Customer Care About their Security and Privacy More than Ever – and so should your business

Due to shifting attitudes and recent events, consumers care more about privacy and the security of their digital data than ever.  Businesses are wise to safeguard both their client’s data and their own data, so as to avoid the potentially devastating effects of a leak.

Privacy and Security sentiment from consumers

After a series of high-profile breaches (e.g. Target) that caused consumers to fear identity theft and to suffer the inconvenience of having to replace credit cards, there has been an increasing concern that businesses don’t take seriously their duty to safeguard customer data.  That in turn

Consumers are increasingly concerned about their online privacy and security.

The effect of the NSA leaks by Edward Snowden on Privacy attitudes

In an article titled Snowden effect: Young people now care about privacy, USA Today shares some interesting statistics that are attributable to Snowden leaks:

Results of a Harris Poll released this morning show four out of five people have changed the privacy settings of their social media accounts, and most have made changes in the last six monthden effects. What’s more, the poll, commissioned by anti-malware vendor ESET, reveals clear evidence that, contrary to what some believe, young people actually do care about the privacy of their online personas. The ESET poll is that latest proof point of what could, at the end of the day, take hold as a tectonic societal shift: the return of privacy as a social norm. Call it the Edward Snowden effect.

An Example: The Sony hack

Sony Pictures had movies, emails, and other confidential data stolen and published online.  The leaking of movies directly impacted their business to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.  Perhaps just as damaging was the public relations effect when embarrassing emails between executives were made public. Overall, the hacking of Sony Pictures is forecast to cost the company $100 Million.

What your business should do

Against that backdrop, it is clear that every business should take privacy and security quite seriously.  That is true both for customer data and the company’s own data.  Failing to do so is about as unwise a business decision as could be made.  Some suggestions for businesses to consider:

  1. Recognize the importance of securing business and customer data – Half of the battle is in seeing the privacy and security of the data held by your business as a valuable and critical thing that must be protected.  That mindset will go a long way to help ensure proper decisions are made about the infrastructure that stores that data.
  2. Use encryption – While “encryption” is not a magic word that solves all problems, properly implemented encryption is vital to securing data that is at rest or in transit.  Using encryption on cell phones, tablets, laptops, and desktops can make it more difficult for a person who steals such a device to access the confidential data it contains.  Similarly, encryption can make it virtually impossible for data to be stolen as it transits a WiFi network or the Internet.
  3. Keep your software up to date – Software, from your web browser to your email client to the software that runs your website, is frequently patched to eliminate security vulnerabilities.
  4. Limit employee access to needed information only – Giving employees access to data they do not need is a recipe for disaster.  Disgruntled employees can steal data, and negligent employees can lose data accidentally.  Data that is not shared cannot be lost, so limiting access to what is needed is the best approach.
  5. Use intrusion detection systems – There are a variety of Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) that can monitor computers and networks and detect attempted break-ins.
  6. Ensure proper physical security – While electronic security is vital, it makes no sense to have the most secure computer systems if data can be easily picked up and carried away by a burglar or disgruntled employee.
  7. Have a plan – Planning for a data breach is not a particularly enjoyable thing, but having a plan in place can save valuable time if it is ever necessary to react to a breach.
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