Data has become a priority for businesses of all sizes. Data greatly informs how a company will behave, especially when it comes to marketing and advertising. Customer data such as location, age, gender, social security number, and credit card information is collected by companies every single day. Unfortunately, this type of data can be detrimental if obtained by the wrong people, making it a major target for criminals.
We have all seen the headlines about major data breaches at huge companies. This might make you think that only big businesses experience data breaches, but that is not true. Small stores are attacked just like large companies. Every day criminals attempt to steal information from businesses around the world. Fortunately, there are some simple steps that you can take now to help protect the data your company has collected.
How Is Your Data Collected
Companies collect customer data in a few ways. Some are highly technical while others are more deductive. There are three main ways data is collected; asking for it (self offered), indirect tracking, and adding other sources of customer data to your own data.
The most obvious places data is collected from is the self offered sources. This type of data comes from customers who are willing to share an incredible amount of data willingly. Fortunately, social media sites are easy places to share personal information, as that is their main purpose. Since there are very few barriers on social media, it makes collecting data from these sites easy. Any public information on social media is free to be collected as the user is sharing it with the world. Additionally, information can also be gathered by just asking for it. Most customers will willingly add their information to a profile on a company website when prompted to. Don’t be afraid to ask for the data you want, you might not get all of it, but you will certainly get some.
Companies will also dig into their own information to find customer data. They look to see where items were purchased and where they are being delivered. This information can then be handed over to marketing so they can target ads to customers based on location.
Lastly, companies don’t always need to collect the data themselves, they can buy it from other sources too. Companies who have collected customer data will often sell it off to multiple other companies, allowing the data to regularly change hands.
Now that you know how data is collected, how do you protect the data? Here are 5 easy steps you can take to best protect your customer’s private information.
Encryption technology is improving at a rapid rate. By using the latest encryption you are taking a huge step to protect your data. However, just encrypting your data once and forgetting about it is a bad practice. You have to regularly update your encryption if you want it to work best. The more outdated your encryption is, the easier it will be for hackers to get in.
Limit who has access to the data. The fewer people have access to the system the better; it limits the number of people hackers could target. Find people who absolutely need access to the data system and don’t add anyone else.
Collect Only What You Need
Data is great, but it is possible to collect too much information. Only collect the data you need as collecting extra data has a few negative consequences. Having a large amount of data makes you a target for hackers, but it also makes customers nervous about why you need all this information. Collect only what you need, don’t get greedy.
Delete What You No Longer Need
Consider deleting data after you no longer need it. Once business with a customer is complete, give some thought to getting rid of the data. This can help customers feel more comfortable with providing data knowing it will be deleted later.
Once you have a security plan in place, make sure all your employees know about it. Set rules in place that everyone can follow, such as not accessing the company network from outside computers. There is also validity to making your physical servers secure, limit who can directly be in the room with your servers. Figure out what rules make sense for your company and stick to them.
Data protection is incredibly important for any company. You do not want to be left vulnerable to hackers. Follow these simple steps above and your data will be more secure and harder to breach.