Many entrepreneurs and small-business owners in Africa are reaping the reward of the global tech and web-services booms, and have built strong business models which they can apply locally… and some, even globally. But as more and more of these small businesses are finding out, small enterprises are increasingly being targeted by cybercriminals, too. How can you protect your small-business customers and decrease your risk?
Protecting Your Customers on Social Media
It takes two seconds to share a happy customer’s testimonial. And engaging with customers on social media has become the new standard of business, promoting familiarity and conversation between a business and its clients. But, in all cases, whenever a customer’s name or information appears on your social media page you need to have their permission. Make it a rule of thumb, even if you believe you have their implied consent, just ask.
Protect Your Customers’ Payment Information
If you work with a debit or credit card validation system, you’ve probably already been assigned a level of risk for credit card fraud. Those with high risk can typically only use high-risk credit card processors. Credit card companies, payment card processors, they all protect themselves from risk: and your small business can do the same thing!
To start, make certain that all third-party services and software companies all clearly outline how they help you protect client information. For example, if you take payments over a website, ensure that your hosting provider has malware and intrusion alerts, and a strong firewall system.
If you use in-person register software, or a smartphone adapter like Square, ensure that you’re comprehensively familiar with how the system stores card data, and who’s liable if anything happens. If you frequently swipe customer cards, ensure that you never do so on a public network, and always sign into a password-protected network for make transactions.
Monitor for Malware and Other Cybercriminal Activity
If you operate a website, you should utilize a program that monitors for malware or other problems. You should also run updated malware software on any computer that accesses customer data. And you should set a recurring monthly date to update that software as needed, to ensure that it’s working properly and catching any bugs that other software might miss. This will reduce your risk threshold, helping protect your clients from discovery by hackers exploiting weak habits on your computing machines.
If your business is in high-risk fields, or if you handle the payment information of many individuals, consider opting for liability insurance. Not only will thisbuild protection for your business into your business model, but it can also help your clients! In some fields, especially with contracting, good liability insurance can even be a positive signal to potential clients, many of whom will only work with contractors with strong insurance coverage.
Destroy Sensitive Data With Care
Eventually, it becomes time to destroy documents you’ve accrued over the year, shredding and disposing of papers. Make certain to shred documents, rather than just trash them, and also use a computer-wiping program to truly destroy digital copies and data. Often, deleted files can be recovered by an enterprising, tech-minded individual, so employing a program to help with wiping data is essential.
Have an Emergency Plan If All Else Fails
Even the best-laid plans have flaws, and one day your customers’ data might be compromised. It’s important to have a plan in place before this happens, so that you can respond quickly, efficiently, and ethically. Always contact your clients to inform them of the breach, and work diligently to correct the issue. Most clients will appreciate your transparency.