Global spending on cybersecurity services and products was predicted to surpass $1 trillion between 2017 and 2021. While the global cybersecurity market was worth $3.5 billion in 2004, it touched the figure of $120 billion in 2017. The very fact that the cybersecurity market grew by nearly 35X in 13 years explains why it is so critical to protect your customer data.
Many small businesses are adopting data backup practices to make sure that they are able to retrieve their data in case of occurrence of any disaster. According to a study by accounting software firm Sage, huge numbers of small companies are backing up critical data and information of their customers on-site itself.
In the year 2014, Home Depot suffered a huge data breach due to a fraud conducted by a third-party vendor. The hackers got away with 56 million credit and debit card numbers, apart from 53 million emails.
Way back in August 2010, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse published its Chronology of Data Breaches. According to that, more than a half-billion sensitive records containing sensitive data such as social security numbers and customer credit card information was breached. Out of the half-billion, one-fifth came from merchants, and non-insurance-related businesses, most of which were small and medium-sized businesses.
What is most scary is that nearly 80 percent of businesses that have experienced a data breach either go through bankruptcy or suffer severe financial losses within two years. This is confirmed by professional identity theft consultant and speaker John Sileo, who knows exactly the kind of damage that a security breach can do on small entrepreneurs and their business.
By now, you know how critical it is to protect your customer data. Here are seven ways by which you can protect the data of your business.
Keep your customer data on the cloud
Even though this might seem counterintuitive, it is safer to keep your customer data in the cloud rather than storing it on a personal server in your office. The cloud has become very popular over the last 10 years. Encrypting your data, building a firewall and running protocols to protect your customer data costs much more than saving it in the cloud. Besides, you can be sure that your information is absolutely secure in the cloud.
Segregate your sensitive business data
Make sure to segregate and keep sensitive data on very few computers or servers as it is easier to protect if there are fewer copies of your data.
Use encryption to protect your customer data
It is a huge risk to choose not to encrypt sensitive records. Data files sent through the internet using an unsecured channel is as good as inviting trouble. Encryption becomes all the more necessary when the data is mobile. Encrypting data ensures that your information is safe in spite of a security breach.
Use secure connection or secure sockets layer (SSL)
SSL or other similar secure connection will ensure safety while receiving or transmitting sensitive financial information and credit card details. It helps you to protect your customer data while it is in transit across the Internet.
Do background checks of all employees
The background check of your employees is extremely critical in ensuring that your customer data is safe in the hands of your employees. Make sure that all the employees you hire provide you with at least two references. Take time to call their previous employers to verify their employment information, and to understand their work reputation. It is also essential that you check if your prospective employee has a bad credit history or any criminal record.
Install hardware firewall
Installing a hardware firewall stops not just intrusion attempts, but also helps in keeping computer viruses and malware at bay. A secure appliance-based firewall will block intruders and threats so that they are not even able to enter your network.
Anti-virus and spam filters form another security feature that protects both incoming and outgoing data. Content filters block entry to harmful websites, thereby protecting computers from malware threats.
Ensure to have a disaster recovery plan
Almost 40-60 percent of small businesses succumb to disasters and shut down. It is hence imperative to be prepared for any natural and man-made disasters. A plan of action or disaster recovery plan will ensure that there has been no major compromise in regards to customer data. Your preparedness will enable you to overcome and easily bounce back from all natural and man-made disasters.
Roughly 50% of small businesses have at one time or the other been victimized by a cybercriminal. If you think you will be ruled out, it is time to rethink and reassess.
Using reliable data security precautions, you can stop data breaches, thereby avoiding any financial liabilities that come with it. You can protect your customer data by following simple procedures mentioned above and in the process can build customer loyalty which in turn will lead to satisfied customers and growth in sales.