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Cyber Threats: How to Protect Consumer Data

Published on February 23, 2022

In today's day and age, the threat of a cyber-attack looms over every company. No matter in which niche the organisation operates — it can become a potential target for hackers and other types of cyber-criminals.

According to Statista, over 150 million people were affected by data exposures in 2020 in the United States of America alone. While this number is lower than the one recorded in the preceding year, it still indicates that businesses must improve their customer data management strategies.

Many CEOs struggle to boost the cyber security of their respective companies. Besides failing to recognise the weak points in their organisations' defences, they are also frequently unsuccessful in establishing good practices and updating their data privacy policies. As more consumers become aware of the risks of sharing their personal information, having a non-transparent and ineffective data collection strategy can severely harm the brand's reputation.

To avoid this situation, companies should put more effort into data protection. Fortunately, thanks to the newest technologies, they can do so in multiple ways. This article lists the most effective ones, ranging from keeping the company's network up-to-date to developing a business continuity plan.

Creating a Business Continuity Plan

Although prevention is better than cure, even the best security measures cannot provide complete protection from data breaches and other cyber-attacks. As such, companies should take the necessary steps to prepare themselves for the emergency before it occurs. This way, they can minimise the adverse effects of the event and maximise privacy protection. For instance, they can recover all information on individual consumers much faster and prevent further data leaks.

Aside from putting in place a device control strategy, developing a business continuity plan (BCP) is among the most frequently used methods to weather the storm. A BCP is, in short, a set of guides and practices created to keep the data collected by the company safe during a crisis. It involves establishing various data backup solutions, using the right tools for communication, and limiting access to the most sensitive information by creating complex passwords. With a business continuity plan on board, the enterprise can deal with the issue faster and cut the costs of handling it.

Training Employees To Keep Sensitive Data Secure

Another effective method to ensure customer data is well-protected is providing emergency response training for staff members. This way, they can learn more about data protection regulations (such as the General Data Protection Regulation or the California Consumer Privacy Act) and what to do if a data breach occurs. As a result, the employees will be more aware of the potential threats and know how to secure company data.

The organisation can also inform employees about how it collects personal data about the customers (e.g., mobile apps data collection), what data type it is collecting (e.g., personal data, engagement data), and if this information is shared with any third parties.

Furthermore, many companies enforce specific policies to limit access to customer information. For example, they might allow employees to manage only the data that is necessary to fulfil their tasks or create multiple strong passwords for their files. Combined with the cyber security training, this method can help the company significantly lower the risk of a data breach and secure customer data.

Updating the Company's Security and Consumer Data

Whether it is security software, operating systems, or web browsers — each of the company's assets needs to be updated regularly. Otherwise, the enterprise might soon have to face unwelcome consequences.

Suppose the company fails to protect customer information due to outdated equipment and a poorly maintained database. In that case, many consumers may view this situation as the perfect opportunity to voice their privacy concerns. For instance, they might demand more control over personally identifiable information, with some of them even wanting to gain complete control over such data. Consequently, it can harm the brand's image and decrease consumer trust.

Companies should regularly update their software and devices to keep these kinds of data security and privacy issues at bay. Besides, they need to double-check if the sensitive user data they are using is secure and well-maintained. This way, they can prevent unwanted access to their back-end databases and keep their customers safe.

Final Thoughts

Customer data protection is an unavoidable aspect of running an enterprise. Whether the company sells organic products or provides financial services — it needs to protect consumer privacy. The way companies handle this issue can determine whether they succeed or fail. Unfortunately, CEOs rarely happen to be privacy professionals.

With that being said, organisations can take meaningful steps to protect customer data. They can ensure consumer protection by creating a continuity plan, taking time to train employees, and keeping every element of their data security in compliance with modern standards.

Of course, there are also other ways to take care of customer privacy (including AI and machine learning). Nevertheless, they can be pretty costly, meaning not everyone can afford to employ them.

The bottom line is to keep the same level of protection across every part of the organisation. If the company manages to do that, it will have an easier time staying ahead of potential cyber-threats.