Best Ways To Secure User Data For Your Business

Since online businesses store copious amounts of information, they must adopt a few best practices to secure user data.

Best Ways To Secure User Data For Your Business

With the world going digital, data is quickly becoming more precious (than oil or coffee). Cybercriminals are also actively breaching organizations’ defenses to obtain user information. In fact, over 8 million data records were revealed due to data breaches in the fourth quarter of 2023.

While individuals have to primarily deal with identity theft (and monetary loss in some cases) in the aftermath, the consequences can be downright devastating for businesses. To elaborate, the average cost of a data breach in the US is $9.48 million, with a global average of $4.45 million.

Since online businesses store copious amounts of information, they must adopt the best practices to secure user data.

Why Should Online Businesses Secure User Data

A data breach isn’t an isolated activity. Despite general perception, it isn’t a one-and-done security threat. Organizations have to deal with the fallout—both direct and indirect—for years.

Besides spending an outrageous sum directly towards incident response and recovery, they have to grapple with the following: 

  • Outlandish ransom demands 
  • Legal fees 
  • Non-compliance fines 
  • Malicious lawsuits

Additionally, the blow to their hard-earned goodwill and the decimation of consumer trust can be enough to send some businesses packing.

Worse, companies often don’t have enough resources left to focus on the operational side of their business or keeping their customers happy, suffering from a loss of revenue.

While international corporations might be able to shoulder the blow and dip into their substantial reserves to remain afloat, small businesses don’t stand a fighting chance.

Add in savvy, sophisticated threat actors who can successfully navigate varied IT infrastructures and compromise data stored in public cloud, private cloud, and on-premises to the mix, and it’s more important than ever for digital businesses to tighten security.

Why Should Online Businesses Secure User Data

5 Ways online businesses can secure user data

Although 51% of organizations vow to allocate more resources to incident response planning and testing, threat detection, employee training, and response systems after a security breach, the damage is already done by that point.

Further, a 2023 IBM report reveals that out of the 553 organizations it surveyed, 95% have dealt with at least one or more security breaches. Further, it revealed that only a third of the organizations were successful in detecting the breaches, with 27% relying on attackers.

While this might not seem like a big deal after an organization’s security environment has already been breached, organizations dependent on attackers had to spend nearly $1 million more than their proactive contemporaries.

So, instead of exacting these costs from their consumers and dealing with the nightmarish consequences, digital businesses should adopt the best practices listed below to secure user data.

1. Minimize your risk profile with consent and preference management

Prevention is better than cure. The age-old adage applies to online businesses even today. Logically, businesses will have less data to manage and secure if businesses collect less data. Consent management helps organizations do exactly that.

Under consent management, businesses will be bound to collect data ethically. They’ll have to allow users ultimate control over their PII (personally identifiable information), aka how it’s collected, shared, and managed. 

Moreover, consent management helps organizations follow the applicable data privacy regulations, like GDPR, CCPA, and HIPAA, and avoid paying hefty fines.

Plus, respecting an individual’s boundaries and giving them the choice to modify or delete their collected data (under certain circumstances) perpetuates a genuine relationship between the organization and its consumers.

On the flip side, preference management is all about asking your customers: 

  • How they’d like to be contacted 
  • How often they’d like to be contacted 
  • What types of communication collateral they might be interested in
Minimize your risk profile with consent and preference management

Although asking your customers such probing questions might seem like the antithesis of sales, it isn’t. 

Imagine receiving a barrage of emails, SMS, WhatsApp messages, and pop-up notifications from a brand. While a few of these might seem informative or useful, you’ll likely ignore the rest or grow frustrated if the brand is persistent in communicating with you. 

Now, reflect on your company’s policies. Incessant communication is one of the key reasons your cold emails get ignored. Consequently, preference management is necessary to grow your business. That’s not all.

Exclusive communication means there’s a good chance your customers will notice the messages they receive from you and take the desired action. This way, you might also be able to reconnect with a lost lead. The cherry on top? You’ll be in compliance with the CAN-SPAM regulations.

