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  • Writer's pictureTed James

Tech Tips For Entrepreneurs: Protecting Your Customer’s Data

Updated: Apr 5, 2022

Cybercrime is always on the rise. In fact, it’s increased an average of more than 27% since 2017, and small and medium-sized businesses are typically the target. Unfortunately, only about two out of 10 SMBs are equipped to protect their customers' data. As a small business owner, you should be aware that this can cost you clients, and a single data breach can put your entire operation at risk. Today’s tips can help you keep your customers' information secure, even if you don’t have a background in IT.

Plan ahead for a breach

First, and most importantly, you must have a backup/recovery plan. No matter how much time, money, or expertise you put into preventing a data breach, it can happen to any business at any time. Your data recovery plan tells your staff which applications and processes must be reclaimed first. It will also let everyone know who’s in charge of what so that you can maintain a timeline, and get back to work with as minimal damage as possible.

Write your vendor contracts to protect your customers

Your customers trust you with their information, but, sometimes, you must rely on a third party to complete a project. In this case, you must adhere to best data sharing practices, which BitSight explains includes only sharing data essential to their task and having an incident response plan in place here as well. Furthermore, you should have a written contract with your vendors outlining exactly how they are to use in handling information taken from your systems. M. Alexander & Associates administrative support services can help to ensure that your vendors sign these contracts and that all of their documentation is complete before they are granted access.

Invest in a secure server

Although money is tight when you’re first starting out, spend the cash on ensuring that your information is routed to a secure server. This will offer your customers’ data the best possible protections. Additionally, you must back your server up often to reduce the impact of a ransomware attack.

Utilize encryption software

If customers enter information into your website, such as through an intake form or shopping cart, make sure your site is encrypted. This is done with encryption software – you may be familiar with SSL and HTTPS, but there are many other encryption processes. Talk to your web designer or hosting company to confirm that your site is encrypted; otherwise, it’s exponentially easy for hackers to grab your customers' data as it floats to the digital world of the internet.

Insist on strong passwords

Whether it’s your staff logging into your systems or your customers into your website, demand strong passwords. Passwords should be a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. You should also suggest using a combination of upper and lower case letters and avoiding single words or common phrases.

Destroy hard copies

Ideally, the majority of your collected information is housed on a secure cloud server. However, it’s not uncommon for small businesses to maintain hard copies of some paperwork. Depending on your industry, you may be required to keep records for three to five years, but you will need to get rid of these documents when the time is right. There are three primary ways by which you can destroy hard copies. This includes shredding, burning, and pulping.

Your customers’ personal data is their most valuable asset. When they’ve entrusted you and your company with it, don’t let them down. Take steps to keep their data safe, which will help you be a more trusted company. But, remember that no matter how hard you work to make this happen, hackers are smart, and you always need a backup plan for those “just in case” moments.

Photo Credit: Pexels

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