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How Technology Better Protects Customer Data

September 20, 2017

Data is the lifeblood of today’s business. Sensitive customer data and intellectual property are a company’s most valuable assets; therefore, helping your customers protect their data can be the most valuable service that you can offer as a solution provider. Many technologies are available to protect sensitive business data, so your challenge is working with your business customers to assess their security needs and recommend right combination of security technologies to meet them .

The cost of a data breach is now estimated to average $154 per compromised record, according to the Ponemon Institute. That is up 12 percent over the previous year. U.S. companies had the highest costs per record at $217. And the costs aren’t just from the loss of the customer data itself. There are added losses from customer turnover, the cost of new customer acquisition, loss of reputation, regulatory fines and more. Ponemon estimates the cost of losses of customer records adds up to $1.57 million per company.

So how do you help your customers protect their data? Begin by looking at security from multiple angles.

Start with CRM – The first step should be centralizing and consolidating customer data in a customer relationship management (CRM) system that is easy to manage and protect. Some may consider this putting all your eggs in one basket; however, CRM gives your customers absolute control over data access. They can set permissions, monitor activity, and manage changing business rules. And with cloud-based CRM systems, antivirus software and security protocols are continually updated so data is even more secure. Rather than putting all your eggs in one basket, think of it as being easier to watch over all the hens in one henhouse.

Secure endpoints – Data security comprises three basic elements: securing the infrastructure, securing the data itself, and authenticating data access. To maintain a secure network environment, start by having secure endpoints with network and email protection to filter out malware and isolate dangerous file types. And make sure your customers’ enterprise security software is updated regularly with new antivirus definitions.

Keep software patches current – Criminals continue to uncover weaknesses in enterprise software. That’s why it’s important to keep all your customers’ software up to date. Consider incorporating a patch management tool that can monitor enterprise software and applications and ensure all software updates are current.

Data encryption – Protecting the network infrastructure is important, but only so much protection can come from building a fence around customers’ data. Hackers can still manage to break in, so you also need to protect the data itself. To do that, data encryption is your best strategy. Any data in transit, whether it is within the network, within a private or hybrid cloud, or across the Internet, should be encrypted so that it is protected even if it is intercepted.

User authentication – Authentication lets your customers control who can access sensitive data and what types of data they can access. For example, the HR department will need access to employee records, but only a few managers need access to Social Security numbers. User authentication is even more important in regulated industries such as healthcare, where unauthorized access to patient records is not only a HIPAA violation, but also could lead to identity theft and fraud, because patient records contain Social Security information, subscription data, Medicare data and more.

System monitoring – Putting security measures in place is the first step, but you still have to watch for suspicious activities. Zero-day threats won’t necessarily be detected by software, but you can spot them by monitoring your customers’ network activity and using system logs. Logs will not only make it easier to remediate problems in case of a breach, but also can be used to feed more sophisticated threat management tools such as big data.

Cloud computing – Moving to the cloud can help protect customer data, assuming th cloud provider has solid security measures in place. Cloud providers are subject to the same kinds of attacks as any other computer provider, but theoretically they can offer better data protection than your customers can manage in-house. Encrypting cloud-stored data adds an extra measure of security.

Cloud-based software perimeters – The Defense Information Systems Agency created the concept of software-defined perimeters back in 2007. The idea is that an internal network will not allow a device access before a secure network connection is established to the application. The Cloud Security Alliance has taken this one step further with the Software Defined Perimeter (SDP) initiative, which is working to have cloud providers act as authentication parameters for authentication and authorization.

These are just some of the technologies to consider when securing customer data. As you can see, no one solution can offer total protection. Solution providers can be invaluable in helping customers develop an enterprise security strategy that applies the right mix of technology to protect customer data. Like most aspects of computing, security strategies are continually evolving, and one of the best services a solution provider can offer is keeping customers one step ahead of the bad guys.