Customers are Worried About Data Security – Are You?

If your business accepts online payments or credit cards, chances are you’ve spent some time thinking about data security and the safety of your customers’ personal information. Every good retailer has a security solution in place to protect data that could be used for criminal purposes – but according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, it might not be enough.

The survey, titled “Anonymity, Privacy, and Security Online,” contains a number of interesting findings for businesses that routinely deal with sensitive information or personal customer data. According to the survey, most people don’t feel that their data is entirely secure online and worry about how their information is being used, both by hackers and by the companies they willingly give it to.

Most of the survey refers to the kind of personal information one would regularly find on websites like Facebook or Twitter – email addresses, personal photos, the content of messages, and so on. A large majority of people – up to 84 percent – say they are concerned with the way this kind of information is secured, and they also say that they have taken additional steps on their own to keep themselves secure and anonymous.

However, the study also presents a set of statistics that should make anyone in the field of customer security or data protection sweat  a little bit. According to the survey, a majority of respondents said they have had personal data compromised or used against them in various ways, including 21 percent who have had an email or social networking account compromised, and 11 percent who have had their SSN, credit card number, or bank account information compromised. (If you’d like to read the whole study, you can download it here from the Pew Research Center website.

The simple conclusion to draw from the survey is that most users, especially young, Internet-savvy ones with a heavy online presence, don’t trust big companies or the security measures in use. And with a large number of well-publicized data breaches each year where thousands, if not millions, of records are compromised, why should they?

What is the solution for a company that wants to earn back customer trust? There are many things you can do to improve your own company security and keep sensitive data safe, and they’re things  you can tell your customers about to let them feel safe, too. Some of these best practices include:

  • Using good passwords: Make sure your business has a good password policy, and never leave plaintext passwords sitting around, either online or in the office.

  • Backing up data: Keep regular backups of the information your business needs, so in case of an incident you can get up and running smoothly.

  • Using a smart security solution: Many businesses rely on encryption to keep data safe, but there are numerous problems with relying on encrypted data. Our solution, tokenization, might be a better fit for your business. But whatever you choose, make sure you apply it consistently and thoroughly.

  • Keeping employees educated: Make sure everyone in your organization knows and understands your security practices, and follows them. One slip up from one employee is all it takes to lose sensitive data – and the trust of your customers.

  • Being transparent: Tell your customers how your data security systems keep their information safe. If you do end up experiencing a breach and losing data, inform the people affected and do what you can to make it right again.

It might be true that a majority of the people with data online don’t feel that their information is secure – but your customers don’t have to feel that way. By keeping a set of best security practices and using smart solutions for your data, you can keep the data you need safe, and earn the trust of the customers who gave it to you.


Article by Alex Pezold Co-Founder and CEO of TokenEx. You can follow Alex on Twitter or Google+

Topic(s): data security , tokenization