3 valuable tips to safeguard your customer data

| By: Wayne R. Selk, CDPSE

January 28 is Data Privacy Day, and we’re sharing what this day means, how it affects you as a technology solution provider (TSP), and ways to safeguard the treasure chest of customer data cybercriminals are after.

What is Data Privacy Day?

People worldwide are voicing their concerns about how their data is being collected, used, and shared. Tech companies are having to answer questions about the safety of their customers’ information and the ethics behind their monetization of user data. But even with the public awareness, for many, it’s still a mystery.

That’s why Data Privacy Day was created: to educate users about the information they give online, to inspire a conversation, and to get individuals and corporations to take action.

Data Privacy Day was first observed in the United States and Canada in January 2008 as an extension of the European Data Protection Day, commemorating the 1981 signing of Convention 108, the first legally binding international treaty to tackle privacy and data protection.

Why Data Privacy Day matters for TSPs

With the keys to several businesses’ networks and infrastructures, cybersecurity offerings that include data privacy and protection are, unsurprisingly, vital for TSPs. And customers are starting to understand too, with 89% of small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) listing cybersecurity as a top priority for their organization.

The repercussions of a security incident are keeping small business owners up at night. According to research from Continuum, a ConnectWise Company, the most common concerns SMBs have around cyberattacks are data loss (50%), customer loss (43%), and damage to their company’s reputation (39%).

Data, and what happens to it, is another fear for many SMBs. 82% of surveyed SMBs worry about customer data being breached, with 77% concerned about it being stolen from outside the organization.

With the growing concerns, SMBs feel the need to protect every aspect of their business, from company finances and employee data to customer-facing applications and customer data. This shows how interlocked cybersecurity and data protection are in the minds of your customers.

With your customers becoming more security aware, your business is open to plenty of opportunities, such as educating and training your end users, expanding your security services, and tapping into a growing pool of SMB security investments. However, these opportunities come with responsibilities. The most important is keeping your business safe—or protecting your house. This means putting practices and procedures in place to ensure all your systems are secure and your employees are trained in the latest security best practices. When you have your house in order and practice what you preach, it’s easier to sell security to a skeptical customer.

If you take cybersecurity seriously and can back it up, SMBs will listen. Continuum found that cybersecurity is a significant deciding factor for SMBs—both those currently using an MSP and those who don’t.

Click here for infographic.

They aren’t the only ones holding you accountable. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) kick-started governments across the country and around the world to pass data privacy laws and regulations.

3 tips to safeguard your customer data

Now that you understand why data protection is essential, here are a few tips on how to keep all that customer data secure.

1. Train and educate your staff

If one employee clicks the wrong link, downloads the wrong attachment, or isn’t up to date on security processes, all your investments in advanced security software and tools could be wasted. A trained, aware, and security-minded staff is one of your most valuable cybersecurity tools. Any gap in security education and training leads to disastrous results.

“I think the most important first step is to train and educate their own staff on security awareness and to tie that in with a revamp of their internal HR policies that affect the use of company-owned equipment, remote workers, mobile device management, etc., “ says Joy Beland, Senior Director, Cybersecurity Business Development.

Everyone in your organization should complete security awareness training and understand the role they play in your company’s safety. Security isn’t just a tech job anymore.

2. Inject security into company culture

For security training to stick with your staff, you need to ingrain security into your company culture and keep it on your staff’s mind during their day.

“[TSPs] have to change their culture and behavior for everyone,” says Beland. “They need every single person in their company to be thinking and behaving security-focuses as they interact with their own clients and vendors.”

When security is incorporated into every aspect of the way they do business, it will be easier for your staff to put their security training into action.

An effective way to inject security into your company culture is with a defined set of security policies for your staff to reference. Effective security policies should be easy to follow and not disrupt your employee’s normal work routine. Fundamental pieces of a policy include:

  • Being suspicious of links and attachments in your emails
  • Encourage the use of strong passwords
  • Change passwords regularly
  • Conduct risk assessments to identify security gaps (you can get two free assessments with a ConnectWise Identify® trial)
  • Enable two-factor authentication when possible

Successful internal policies often become customer-facing services. In the case of your security policies, you can monetize your practices as policy templates for your customers and include them in your security services.

3. Practice your incident response plans and processes rrequently

You’ve trained your staff and put policies in place to keep them security-focused, but what will you do when, not if, an incident occurs? As they say, “Plan for the best, prepare for the worst.”

You’ll need to develop a detailed incident response plan that breaks down everyone’s role when something happens. But you can’t just create a plan and expect it to work flawlessly. As with anything, practice makes perfect.

Regularly go through your incident response plans with your staff. Every dry run will allow you to find inefficiencies or missteps in the plan and sure them up for when it’s not a drill.

Also, make sure you have at least one printed copy of your security processes for staff to reference. The worst thing that could happen is your incident response plan being encrypted with the rest of your data during an incident.

Cybersecurity and data protection go hand-in-hand. Cybercriminals want your customers’ data, and you’re the one responsible for keeping them from getting it. These tips will get you on the right path to better data protection and stronger security.

Ready for more? Check out these critical, and often overlooked, ways to improve your cybersecurity position.