Every day, the world creates 2.5 quintillion bytes of data. That includes a huge amount of personal information not only about ourselves, but about our customers. With so much data out there, it’s more important than ever to safeguard the information you gather about your customers. Allowing your customers’ private information to fall into the wrong hands damages your reputation and erodes customer confidence. Even worse, it can result in lost sales and even legal action against your company.
A few weeks ago, we wrote about to building trust and keeping your customers’ data secure. Here are five more tips to help you get started!
1. Verify/Validate Customer Information
The first step in safeguarding customer data is making sure that you’re collecting authentic and accurate information. This protects your customers and your business from the ill effects of fraudulent transactions. Be sure to verify the billing address and require the CVV number on the back of all credit cards used to complete online transactions. Verify in-person transactions with a driver’s license or personal ID card. You might also consider adding sophisticated scanning and identity capture tools to make collecting customer information even easier, while providing instant identity verification.
2. Use SSL to Encrypt Website Visitor Traffic
If you collect sensitive information on your website, you need a secure certificate (SSL) that encrypts customer data as it’s passed from the customer’s computer to your servers. While having a secure certificate won’t guarantee that sensitive data can’t be intercepted, it is a vital layer of protection when collecting credit card information, social security numbers, and even addresses and phone numbers.
3. Establish Policies for Customer Information Disclosure
Sometimes a hacker doesn’t need sophisticated technology to obtain the information they need. They can just ask. Security breaches often happen when customer service or support staff inadvertently reveal customers’ personal information through service calls. Establish strict company policies for requests for personal information, and never give away private customer data through phone conversations, text messages, emails, or chat sessions that can be easily compromised.
If you do need to share sensitive information like credit card information, passwords, medical records, consider using secure email encryption software to ensure your customer data isn’t falling into the wrong hands.
Employee training is essential to prevent these common breaches and keep customer data safe. You might also incorporate security measures into your system that restrict access to critical customer data to only the most essential personnel.
4. Don’t Save Data If You Don’t Need To
While having customers set up an account on your website can make it easier for them to log in or place subsequent orders, saving customer data for later use is a security risk many companies just can’t afford. Hackers can’t steal data that doesn’t exist, so consider using credit card information or other sensitive data for its intended purpose and then deleting it immediately afterward.
Just because customer data is encrypted doesn’t mean it’s 100% safe.
In 2013, software giant Adobe had 3 million encrypted credit card numbers stolen from their servers, while 38 to 150 million Adobe accounts were compromised.
The best way to prevent incidents is to limit the amount of sensitive customer data you store in the long term. Keep only what you need, and discard the rest, so there’s no chance the data can fall into the wrong hands.
5. Keep Your Servers and Computers Updated
One of the simplest ways to keep customer data safe is to make sure your servers and computers have all the latest operating system updates. Hackers can exploit vulnerabilities in operating system software to install malicious applications that can be used to steal customer data.
To stay ahead of operating system vulnerabilities, be sure you automatically download and install the latest security patches for all your computer systems and servers.
While this list isn’t all-inclusive, implementing the strategies outlined here will give your business the edge when it comes to protecting customer information. Changing the way you collect customer data, encrypting the traffic on your website, establishing policies and procedures for information disclosure, keeping your software up to date, and deleting information you don’t need are all vital steps you can take to prevent valuable customer data from falling into the wrong hands.