trash bin” doesn’t eliminate them completely.  

As in recent years, 2020 will see some businesses fall prey to large-scale data breaches. Take steps now to avoid this calamitous event from taking place and continue to build a greater level of trust with your customers.

Brett Del Prince
Baillie Lumber
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