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November 26, 2023
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 min read

How do Companies Protect Customer Data: A Detailed Checklist

Find Strac’s most comprehensive checklist for companies to protect their customer data against rising threats.

How do Companies Protect Customer Data: A Detailed Checklist
Calendar Icon White
November 26, 2023
Clock Icon
 min read

How do Companies Protect Customer Data: A Detailed Checklist

Find Strac’s most comprehensive checklist for companies to protect their customer data against rising threats.


Find Strac’s most comprehensive checklist for companies to protect their customer data against rising threats. 

☑️Data Encryption

☑️Access Control

☑️Strong Authentication

☑️Employee Training

☑️Data Classification

☑️Regular Software Updates

☑️Intrusion Detection and Prevention

☑️Firewall Protection

☑️Secure Network Configuration

☑️Regular Security Audits and Penetration Testing

☑️Incident Response Plan

☑️Backup and Recovery

☑️Vendor and Third-Party Risk Assessment

☑️Regulatory Compliance

☑️Data Retention and Disposal

☑️Security Awareness

6.41 million data records were leaked in worldwide data breaches in the first quarter of 2023. Digital threats loom large in the current scenario. The responsibility falls on organizations to fortify their defenses and ensure the safety and integrity of customer data. From encryption and access control to employee training and compliance with data protection laws, companies must employ a comprehensive strategy to ensure data security. Here’s a comprehensive customer data protection checklist to help you build trust and confidence amongst your customers. 

Customer data protection checklist

This checklist acts as a roadmap to help you secure sensitive information and maintain the trust of your customers.

1. Data encryption

Data encryption involves converting data into a format that remains unreadable without the corresponding key, providing protection against unauthorized access. It involves two critical aspects: 

Data Encryption Diagram
  • Encryption in transit

Protects data while transferring between systems, ensuring any intercepted information remains unreadable to potential attackers. Employ robust encryption protocols such as SSL/TLS for data transmitted over networks.

  • Encryption at rest

It safeguards data when it is stored on servers or other devices, making it unreadable even if physical access to the storage medium is obtained. Utilize strong encryption methods, such as AES-256, to protect data at rest.

2.  Access control

  • User Authorization and Authentication: Use robust user authentication processes to verify the identity of users before granting access. Implement strong password policies and consider using biometric authentication for enhanced security.
  • Role-Based Access Control: Assign access privileges based on users' roles within the organization. Employees should only have access to the data necessary for their roles.
  • Monitoring and Auditing Access: Keep a close eye on who accesses what data when creating a trail that can be audited for security purposes. Implement logging and monitoring tools to track access and changes to sensitive data.

3. Strong authentication

  • Password policies: Creating effective password policies involves providing clear guidelines for crafting robust and intricate passwords. Regularly changing these passwords is essential to reducing the chances of unauthorized access.
  • Multi-factor authentication (MFA): MFA enhances security by asking users to present multiple forms of authentication, like something they know (a password) and something they possess, such as a mobile device or a token. This extra layer of security ensures a higher level of protection for your accounts and sensitive information.
Multi-factor Authentication Flow

  • Password management best practices: Password management best practices include using password management tools to generate and store complex passwords securely, making them harder for potential hackers to crack.

4. Employee training

According to the Cyber Security Index, IBM Security found that 60% of breaches were caused by insiders, either as inadvertent actors compromising their credentials or those with malicious intent. No wonder employee training emerges as a leading factor in protecting customer data. One mistake, and you may end up losing the records of millions of customers across the globe.  

  • Cybersecurity awareness programs: Cybersecurity awareness programs educate employees at all levels about potential threats and safe practices. These programs help create a culture of data security, making employees more vigilant against cyberattacks.
  • Phishing and social engineering awareness: Nearly 33% of crimes reported to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) involved phishing. Phishing and social engineering are common entry points for data breaches. Training employees to recognize and report phishing attempts and social engineering tactics is essential for preventing data breaches.
  • Reporting security incidents: Encouraging employees to report security incidents promptly ensures that potential breaches are addressed swiftly. Incident reporting is a critical component of an effective cybersecurity strategy.

