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7 Encryption Best Practices To Protect Customer Data

7 Encryption Best Practices To Protect Customer Data

Protecting data isn’t an option these days. It’s a necessity. If you have a small business, you’re responsible for any customer data that’s lost or stolen—even if it’s through employee negligence. With an increasing number of employees using personal devices at work, the chances of customer data getting lost or stolen are greater than ever. Since personal devices can hold terabytes of data, cybercriminals would have free access all that data unless you protect it.

Data encryption is a highly effective data protection method. It encodes data into an unreadable state that requires a special key to unlock. Without the special key, the data can’t be read. Originally used by the government to protect its data, encryption is now widely used in business. Today’s encryption solutions are affordable, proven, easy to use and highly effective. Businesses can even find good open source encryption solutions, like AESCrypt, which runs on Windows, Linux, Macs, ions, and Android devices.

Buying an encryption solution is only half the battle when it comes to protecting data. The other half is implementing practices to support the technology. Below are seven data encryption best practices that will help protect your data:

Create Policy First

Among the best way to boost security is to develop well thought out security policies. Put any security policies you develop in writing. But first, find out what your compliance requirements are. They differ from industry to industry. Here is some information on security policy templates, courtesy of SANS Institute.

Use File Level Encryption

Many business use full disk encryption only. That protects data on your hard drive. But hackers can steal data even when it’s in transit.  File level encryption protects data in transit. Use both methods. Here are five top encryption tools.

Employ “Portable Mode” Encryption

Portable devices, as we said above, can hold terabytes of data. Often, owners get lax when it comes to protecting data on their devices. That’s a vulnerability you can’t afford. Many best in class encryption solutions offer “portable mode” encryption capabilities. Take advantage of them. EasyLock eliminates the threat in case a USB flash drive or portable hard drive is lost or stolen. It works on Windows, Mac and Linux

Use 256-key Bit Length Encryption

Your security is only as good as your supporting technologies. Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) with 256-bit key length is considered the gold standard for block ciphers. The government often uses 256-bit key length encryption to protect classified documents. Businesses can also find simpler file AES encryption in some archival utilities, such as the free 7-Zip.

Integrate Malware Protection

Personal devices that aren’t lost or stolen are still at risk when it comes to customer data. Cybercriminals can steal data without a user’s knowledge. To boost a device’s security, use malware protection on it. Savvy small businesses have malware software update itself automatically, without end-user interference. Here are five malware removal tools.

Safeguard Your Encryption Key

It doesn’t do any good to lock the door if you leave the key in the latch. When you don’t safeguard your encryption key, you’re leaving the key in the lock. Keep the encryption key in a protected storage location. This effort protects data and makes it easier for you to decrypt data in an emergency.

Buy Easy-To-Manage Solutions

Buying easy-to-use encryption solutions increases the chance they’ll be used. Plus, easy-to-use solutions are more effective. You should also get solutions that enable single console, single policy management. These solutions save time, reduce investment, and eliminate compatibility issues between different network components. Dell’s Endpoint Security Suite is an example. Here’s a review.

You can use data encryption to protect an entire hard drive, a critical file or a single document. You can also use encryption to protect data on removable media, including a USB or thumb drive.  Also, consider using a data encryption method that’s Federal Information Processing Standard-certified. That means it complies with federal government security protocols.

Data encryption is a critical data protection method. Available at affordable prices, data encryption technology encodes data so it can’t be read it without having the key. That means cybercriminals can’t use the data unless the cracked the code—a challenging chore. When combined with other security measures, data encryption dramatically boosts data protection. Take advantage of its capabilities.

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by Lou DiToro // Small business consultant and freelance writer with more than 20 years experience writing about technology, Internet Marketing, and competitive strategy. He can be reached through his email: [email protected]

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.