With so much at stake, it’s no wonder that businesses are struggling to keep up with the data protection demands of the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) of the European Union (EU). The regulation stipulates many arduous requirements for managing the personal information of anyone from the EU, and failure to meet them can result in eye-watering fines.
But while the penalties for non-compliance are high, they pale in comparison to the reputational damage that can be caused by a data breach. The loss of trust that follows can be devastating for businesses, and in some cases, irreparable.
That’s why it’s so important for businesses to take steps to protect their client’s personal information. Small businesses, in particular, need to be extra vigilant, as they are often seen as easy targets by cybercriminals.
Ways To Protect Your Clients’ Personal Information
In this article, we cover seven ways that small businesses can protect their client’s personal information and avoid fines, data breaches, and reputational damage.
1. Keep Your Software Up-To-Date
This includes both your operating system and any applications you use.
Outdated software is a prime breeding ground for malware, which can give cybercriminals access to your client’s personal information. You might think that you don’t need to update your software because it’s working fine, but that’s not enough.
Cybercriminals are always coming up with new ways to exploit vulnerabilities in software. The longer that software goes without being updated, the greater the chances that it will be compromised.
2. Layer Your Protections
Let’s be honest. Policing cybercrime will always be a game of catch-up. Cybercriminals are constantly finding new ways to circumvent security measures, and it can be tough to keep up.
That’s why it’s important to have multiple layers of protection in place. This way, even if one layer is breached, the others will still be there to stop the attacker in their tracks.
One of the most effective ways to do this is to use a combination of firewalls, antivirus software, and intrusion detection or prevention systems.
Setting up an on-prem agent on top of this can further protect your network by providing visibility into activity on endpoints and servers, and identifying suspicious behavior well before it can do any damage.
3. Keep Private Info Off the Cloud
The cloud is a godsend for small businesses: affordable, scalable, and easy to use.
But there’s a massive downside: the cloud is also full of security vulnerabilities. If you’re storing your clients’ personal information in the cloud, it’s important to take extra steps to protect it. This includes encrypting the data both in transit and at rest, as well as using strong authentication measures.
We advocate for using the cloud more as a tool for collaboration and storage of non-sensitive data. For high-value or regulated data—such as your customer’s credit card information—it’s best to keep this on-premises where you have full control over security.
4. Keep Stringent Data Policies
This includes both internal policies governing how employees can access and use client data, as well as external policies specifying what third-party service providers can do with the data. It’s important to remember that you are ultimately responsible for any third-party service providers that you share your client’s personal information with.
That’s why it’s so important to have strict data policies in place, both internally and externally. These policies should specify how the data can be used, who can access it, and what happens to it when it’s no longer needed.
Ex-employees, in particular, should be promptly removed from all systems and have their access revoked. Though not all data breaches are caused by malicious insiders, there’s no point in opening yourself up to that risk.
5. Educate Your Employees
Your employees need to be aware of the risks and know how to protect the personal information of clients.
This includes knowing how to spot phishing emails, using strong passwords, and being extra cautious when working with sensitive data.
You should also have procedures in place for what to do in the event of a breach. This way, your employees will know exactly what to do if they suspect a data breach has occurred.
6. Regularly Test Your Defenses
The only way to be sure that your defenses are up to the task is to regularly test them. This can be done with both automated and manual tests.
Automated tests, like vulnerability scans, can help you identify weak points in your system. Manual tests, like pen tests, can help you assess how well your employees can detect and respond to attacks.
Both types of tests are important for keeping your high-value information safe.
7. Review Your Processes Regularly
An impenetrable security plan weakens over time as new threats emerge and old ones evolve. That’s why it’s so important to regularly review your processes and make sure that they’re still effective.
By regularly reviewing your security posture, you can be sure that you’re always one step ahead of the attackers. Be sure to conduct a review at least once a quarter, and more often if you work with especially sensitive information.
As more businesses move online, the risk of data breaches grows. The risks of a data breach can be catastrophic—not only for your business but for your clients as well. By following the tips in this article, you can help keep your client’s data safe from hackers and other cyber threats.
And remember: the best defense against a data breach is always a good offense. By being proactive about your security, you can help keep your clients’ personal information out of the hands of the bad guys!