How to Protect Customer Data and Security

Customer data protection concept image

Businesses across the retail and ecommerce industries don’t have it easy.

In addition to ensuring their stores are stocked, dealing with supply chain woes, and facilitating shipping for their products worldwide, they’re also responsible for protecting customer data. Even in the quickest online retail transaction, a ton of valuable customer data is revealed—from names and addresses to credit card numbers and more.

For any retail or ecommerce brand focused on growth, customer data protection must be a top priority. Brands and companies that fall victim to data breaches (even if it’s through no fault of their own) find it follows them for years afterward, leading to a loss of customer trust and a significant hit to their credibility.

With the final quarter of the year being the busiest season for most ecommerce and retail businesses, now is the time to figure out how to protect customer data. Too many companies find that the busy final months of the year strain their existing systems, leading to catastrophic crashes, breaches, or other incidents that could have been prevented through a more proactive cybersecurity approach.

To protect your company, it’s essential to start preparing for this busy season now.

Retail Data Protection Grows as a Top Consumer Concern

In recent years, we’ve seen firsthand the importance of protecting consumer data. Massive breaches like the Alibaba breach of November 2019 (1.1 billion pieces of user data lost) and the Marriott International breach of September 2018 (sensitive data of 500 million customers revealed) show just how commonplace these incidents have become.

As a result, there has been significant progress made in regulating these types of privacy standards. In the EU, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was developed to regulate individuals’ rights to the protection, use, and deletion of their own data.

In the United States, individual states have stepped into the fray with laws like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which was designed to give “consumers more control over the personal information that businesses collect about them”. 

How to Protect Customer Data and Security 

Even if your business doesn’t operate in a jurisdiction governed by GDPR or the CCPA, there are ecommerce and retail data protection standards that should not be ignored. Not only does it offer customers more reassurance that you take protecting their data seriously, but it can also lead to benefits like cost savings and less liability on insurance.

Here are some of the most important measures you can enact to improve your overall customer data security.

1. Adopt zero-trust architecture

Zero-trust architecture is an approach to cybersecurity that has recently grown in popularity. Instead of assuming that all devices, users, and network traffic is trustworthy until proven otherwise, zero-trust architecture works by denying access only until verified.

This approach may take some time to set up, but it can put any business on a much more proactive foot in terms of their cybersecurity.

2. Restrict employee access to only the data they need to do their jobs

Another measure that can be enacted to help ensure optimal retail data protection is access control.

This restricts employee access to only the data that is required for their position. This can help isolate files and devices in the event of a breach and limits damage. 

3. Ensure every work-related device is encrypted

Improving encryption on all work-related devices and accounts is another excellent way to boost overall customer data protection. This is particularly beneficial when your employees are logging on remotely. By encrypting everything from USB keys to cellphones and laptops, your company can make it much more difficult for bad actors to gain access.

4. Keep all plugins and software updated

Even the most sophisticated, advanced customer data security systems’ safety measures are no use if they’re missing the latest updates. Ensuring that all of your plugins, software, and cybersecurity tools like firewalls are updated helps to guarantee you’re working with the latest encryption standards, security certificates, and patches.

Failing to update these tools consistently can create a vulnerability or loophole that bad actors can easily exploit. Regularly scanning for and enabling updates helps close these loopholes before they put your company at risk.  

5. Educate employees about cybersecurity and data protection standards

Cybersecurity isn’t just about having the best software or firewalls. Your employees are on the front lines of your operations, and one person making a split-second decision to trust a link they’re sent can mean the difference between safety and a multi-million dollar data breach.

Running regular cybersecurity training sessions for your staff is critical. Educating your team on the various types of cybercrime they may see can help them feel more confident operating online. Popular topics for sessions include password best practices, how to spot a phishing email, and what to do in the event of a suspected DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack. 

6. Create a robust cybersecurity incident plan and test it regularly

How will you know how your company will handle a cybersecurity incident if you’ve never been tested? Creating a cybersecurity incident plan and running through it regularly can help your team feel more confident in their ability to protect customer information & data and give them an established gameplan in the event of a suspected or confirmed breach. 

7. Back up data regularly

A common tactic for cybercriminals to use against retail and ecommerce businesses is ransomware. In these situations, bad actors penetrate a system and shut down access for staff. To regain their access and avoid the leak of sensitive customer information, companies are asked to pay thousands or even millions of dollars in ransom.

While having backups doesn’t fix the issue of data being released, it can buy companies some time as they work to remedy the problem. These data backups should always be secure and stored in a separate location to help protect customer information even if your network is breached.

Customer Data Protection with Threater

No retail or ecommerce business wants to go through the stress of reaching out to customers to disclose a data breach. It can destroy trust and lead to years of costly legal, regulatory, and economic consequences.

The best approach to protecting customer data is an active approach to cybersecurity. At Threater, we’ve developed a sophisticated tool that can help make this easier. Our network security solution fits into any existing technology stack and can help neutralize risk without impacting your day-to-day operations. 

Want to learn more about the Threater platform? Get in touch with us today.