10 ways to help keep business and customer data safe online

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10 ways to help keep business and customer data safe onlineStay Smart Online Week takes place from 2–6 June 2014. Here, we share 10 ways you can help keep business and customer data more secure.

Having good security practices in place is essential for safeguarding both your customers’ details and your own business data. Indeed, staying smart online should be a central part of your company policy – for your brand reputation, your relationship with your customers and the security and survival of your business.

Here are 10 ways you can create better data security within your business.

1. Set up automatic security updates.

Install and activate anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and set them to automatically check for updates to make sure your computers are always protected against the latest threats. Some anti-virus software providers you may have heard of are: Norton by Symantec, McAfee and AVAST.

2. Install a firewall.

Explore your software options and consider additional firewall protection. Suppliers include Norton by Symantec, Cisco, Nokia and NetScreen. A firewall monitors information coming to and from your computer and will block any unauthorised activity. Once you install a firewall, keep it permanently turned on and regularly check to see that you have the latest update.

Did you know?

Australia Post supports Stay Smart Online, a government initiative to help businesses and individuals avoid cyber crime.

3. Develop a back-up strategy.

Losing critical data can be anywhere from mildly inconvenient to catastrophic for your business. To prevent this from happening, make regular back-ups of data and programs on your computer and store
the back-up disks in secure offsite storage. A cloud-based back-up storage solution could also be suitable, depending on your business and the kind of data you need to back up. Ideally, you should be
doing daily back-ups, as well as weekly or monthly back-ups.

4. Set up a password-change calendar.

According to US password management company SplashData, the three most common passwords in 2013 were: “123456”, “password” and “12345678”. Are you or your staff using them? Regularly changing your passwords is a smart way to keep your devices safe. Choose strong passwords that use a combination of alphabetic, numeric and special characters, and set up a reminder in your calendar to change passwords every one to three months. Password expiry can also be set up in Windows, so that you are automatically notified when it’s time for a new password.

Tip: Also make sure that passwords are not written down on or near the computer or device they are meant to secure.

5. Use spam filters.

Spam is not only annoying, it can also pose a threat to your data security. To reduce the amount of spam your business receives, set up spam filters and install security software. Some popular choices (which cost around $30–$35) are: SPAMfighter Pro, Cloudmark DesktopOne Pro and MailWasher Pro 2010. Make sure your employees know how to recognise spam and also know to avoid clicking on links or opening attachments in emails from unknown or suspicious sources. Spam can be reported to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

6. Clear information on your devices before disposal.

When you recycle your phones or computers, clear out all personal and business data first. Most devices will have an option to reset to factory settings. Also, remember to remove or clear any memory cards.

7. Use a payment gateway to handle credit card information.

If you accept payments online, creating a secure environment for transactions is crucial for reducing business risk and for building trust between you and your customers. Using a payment gateway such as SecurePay to process online payments is a smart way to ensure security. A payment gateway acts as a secure connection between your business, card providers and banks, so that your company does not have direct access to customers’ credit card or debit card details.

8. Create individual user accounts for all staff.

Each person who needs access to your computer network should have an individual user account. This gives you more control over your data by allowing you to choose which drives and folders each user account can access. Consider each staff member’s role and responsibilities and provide access on a need-to-know basis. Most operating systems allow you to create standard or administrator accounts that provide different levels of access, including restrictions on who can install software. It’s a good way to reduce the chance of spyware or viruses being introduced.

9. Watch out for suspicious orders online.

For eCommerce businesses, there is always a risk of fraudulent orders online. Be vigilant about anything that looks suspicious. For example:

  • orders of unusually large quantities of expensive items
  • customers using free, web-based email addresses
  • credit card addresses that differ from delivery addresses
  • unusual buying patterns, such as orders placed in the middle of the night or in rapid succession.

10. Stay informed about the latest risks.

Keep up to date with the latest online safety and security risks and solutions by subscribing to reputable email notification services, such as the Australian Government’s Stay Smart Online alert.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and the interviewees, and not of Australia Post.

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