8 Best Practices For Protecting Your Customer Data 

8 Best Practices For Protecting Your Customer Data

From email addresses to credit card details, almost every bit of customer data a business stores is valuable to cybercriminals. Therefore, you must handle customer’s personal information securely to avoid data breaches. You can build trust and a good reputation by protecting your customers or clients from these risks. Implementing the right measures is essential to improve regulatory compliance and avoid fines. Here are some effective strategies for protecting your customer data.

1. Remove data when no longer required

Sensitive information cannot leak if it doesn't exist in the first place. Consider deleting files that are no longer crucial for the business to protect customers' information from hackers. If you don’t require client info like addresses, driver's licenses, and health data, eliminate and overwrite with file-shredding software. This is because leaving irrelevant but confidential data on your computer systems could make it vulnerable to breaches. Another best practice to enhance customer data security is to leverage a system to automatically delete expired documents. You can use a tool like TitanFile to set expiration dates for files and client conversations, so feel free to consider this. 

2. Avoid using public WiFi to access customer data

Using public wifi to access customers' data may be bad as the network may not be secure. Limit public WiFi usage and opt for secure networks to run your devices instead. Installing a virtual private network (VPN) app on your drive is advisable to make it harder for hackers to steal your data and improve your ability for you in protecting your customer data. 

3. Control data access

Not all individuals in your business department should have access to the data you gather from buyers. Similarly, employees may not require the same level of access to business data as admins. Controlling access is a smart way to reduce vulnerability points for the organization. Easy access points that enable someone to log into a data analytics tool may constitute loopholes. For example, if you grant 20 people access to your website analytics tools, you just created 20 points of vulnerability. Your entire system may suffer a brute-force attack if one of those accounts is compromised. Consider permitting fewer employees to minimize data breach risks. 

4. Use a password manager

You can revamp your cybersecurity by requiring your team to use secure password management tools. These applications allow users to create and save complex passwords for various accounts. People don't normally use complex passwords because they are difficult to remember. Thankfully, these tools simplify things by encrypting and saving these codes. This way, users can easily retrieve their login information from the password manager. For instance, Google's password management system uses a complex encryption protocol to store passwords securely. Encryption makes sensitive files unreadable to third parties without the encryption key. 

5. Redact sensitive files

Redaction involves censoring, blacking out, or removing sensitive document portions. Consider doing this to your customer database information like phone numbers and email addresses. Fortunately, the right applications can permanently redact confidential and personally identifiable info from scans,  PDF documents, and other file formats. This is a good way to meet compliance requirements and fulfill data privacy laws like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) within your web applications. Redaction software may also allow you to permanently remove sensitive text and entire pages from Microsoft files, images, and other formats.

6. Create and publish transparent data usage and privacy policy

Businesses should define and implement concise data privacy policies and share them with stakeholders. A privacy policy should state who accesses data and how. It may also indicate the rights and wrongs regarding the data usage. Consider publishing a privacy policy page on your business website stating how your company collects, processes, and protects customer data. Inform customers any time you update your privacy policy. GDPR data privacy laws apply to businesses collecting European Union (EU) consumer information. It describes how companies may collect, transmit, and secure users’ data. Businesses that fail to comply with GDPR laws may be fined $20+ million or 4% of the global turnover.

The United States doesn't have a single national data privacy law, but various sectors have specific laws governing how organizations may gather, process, and use customer data. For instance, the Health Insurance Portability and Accounting Act (HIPAA) law helps protect the privacy of health information. On the other hand, the California Consumer Privacy Act or CCPA relegates how entities should collect California residents' information. Industry-specific privacy standards like the PCI-DSS apply to all merchants worldwide that handle consumer credit card info. Ensure your business complies with data privacy laws to avoid fines.

7. Don't use data silos

Data silos can affect your data analysis capabilities while causing significant vulnerabilities in terms of protecting your customer data. Using data means you are keeping your customers’ information in different places. However, one challenge of this idea is that it can result in data being stored in insecure and unapproved platforms. Additionally, it may also limit your ability to track your data. Unfortunately, if you lose track of your data storage, you may never know when you will experience a data breach. Develop a data management strategy that lets you know where and how you store your consumers’ data. When you avoid silos and use a data tracking plan, you can gain good control over data collection and storage, which can simplify data collection audits.

8. Understand what data you collect

You can be better at protecting your customer data if you know how sensitive it is. Find out what information you gather from consumers and how you use it. You can conduct a data audit to discover their sensitivity. Categorize each data piece, avoiding its usage, sensitivity, and accessibility. This will help you develop a data inventory to prioritize what data to protect and comply with relevant laws applying to your organization. You may classify your data into public, internal, confidential, and restricted. Public data may include press releases and mission statements, while internal data may include work schedules, marketing data, business plans, and budgets. Personal information, records, and health data may be classified as confidential. Likewise, restricted data may include passwords, intellectual property, and acquisition or merger plans.

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