The recent Equifax data breach highlights the importance of securing customer information. Unfortunately, in today’s technology-driven world, it can be challenging to maintain a level of security that is both safe and accessible. Fortunately, there are many ways to protect your customers’ information internally and externally. Some strategies include encrypting data, implementing good password policies, maintaining a secure network, and always considering security when designing new products or services. These safeguards will help you keep your customers satisfied with their experience dealing with your business while also protecting them from possible breaches in privacy due to lax protection measures on your end. It is important not only for businesses but also for individuals: we all have access to personal information online at some point, so we must take the necessary precautions to keep that information safe. What is a Data Breach, and How Does it Happen? A data breach is unauthorized access, use, disclosure, or acquisition of sensitive information. Sensitive data can include customer data, credit card information, social security numbers, and personally identifiable information (PII). To understand how to protect your customers’ information, it is important to understand how a data breach can happen. There are many ways that attackers can gain access to confidential data, including: Malware: Malicious software infiltrates a system to steal or damage data. Phishing: Cybercriminals attempt to obtain sensitive information such as passwords or credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity through email or telephone communication. Social engineering: Manipulation of people into giving out confidential information in a way that appears legitimate, often including the development of trust over time. A data breach can occur due to any combination of these methods. In some cases, companies may not know they were hacked until months or years after the attack occurred when they begin to see suspicious activity on their network. Attackers use this time to cover their tracks and continue accessing sensitive data without being noticed by the victim company. What is Customer 360? Customer 360 is a loosely defined concept whereby a company has a customer data platform with a unified view of all pertinent customer data. This is part of the centralization of the data concept that can help you protect customer data and give your company a powerful analytic tool. While a customer data platform is one step in the right direction, it’s only a start. Here are five simple ways to protect your customer’s data internally and externally. Only Collect Vital Data When designing new products or services, it is important to only collect the data you need to function. Do not ask for more information than necessary, as this increases your chances of a data breach. If you do not need certain information, do not ask for it. Vital data includes things like addresses and phone numbers – unless you plan on using them for marketing purposes. It may be tempting to request as much information as possible to have a complete profile of your customers but resist the urge. The less data you have, the less likely you will suffer a data breach. Use Encryption Encryption transforms readable data into an unreadable format so attackers cannot access it without proper authorization. The most secure and effective way to protect any information is not to store it at all. If you must store data, implement an encrypted database that can be accessed only by those with the decryption key. Ensure that you update your encryption methods as new technologies emerge so you can remain protected from hackers who use ransomware or other malicious software to access sensitive information. Limit Access to Data Another way to protect your customers’ information is by limiting access to it. Only allow those who need to see the data will have access and configure permissions accordingly. Limiting access will help keep sensitive data from being accessed by unauthorized individuals. You can also use password policies and two-factor authentication to add an extra layer of security. Use Password Management Tools Password management tools make it easier for users by generating complex sets of randomized numbers, letters, and symbols that customers never have to remember themselves. Instead, these passwords are saved in an “account” on the password manager software, where they can easily log in with one click. They also help businesses maintain their customers’ security by requiring employees who work closely with sensitive data (like billing or support) to change. Avoid Data Silos Silos are a big security risk. When data is scattered and not centralized, it becomes difficult to manage and protect. Decentralization increases the chances that sensitive information will fall through the cracks and be compromised. A data breach can occur when an attacker gains access to just one part of an organization’s system. Businesses should implement a centralized system where all sensitive data is stored in one place and can be easily accessed by authorized individuals. Centralization will make it easier to track and protect your customers’ information. Final Thoughts In today’s digital age, protecting your customers’ information is more important than ever. By following these simple guidelines, you can help keep their data safe from hackers and cybercriminals. Implementing strong internal and external security measures will help you maintain their trust.