How to protect customer data

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Photo: MGN Online

In the wake of a number of high profile corporate data breaches, it’s more important than ever for a business to proactively secure customer data. Today consumers expect businesses to safeguard their data and for good reason. The statistics are alarming:

  • 85% of Data Breaches Occur at Small Businesses
  • 77% of Small Businesses Do Not Have a Formal, Written Internet Security Policy for Employees
  • 40% Do Not Have a Contingency Plan Should a Loss of Data Occur
  • Average Cost of a Data Breach is $300,000 – $188 per Record
  • 60% of Small Businesses Will Shut Down After a Data Breach
  • Sources: Cyber Data Breach – Is Your Business Ready?, New Agency Partners, FBI IC3 Internet Crime Report 2013

The most common forms of business fraud that can lead to a data breach are Hacking, Theft or Release of Funds Due to Unauthorized Access, Stolen or Lost Paper & Electronic Files, Stolen or Lost Laptop, Smartphone, Tablet, or Computer Disks, Stolen Credit Card Information, Employee Error or Oversight.

It may seem that implementing good data security requires high tech equipment and specialized personnel. The reality is that there are a few simple steps that you can take to help you secure customer data without spending a lot of time or money. You can start by doing a simple inventory.

  1. Inventory the TYPES of data you collect, store and/or transmit.
  2. Inventory HOW and WHERE you store your data for each type and format of customer information.
  3. Inventory HOW DATA IS MOVED and WHO HAS ACCESS to it.
  4. Inventory the DATA CONTROLS YOU HAVE IN PLACE. Is it secured safely?
  5. Evaluate COSTS versus BENEFITS of different security methods.
  6. Know your state’s laws. Some states specifically require that small businesses encrypt personal information that is sent over the Internet.

For more information on how to inventory and secure your customer database, go to BBB.org’s Data Security Made Simpler.

To find out more about other scams, check out BBB Scam Stopper. To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker.