IT security is an issue as old as the technology itself, but that doesn’t excuse large companies when they are revealed to be facing some of these problems.
The Fall of the Mighty
Social media giant Facebook learned this the hard way. It was revealed this year that a data security flaw allowed British political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica, to use the personal information of some 87 million Facebook users in the US. The data was used to drum up pro-Trump propaganda on the platform, even creating the “Defeat Crooked Hillary” video campaign to influence the 2016 elections possibly.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg was summoned by both the US Senate Commerce and Judiciary committees and the Brussels-based European Parliament to explain the issue to lawmakers further, all while assuring that the company is doing everything in their power to right the wrongs.
Months after the exposé, several companies like Twitter, Viber, and Snapchat followed suit by looking into their own policies, updating their Terms and Services, and assuring users that the personal data is safe with them. Some added that they don’t sell or rent the information (note, however, that this is different from sharing some details with select partners).
The European Union, meanwhile, put into effect the General Data Protection Regulation, which gave Europeans the “right to be forgotten,” wherein tech companies must erase specific user data online if requested by the person.
Precautionary Strategies for Customer Data
Technology is making operations easier for big companies, but such incidences have put the spotlight on privacy and data security, which should be every business’ responsibility.
Fortunately, there are many ways to combat these issues and assure clients and users a safe experience.
1. Using dedicated servers
Shared servers are understandably cheaper, but security—which it regrettably lacks—is something your business should be investing in.
Other people may have access to your personal information, making it vulnerable to attacks, when you opt to use a shared server. Having a server that only you and key personnel can access can significantly improve overall data security.
2. Beefing up your passwords
Cybercriminals are smart and resourceful—they can easily tinker your account to discover login details, especially if your passwords are rather simple and easy-to-remember. Once inside the system, these crooks can quickly use confidential information and back-end databases for their gain.
The standard for a secure password is to have numbers, symbols, and both uppercase and lowercase letters. Require everyone who can access the system to remember this and implement a two-factor authentication. Some IT services would even need personal information before passwords can be reset, which would require sending notification and receiving confirmation from the user first.
3. Implementing and updating data encryption practices, including cloud
IT security is continually getting updates to protect users better, making outdated legacy systems prone to attacks. Data encryption is one of the practices users tend to neglect but should be greatly considered.
In both servers of physical storage and cloud, implement full protection and encryption including the actual process of data transfer to the cloud.
Have a schedule for regular encryption updates. With many cost-effective choices available, there is sure to be one that fits your business.
4. Setting up email filters for spam, malware, and other suspicious files
A quick look at your received email folder shows multiple emails from unknown people containing dubious links and attachments. Aside from being cautious and not opening these, you can also set up a filter that will instantly protect you from spam, malware, and other dangerous emails.
Report incidences to your IT Specialist, if needed.
5. Updating the operating system and applications to include security fixes
A patch assessment tool can help you determine if your OS and all the applications needed are up-to-date. If not, do an update immediately. It will not only fix security bugs, but will also improve your system’s speed, reliability, and efficiency.
6. Segregating networks and implementing firewalls
Consider using different networks for each of your internal departments and put up next-generation firewall for each. The problem with a common network is a single vulnerability can put the whole in jeopardy.
7. Restricting personal storage device and unnecessary software
Some companies have implemented the practice of disallowing employees to insert their own removable storage devices on company-issued computers, as well as controlling the use of certain applications to further protect sensitive company data.
Controlling these not only prevents vulnerabilities from getting in, but also prevents confidential information from getting out.
8. Customer info collection, access, and organization
The underlying factor behind the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal is the collection of user’s data and misuse. To avoid such incidences, businesses should learn how to handle private information better.
This could be done by letting users know which information will be collected, collecting only the necessary information, limiting its access to only the employees who need them, and deleting the data only if it’s not needed anymore.
9. Training your employees and hiring experts
All of these strategies would not work if only select people would implement and take them by heart. Consider doing training and seminars to your employees and reiterating the importance of data security within the organization.
Aside from preparing your personnel, you may also set up a team of experts who will protect you in case some problems occur like those knowledgeable in different fields such as forensics, legal, information security, operations, HR, communications, investor relations, and management.
10. Getting an Outsource Data Security Partner
There are some things that you won’t be able to execute yourself without the right knowledge and resources. In this case, IT outsourcing companies may be able to offer the support your business needs. Consider getting an outsourced data security organization to help you better your IT infrastructure.
Privacy and data security are more than just buzzwords—these are considerations that may have implications for your business if not taken seriously. More than just using safety as a marketing ploy to lure in clients who are meticulous when it comes to their privacy, this should be a corporate responsibility that comes with quality service.