When cybercriminals prey on companies, they don’t usually go for tech giants or large, multinational organizations. Instead, they direct their efforts on small businesses because these companies may not have the resources to fend off cybercriminals. A 2019 report from Small Business Trends revealed that 43 percent of cyberattacks continue to zero in on small businesses.
Losing sensitive customer data, such as financial reports, medical or health care records, credit card numbers and login credentials, can have disastrous consequences for your small business. The good news is you can take measures to safeguard against security and data breaches.
Here are seven ways to help your business better protect the sensitive data of your valued customers:
1. Restrict Access to Sensitive Data
Not every employee in your organization needs access to sensitive customer information. Malicious employees are not the only ones who can destroy your business. Lax security protocols, as well as burned-out workers who are prone to making a mistake, can compromise your security system and leave your company susceptible to a data breach.
An easy way to minimize the likelihood of a data leak is to limit the number of people and systems that access sensitive customer data. This leaves you with fewer employees who may make mistakes and fewer systems to safeguard.
If you do need to provide access to customer documents with authorized employees, make sure you use a reliable enterprise file sync platform that enables you to share data securely.
2. Check PCI Compliance
If your organization is handling credit card transactions, make sure that the way you’re transmitting and processing cardholder information complies with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS). When you enforce the basics of PCI compliance in your company, customers can enjoy peace of mind knowing that you’re handling their personal information securely.
3. Connect Only to Secure Networks
Invest in a dedicated and secure server used only by your company and your employees. Although sharing your server may be more affordable upfront, using a secure and exclusive network can significantly cut down the risk of leaving your customers’ data open to hacking.
4. Install and Update Your IT and Network Security Software
Running anti-spyware, anti-malware and anti-virus programs serves as your first line of defense. You shouldn’t, however, just be content with installing software. You have to update these programs regularly.
A common problem with businesses is that they purchase a program that they don’t need, want, use or understand – and the software just sits there. Another issue is that they buy software but fail to update it. The program then becomes obsolete and worthless over time.
Given that hackers are revising and polishing their cyberattack tactics constantly, your odds of protecting your system are higher if you update your security programs frequently. If given the option, always choose the “update automatically” setting. This way, you can be sure that you’re running the latest and greatest software version on your computers.
5. Educate Employees on the Best Security Practices
The employees of a small business are often the weakest link between customer information and a data breach. When you walk into your brick-and-mortar stores, remind your employees working with sensitive customer data to lock their workstations whenever they go on break.
What’s more, create and enforce a clean desk policy on your business establishments. The reason is that employees may scribble down passwords and other data that should remain confidential on a post-it note or a desk blotter. You don’t want your company passwords and other sensitive info to be visible to guests, stakeholders and other company visitors. As much as possible, go paperless and do everything digitally.
6. Appoint a Trustworthy Data Manager
Hire an on-site data manager who can serve as a point person and is responsible for making decisions related to data breaches. Alternatively, you could delegate this role to a high-ranking employee you can trust. Examples include an employee elected by the board of directors, senior database managers and high-ranking executives.
7. Keep Only the Data You Need
Review the customer information you’re keeping on your database and figure out whether you should store those data or get rid of them completely. If you come across information that your business doesn’t directly relate to the needs of your organization, purge them from the system securely.
Also, think twice about storing credit card information. Unless you have a good reason, your business doesn’t need to hold on to these data.
There will always be thieves, hackers and other criminals out there targeting and stealing customer data from small businesses. Don’t allow your company to be the next victim. Follow these best practices to protect your organization from data breaches.