Data Protection: How and Why to Secure Your Customers’ Sensitive Information

As technology becomes more enmeshed in our daily lives, cyberattacks are on the rise. Hackers stole hundreds of millions of Equifax login credentials after the credit reporting agency didn’t update its software. Meanwhile, Anthem recently paid a record $115 million settlement to current and former customers after hackers stole their names, Social Security numbers, and contact information. If you run a small business, it’s your ethical and legal responsibility to prevent data breaches like these. Keep reading for some best practices to protect your customers’ data and your profit margin.

What’s a Cyberattack?

To prevent a security breach, you must understand what they are and why they’re so destructive. Consumers and companies increasingly find themselves potential targets for cyberattacks, a type of online security breach. Cisco defines cyberattacks as “malicious” and “deliberate” efforts to “breach the information system of another individual or organization.” Criminals benefit from these attacks by seeking money, disrupting business, or destroying data.

Data Protection is Good for Business

Investing time and money into data protection is good for your business because:

  1. You’ll stay legal.

    In some situations, you may be legally obligated to secure your customers’ data. In New York, for example, certain businesses must follow the NYDFS Cybersecurity Regulation, requiring local companies to implement infrastructure protecting from cybersecurity threats.

    According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 15 states have similar data security laws. Find your state’s regulations here. If you do business abroad, you’ll also need to familiarize yourself with those countries’ laws. For instance, Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the world’s strongest data protection law, dictates how businesses can handle European customer information.

  2. You’ll stay ethical.

    According to Inc.com, it’s up to businesses to “take the lead” when it comes to data protection. That includes having web developers encrypt sensitive data like credit card numbers, passwords, and Social Security numbers. Because hackers specifically target businesses that don’t have proper security measures in place, make sure your network is secure and updated, and promptly fix any security holes.

 

  1. You’ll stay profitable.

    These days, customers value transparent, trustworthy businesses — yet only 1 in 3 consumers trust businesses to do what’s right. By being upfront about the ways you’ll protect your customers’ valuable data, you’ll establish a sense of trust and reliability. However, Financial Post notes, “your words will hold no weight if your customer data falls into the wrong hands.” In addition to securing your network, train your employees on what to do in the event of a data breach. Practice makes perfect, and clearly-communicated policies and procedures will help your company swiftly recover in the event of a data breach.

Protecting Your Customers and Your Business

Although there’s no foolproof way to prevent cyber threats, these precautions will help:

  • Multi-factor authentication. Rather than relying on usernames and passwords alone, add additional levels of security. Examples include combining passwords with fingerprint scans, retina scans, employee ID cards, or smartphone access.

  • Implement data loss protection. Adding data loss prevention (DLP) software ensures sensitive data isn’t exposed to internal or external threats by unauthorized users, and DLP ensures your meeting compliance requirements

  • Data encryption. By hiding sensitive data, such as passwords or credit card numbers, behind a complex passcode, you’ll help control who can access that information, even if someone steals it.

  • Policies and procedures. Train your employees on how to document, report, and fix cybersecurity threats. Depending upon your industry and location, you may also be legally required to report such events to local authorities.

  • Stay up-to-date. Make sure your network and website are running on the latest software versions. Hire developers and engineers to help plug any security holes before they become a problem.

Data protection isn’t just the right thing to do. It’s good for your customers, and for your bottom line. By having the right frameworks in place, you’ll prevent threats and recover from worst-case scenarios. By spending a little extra time and money, you’ll increase your profits, show people they can trust you, and have peace of mind knowing your data is protected.

By Julie Morris

Julie Morris is a life and career coach. She thrives on helping others live their best lives. It’s easy for her to relate to clients who feel run over by life because she’s been there. After years in a successful (but unfulfilling) career in finance, Julie busted out of the corner office that had become her prison. Today, she is fulfilled by helping busy professionals like her past self get the clarity they need in order to live inspired lives that fill more than just their bank accounts. When Julie isn’t working with clients, she enjoys writing and is currently working on her first book. She also loves spending time outdoors and getting lost in a good book.

From CFO to offering CFO services & beyond

Todd Manion had a typical start to the accounting profession. After transitioning from economics to accounting as a major he received his masters degree in accounting and found employment doing audits. Really no surprises to start with but wait.

Next comes the opportunity to become the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for a company and that is when the “fun” started. After the shock of the first day the adventure began.

Listen as Todd shares his journey, starting his first business offering onsite CFO services to selling it and now working with accounting firms develop their talent on the path to becoming partners.

Hear what advice he has for those starting their own firm as well as his suggestions for those running a successful accounting firm now.

Listen as Roger and Todd also discuss the future of accounting and what is on the horizon for the profession. What every accounting professional needs to know to prepare for their future and remain relevant for their clients.

Take the next step as you start & build your business as an accounting professional – do what you can to have the premier accounting firm.

Your Perfect Solution

Remember this, Accounting Success IS Universal 

Christeen Era, From Business Consultant & Accountant to Strategic Advisor

For Christeen accounting was just that natural next step in her career to helping business owners. Accounting is that obvious choice of services that every business needs but there is more than just preparing the financials.

Christeen Era is the owner and founder of Core Accounting Services. Hear her story and see what advice she has to help you build your firm with confidence.

Listen as she shares what she has done to remain relevant for her clients as a Profit First Professional offering more value added services.

It’s time to ignite your passions again and work ON your business. See what you can do to take your business to the next level and get paid what you are worth.

FIND OUT MORE:

Matt Roberge – Living the Dream as an accounting professional

As the owner of SLC Bookkeeping Matt is not what some would call a traditional accountant. Quickly you’ll see that he has a zest for life and making the most of the day. He clearly works to live and that is something we can all learn from. It’s time to shake the chains and build your accounting firm in such a way that you control it. Enjoy this discussion with Matt Roberge and hear what you can do to have the dream accounting firm working and living remotely.

Billie Anne Grigg Accountant – becoming a strategic consultant as a Profit First Professional

A great discussion with Billie Anne Grigg about the opportunities in accounting to transition and offer more value based services to get paid what you are worth. Billie Anne is a graduate of Universal Accounting Center – the Professional Bookkeeper (PB), QuickBooks Specialist (QS), Professional Tax Preparer (PTP) – but also now a consulting with Profit First Professionals helping clients within her own practice and coaching other accounting professionals apply these services in their own firms.

Take a moment and see how this will apply to you:

Become a Profit & Growth Expert for your clients as the premier accounting service in your area. Be in business for yourself but not by yourself with the help of Universal Accounting Center


Next Page »