However, if juggling the two seems like a lot of work, you try out a platform like Osano’s preference management platform. The consolidated hub will: 

  • Let you integrate consent and preference management into your business processes seamlessly 
  • Offer first-party data-driven insights so you can refine your marketing strategy
  • Help you comply with the applicable laws
  • Free up your human resources 
  • Enhance your operational capabilities

2. Invest in account takeover protection and detection software

Identity theft isn’t new. Bad actors have been exploiting an individual’s PII for centuries for their gain. However, account takeover fraud is a sophisticated spin on the long con.

Under account takeover fraud, bad actors breach an organization’s security walls to steal sensitive information about your consumers and use them for personal or financial gain.

account takeover fraud

For instance, if you store your customers’ financial information and a cybercriminal gets access to this invaluable data, they’ll sell it on the black market to turn a profit or assume the customer’s identity and use their banking details without reservation. Similarly, they can manipulate any type of data they get their hands on, including your customer’s social security number. 

Such data breaches won’t just inconvenience your customers and hurt them financially but also damage your business’s reputation and erode consumer trust. The worst part is you, or the customer, might not even recognize these covert attacks until the damage is done. 

This makes it important for online businesses to address this cybersecurity concern head-on and take steps to protect their organization and consumer data from such fraudulent activities. Adopt MFA (multi-factor authentication) to prevent criminals from accessing your consumer’s account.

But it isn’t a bulletproof security measure. That’s where dedicated solutions come in. Investing in dedicated Generative AI and machine learning account takeover protection and detection software will flag suspicious activities, make identity theft protection easier, and stop account takeover attacks in real-time. 

Think of them as security apps you didn’t know you needed. These solutions will streamline your account takeover protection operations and improve your team’s productivity, like Windows, Microsoft Office and Truly Office.

3. Encrypt user data

Generally, bad actors try to intercept data when it’s in transit or steal the stored information. So, securing data in both instances will ensure your user’s data is secure and won’t become fodder for the ever-growing cybercriminals.

To keep the stored data safe, encrypt it using robust standards like AES-256. The encrypted data won’t be easy to access or exploit, even if a threat actor manages to breach your security infrastructure.

encrypt user data

Regarding the data in transit, you want to adopt standards specifically designed to protect information shared between the organization and its customers (or clients). Transport layer security (TLS) is a good example.

4. Regularly audit your security infrastructure and conduct penetration testing

You can build the best security infrastructure for your organization, but it’s not going to keep the information secure unless you review it regularly. Remember, cybercriminals evolve with the evolving security protocols, so it’s crucial to stay on top of your security posture to keep them out.

Audit your IT environment to determine if your encryption policies are working as programmed, the access controls are in place, you have an up-to-date Epos system, and you’re in compliance with the required security regulations. Pay attention to the results and remediate issues swiftly to effectively thwart bad actors. Pay attention to the results and remediate issues swiftly to thwart bad actors effectively.

Similarly, penetration testing is about commissioning specialists, aka white hat hackers and professional penetration testers, to try and breach your security posture. This simple exercise will help you identify the gaps in your infrastructure and patch them up before bad actors get a whiff of the problems and manipulate them.

Bonus advantage: you might also discover any covert data breaches that are underway and allocate sufficient resources to control the damage before it blows up and costs you dearly.

5. Educate your employees and customers

All your efforts to secure covert openings will be in vain if someone accidentally leaves the front door open for the bad actors. To combat this, hold training sessions for your employees to teach them the importance of data security and privacy. 

educate employees and customers on cyber security

Make these sessions a part of your organization’s culture and mandatory for all. But don’t turn them into dragging sermons. Keep them fun and interactive for better engagement and retention. Tell them about the consequences of a breach and the steps they should take if they notice any suspicious activities.

Similarly, educate your customers about the importance of data security and empower them with the best practices on ‘How to protect your data online’.

Final Thoughts: Businesses should prioritize user data protection

Cybercriminals are growing bolder by the day and targeting organizations to steal sensitive information. Since data breaches are uber-expensive, businesses need to be on the defense and thwart all such attempts. However, they can’t do that by simply tightening their security protocols.

To secure user data for your online business, only collect the data you need, invest in robust AI account takeover protection software, and encrypt all stored information. Don’t forget to educate your employees and customers and monitor your practices from time to time to keep these pesky issues at bay.

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