5. Data classification

Sensitive data classification
  • Identify data types : Identify various data types stored within your organization's repositories, such as personal, financial, and proprietary business information. This step involves a comprehensive audit and understanding of the diverse data sets.
  • Categorize customer data: Categorizing customer data involves systematically organizing and labeling sensitive information. Establish clear classification standards, considering each data type's unique requirements and characteristics.
  • Use Data Loss Prevention (DLP) tools: Create and enforce clear DLP policies, defining rules to prevent unauthorized access. Utilize DLP tools like Strac to actively monitor data movement, promptly detecting and flagging potential security breaches. 

#6 Regular software updates

Here’s what you can do to ensure regular software updates: 

  • Implement patch management: Patch management involves deploying timely software updates, fixes, and patches, actively addressing vulnerabilities and enhancing system security.
  • Updating end-of-life software: Regularly update or replace end-of-life software to mitigate security risks. This practice ensures that software remains resilient by incorporating the latest security features.
  • Reducing vulnerabilities: Mitigate vulnerabilities by maintaining a proactive cybersecurity posture. This includes regularly scanning systems for weaknesses, conducting security audits, and implementing penetration testing.

7. Intrusion, detection and prevention

Intrusion detection and prevention (IDP) is a set of technologies to monitor and protect networks and systems from malicious activity. IDP systems typically use a combination of signature-based detection and anomaly-based detection to identify and block attacks. Here’s what it means:

IDPS Functionality Diagram
  • Signature-based detection: It involves comparing network traffic or system activity to known signatures of malicious attacks. These signatures can be based on packet patterns, malware code, or other indicators of compromise.
  • Anomaly-based detection: It involves monitoring network traffic or system activity for unusual or unexpected patterns. This can be done by analyzing traffic volume, packet sizes, and other metrics.Once an IDP system detects a potential attack, it can alert administrators, block malicious traffic, and automatically remediate attacks by removing malware or restoring compromised files.

8. Firewall protection

Firewalls protect your network from hackers who use a variety of malicious tools to get access to your device. Firewalls have proven to be effective against intrusions or data leaks by:

  • Network traffic filtering: Firewalls leverage network filtering to help prevent unauthorized access to an organization's network, effectively acting as a barrier between the internal network and external threats.
  • Preventing unauthorized access: Firewalls serve as the digital gatekeepers of your network, responsible for regulating access to specific areas. Their primary role is to permit only authorized users and devices to enter while blocking the passage of any unauthorized or potentially harmful entities. 

9. Secure network configuration

Cybersecurity begins with secure network configurations, and here is how you can avoid data leaks through simple, secure network configurations: 

  • Network segmentation: Network segmentation involves dividing the network into smaller segments, making it more challenging for attackers to move laterally within the network.
  • Network security configurations: Proper network security configurations include setting access controls, firewall rules, and other security measures to ensure that only authorized devices and users can access the network.
  • Network monitoring tools: Network monitoring tools help organizations closely monitor network traffic and detect any suspicious activities or anomalies.

10. Regular security audits and penetration testing

Regular security audits and penetration testing are another simple yet effective data protection strategy. Here’s how it helps.

  • Identifying weaknesses: Regular security audits and penetration testing aim to identify weaknesses and vulnerabilities in an organization's security measures, allowing them to be addressed proactively.
  • Simulating attacks: Penetration testing simulates real-world attacks to evaluate an organization's ability to withstand and respond to security threats.
  • Testing Security Measures: Regular testing of security measures ensures that they remain effective over time and adapt to evolving threats.

11. Incident response plan

Incident response plan Options

An effective incident response plan can significantly minimize the damage caused by a security breach and help an organization recover more quickly. Here’s how you can implement an incident response plan.  

