Managing sensitive online customer data? Here’s how to do it safely


Technology can be great. We as humans find ourselves making new advancements every day, resulting in some fantastic breakthroughs in important fields like medicine, science, and computing.

On the other hand, technological advancements have their downfalls. New technologies create new opportunities for cyber criminals to steal and corrupt sensitive customer information that your business stores. And although you might think that this sounds like a plot for a Hollywood blockbuster, that’s far from the truth.

In fact, a government survey found that 39% of UK businesses identified a cyber attack within the last 12 months.

Gaining access to sensitive information held by businesses gives cyber criminals an opportunity to sell the data to other criminals, use the secure customer data to gain access to other accounts, or even extort the business they stole the data from.

The same government survey also found that 20% of UK businesses that identified breaches or attacks experienced a negative outcome, such as a loss of data.


What are the consequences of a data breach?

Uh oh! Your organisation has suffered a data breach.

You’ve spent weeks scrabbling around trying to limit the damage caused. You’ve been so busy that you have forgotten to notify the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). What’s the worst that could happen?

Depending on whether you’re working in the UK or EU, there are different penalties. In the UK, failure to notify the ICO of a breach within a reasonable timeframe, will leave you open to a whopping £17.5 million fine, or 4% of your global turnover – whichever is greater.

Now your business has forked out its huge fine, the data breach is public knowledge and your business continues to financially suffer from a damaged reputation, a loss of clients, and, in turn, less sales.

To summarise, data breaches can be extremely costly. Doing everything in your power to protect customer data is not only the right thing to do, but it is also far more cost-effective than damage control.


What industries are most susceptible to data breaches?

To be honest, nobody is safe. Businesses across all industries are at risk of cyber attacks and data breaches. It’s important that effective policies and procedures are put in place to prevent breaches from occurring, regardless of what industry you work in.

There are some sectors that are more at risk than others. Here’s a list of sectors that might be at a higher risk of data breaches:

  • Retail
  • Education
  • Government
  • Financial services
  • Healthcare

Why these sectors? They all have one thing in common… They hold sensitive data that is considered extremely valuable by cyber criminals. Whether that’s credit card details, healthcare records, or classified documents.

That’s not to say other sensitive information isn’t valuable to them. Even information like customer email addresses can be targeted in a data breach.


What can businesses do to protect their customers’ data?

Among the businesses that reported breaches or attacks, 49% said that these occurred at least once a month. Knowing that data breaches are so common, you might ask yourself is customer data ever really secure?

Fortunately, the answer is yes. Providing the right practices and procedures are in place, you can protect customer information from getting in the hands of the wrong people.

Here are our top tips for keeping your data safe…

Keep your technology up-to-date

Cyber criminals will have a strong understanding of the vulnerabilities of certain systems and security softwares. The older these systems and softwares are, the more likely it is that there is a vulnerability that cyber criminals are aware of.

It’s important to keep your software updated and replace old technology that is out of date to prevent cyber criminals from using these vulnerabilities to gain access to your network.

Create strong security policies and practices

You have a responsibility to make sure your staff are equipped with everything they need to prevent cyber attacks.

By creating strong policies and enforcing best practices, you can turn your staff into an army of cyber warriors that will assist you in the battle against cyber criminals!

Provide staff with the necessary knowledge and training

Do your staff understand the role they play in protecting your business from data breaches? As well as having strong policies and practices in place to help them understand their responsibilities, it is also important that staff are provided with high quality training.

By having cyber security training in place, you can be confident that your staff are fully equipped with all the knowledge they need in the event of a data breach, and to stop them from happening in the first place.


How ISO 27001 can help protect customer data

ISO 27001 is the international Standard for Information Security Management Systems (ISMS). The Standard helps you identify, prevent, and address cyber risks so you can demonstrate that your business has the systems and controls in place to combat any threats.

By implementing some of the information security controls required by ISO 27001, you will be able to show due diligence to laws and regulations relating to data protection, like the GDPR and DPA.

ISO 27001 certification is ideal for any business which wants to demonstrate their commitment to information security. The Standard is applicable for businesses across all industry sectors and regardless of size and has just undergone an update making it more relevant than ever!

Want help bolstering your IT security in 2023? Get in touch with us today!

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About the author

  • Name:

    Jack Rosier

  • Company:

    Citation ISO Certification

  • Bio:

    Jack has worked for Citation ISO Certification since 2022, writing creative and informative content on ISO certification and consultation to help businesses reach their potential.


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