Protecting Customer Data from Hackers

One of the top data breaches from 2017 occurred in July and affected 143 million people.  The financial and identity theft perpetrated by a malicious outsider occurred in one of the main credit bureaus–Equifax. Cyber attacks and data breaches are becoming a fact of life for department stores, wireless providers, health insurance companies, restaurants and many other outlets, leaving customers scrambling to protect their data from identity theft and prevent the loss of their assets. Even government agencies have been targeted. We want to trust a company will take care of our personal information, but that trust is waning. Given the problems of the past few years, we may have blindly entrusted our customer data without realizing how vulnerable it was to hackers.


Realities of Customer Data Security

Many companies have been operating with a false sense of security that their protocols are working. However, according to Gemalto, a world leader in digital security, only four percent of breaches were considered secure breaches in which some type of encryption was used to protect the stolen data from being used. The encryption rendered the data useless.  The reality is 88 percent of data breaches occur in the United States and 74 percent involve identity theft.

Even with this information companies still think their customer information and systems are hacker-proof. Experian and the Ponemon Institute conducted a survey that showed 43 percent of organizations had been breached within two years.

What’s gone wrong with our cybersecurity? Are the hackers smarter than the legitimate programmers who try to make things easier by letting us live our lives online?

Rapidly changing technology has become a race to see who wins–the hackers or the security experts. As soon as one side invents a new technology, the other side finds a way to circumvent it. It goes around and around, and who gets caught in the middle? Consumers. According to Pew Research Center, 64 percent of Americans have personally experienced a major data breach, and a large majority of the public does not believe organizations are equipped to protect their data when it is collected.

Protecting Customer Data

How can you protect your customer’s data?

Losing customer trust when there has been a data breach has become one of the most critical issues facing companies today. What are the steps companies should take to regain that trust and provide optimal protection for customer data?

  1. Keep systems up-to-date by installing patches and updates immediately.
  2. Don’t reveal sensitive customer information in live chats or emails.
  3. Verify and authenticate address and card verification information every time.
  4. Use encryption and don’t store information after it is no longer needed.
  5. Purchase a Secure Sockets Layers (SSL) certificate for your website.

It is imperative companies conduct security audits that include the entire IT infrastructure, so you can determine what you need to prevent data breaches in the future. If your system is now secure, make sure your staff is trained to spot unusual activities and avoid human error, which is the biggest cause of data security breaches. Training should also include written security policies employees must follow, including rules for those working off-site with remote access. Don’t forget to back up all data and test the backup to make sure it is working.

Don’t be content with one layer of security. Viruses and hackers are more sophisticated at defeating security systems, to provide multiple layers of security technology on all devices that can protect and alert the company when something is wrong in real-time.

There is an old adage that says, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” It is far more difficult to win back your customers than it is to protect their data in the first place. Data security should not be a once a week endeavor of your IT department. Protecting your customers is a 24/7 undertaking so you can stay one step ahead of the hackers.

Learn how to collect and store customer data with our course: Data Warehousing.

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