  • Develop a plan: Developing an incident response plan involves creating a documented strategy for how the organization will respond to security incidents, ensuring the response is swift and effective.
  • Test and conduct drills: Regularly testing and conducting drills of the incident response plan helps ensure that all employees know their roles in responding to security breaches.

12. Backup and recovery

When it comes to backup and recovery, it's not a nice-to-have feature anymore. It is rather a must-have feature these days. 

  • Regular data backups: Regular data backups ensure that even in the event of data loss, data can be restored from a secure backup, preventing permanent data loss.
  • Secure backup storage: Secure backup storage safeguards backup copies from unauthorized access, ensuring they remain confidential.
  • Ransomware preparedness: In the face of ransomware attacks, having secure backups in place is a crucial part of the strategy to recover data without paying a ransom to cybercriminals.

13. Vendor and third-party risk assessment

Data protection and third-party risk assessment go hand in hand as they prevent tunnel views. Here’s what you can do: 

  • Assess third-party security practices: Assessing the security practices of third-party vendors and partners ensures that they follow security protocols and don't pose a threat to your customer data.
  • Ensure vendor compliance: Ensuring third-party vendors comply with industry security standards such as SOC 2 or ISO 27001 is vital for maintaining data security.

14. Regulatory compliance

Regulatory compliances serve as crucial frameworks for safeguarding customer data. Here’s why adhering to them is crucial: 

  • Ensure data security: Regulatory standards, such as GDPR, HIPAA, or PCI DSS, establish stringent requirements for the protection of customer data. Adhering to these regulations ensures that organizations implement robust security measures, reducing the risk of data breaches and unauthorized access.
  • Build customer trust: Compliance with regulatory standards fosters transparency and accountability. Demonstrating a commitment to protecting customer data builds trust, assuring clients that their sensitive information is handled with the utmost care and in accordance with established guidelines.
  • Legal obligations: Non-compliance with regulatory standards can lead to severe legal consequences, including fines and legal actions. Case in point: In September 2023, the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) imposed a EUR345 million ($370 million) fine on TikTok for violating children's data privacy under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) law. 

➡️Are you struggling with GDPR compliance?

Here’s how DLP makes it easy - How DLP help with GDPR compliance?

15. Data retention and disposal

Five Phases of the Data retention lifecycle

Data retention is the length of time that an organization keeps data. Data disposal is the process of deleting data in a safe and responsible manner. Learn how to retain and dispose your customer’s crucial data.  

  • Implement data retention policies: Data retention policies define how long data should be retained, which is important for reducing data exposure and managing storage costs.
  • Dispose data securely: Secure data disposal ensures that sensitive information is properly destroyed when it's no longer needed, preventing unauthorized access.
  • Minimize data exposure: Minimizing data exposure involves limiting the amount of data collected and stored to reduce the risk of breaches and potential misuse.

16. Security awareness

Despite being a common cause, one of the principal drivers of cyber crimes is a lack of security awareness. Here’s how you can solve it: 

  • Promote a culture of security: Promoting a security culture within the organization involves encouraging employees to take personal responsibility for data security and fostering a security-conscious mindset.
  • Employee reporting and engagement: Encouraging employees to report security incidents and engage actively in security practices ensures that everyone plays a role in maintaining data security.

Introducing Strac for Customer Data Protection

This comprehensive checklist is not just a set of guidelines but a strategic imperative for organizations. It enables you to proactively shape robust defenses to protect customer data instead of just reacting to threats. In addition to this checklist, adding robust DLP tools to your arsenal is a must. 

Strac DLP detects and redacts sensitive customer data in real-time, replacing it with secure alternatives to prevent data breaches. It also ensures ongoing compliance with regulations through continuous scanning and monitoring, all while offering seamless integrations with your current systems,  a user-friendly interface and a no-code setup process. 

Curious to see Strac in action? Book a demo now!

Founding Engineer. Ex-Amazon Payments Security Engineer for 10 years.

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