Are you protecting customer data or exposing it?

By Kate Supino

In 2014, Bell Canada was hacked and more than 22,000 of its small business companies had their passwords, usernames and other sensitive information stolen.

When a company as large as Bell Canada is hacked, it's time to sit up and take notice.

RELATED TOPIC: Some small Canadian companies big on data

After all, if a company like them, with deep pockets and supposed access to the best security systems available, can be victimized in this manner, where does that leave the rest of us (including countless businesses)?

As the following article looks at, companies like yours that collect private customer data, even if you're using private data for the benefit of the public, need to be vigilant about protecting customer data and not exposing it to criminals.

So how can you be sure you're protecting sensitive data to the best of your ability?

Assign security levels to employees

Take a page from the military and assign security levels to employees.

Not everyone in your organization needs to have access to customer usernames, passwords, credit card information or other data. In fact, very few should have access to these things.

RELATED TOPIC: Companies must not overlook big data security needs

You give your human resources manager a key to the locked filing cabinet holding employee information. Your customer data should be locked in the same way, within your organization.

To manage this, include security levels in your operating manual.

Anyone below a certain level should never be able to view a customer's private information. If a breach does occur, you'll have a limited list of suspects to consider.

Disallow personal devices

Too often, laptops and tablets get stolen from employee's vehicles. These devices are usually the carriers for sensitive data that eventually gets sold to third world countries and exploited.

Thefts like this leave your company vulnerable to lawsuits, and even criminal charges. The best course of action is to simply disallow personal devices in the office.

But you even have to go one step further, if you want to prevent data leaks 100%.

Top executives in your firm may want to work from home, in which case they'll want to use thumb drives to transport data from work to home. However, this also exposes your customers' sensitive data.

Unsuspecting executives may not protect thumb drive data like they should, from prying eyes.

Worse, company spies or turncoats may use your work from home loophole to move valuable data from your office to competitors' hands.

If you're truly dedicated to protecting customer data, it can't leave the confines of your company's premises.

When you're in business and customers' private data is in your hands, it's your legal and ethical responsibility to protect it.

Your customers expect it and the government demands it.

Take steps now to make sure it doesn't get into the wrong hands.

RELATED TOPIC: Is data turbocharging your marketing effects?

About the Author: Kate Supino writes extensively about best business practices.

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