The Files Every Business Should Be Encrypting and Why (Part 1)

Every modern company with a few computers and a business network are aware of the dangers of hackers and security breaches. When a hacker gets their grubby fingers on private information stored by your company, they can do a lot of damage. Customer information can be used for payment scams or identity theft while sensitive business information can be used against you on the market or leaked to your competitors to great detriment. Every business strives to keep their security systems as close to the cutting-edge and maximum protection as possible but, let’s face it, every now and then someone gets hacked. Whether it was a failure on their part or a particular moment of inspiration from the hacker, when your network has been breached, you absolutely must have a backup plan.

Encryption is the Ultimate Hacker Defeat

That’s where encryption comes in. Encryption is a special way to store data that encodes it so that no computer or person without the encryption key can read it. Most people spend some time playing with encryption as children with codes like pig-latin which looks like: “oday ouyay ikelay ecuritysay?” or “do you like security?” or simple transposition which can turn “ABCD” into “ZXYW”.  Later forms of encryption might involve using a page of a particular book as the key or a phrase only you and a friend know. Modern encryption is a much more complex evolution of these methods, often using a randomly generated key that hackers couldn’t guess or crack in a million years.

What does this do? When you encrypt your files and network data, even if a hacker managed to copy and run with an entire database of sensitive information, they won’t be able to use what they stole. Rather than a list of customer names and credit card numbers, all they’ll have is gibberish that can’t be decoded because they don’t have the key which will be closely guarded by software that your employees can use to access the same information for work purposes whenever they need to.

1) Encrypting Client Payment Data

One of the most important things you should be encrypting is client payment data. In the last two years, hackers have realized that they don’t have to steal credit card numbers the hard way by tricking individuals into typing their data into false eCommerce or bank websites. They can simply steal all the payment data legitimate merchants process every day, acquiring hundreds of card numbers with a single hack. Naturally, you want to stop them.

Processing Payment Data

When a customer swipes their card in your PIN entry device, the magnetic strip is read and everything a hacker needs for credit card fraud is available right in that moment including the card’s account number, security code, and expiration date. Even if you send this information directly to your payment processor, hackers have found ways to skim it from the swipe devices or point of sale computers themselves. This means you need devices and software that encrypt the data as it’s read to protect the payment information at every stage. If you take online orders, we also advise that you encrypt all payment information the moment it enters your care to stop hackers lurking at every stage of the transaction.

Storing Payment Data

Many companies from hotels to eCommerce venues like to hold onto payment data, usually for the convenience of a returning customer who would like to use the same card. This is friendly, helpful, and a welcome service for most of your clients. However, those databases of credit card numbers are like a treasure chest for hackers. The good news? A simple databse encryption policy ensures that even if a hacker breaks into your network and steals the database, they won’t be able to use a drop of the information they get away with, essentially nullifying the data breach.

2) Client and Employee Personal Information

Personal information is another major category that needs to be protected. Unlike payment information, simply knowing someone’s name and address doesn’t automatically put them in danger of financial fraud, but the more information you have collected, the more dangerous it can become if ever stolen by a hacker. The reason for this, of course, is identity theft and all the risks that come with it. With a full name, address, phone number, and any other defining personal details, a hacker could hijack client or employee online accounts, bank information, and even take out loans or commit crimes in their name.

Collecting Personal Information

Collecting personal information is something that should be taken very seriously, as this is the moment you become responsible for preventing identity theft in all its forms. It’s important to remember that you need to defend not just your client information but your employee files as well. Even just a name, address, and phone number can be used against the subject and the more information you have, the greater a risk is created. Take care to encrypt all personal data as you take command of it to ensure that no action of the company leads to an instance of identity theft for someone who has trusted you with their personal information.

Encryption of business documents is by far the best way to make sure that no data you store can be ‘stolen’ or misused by a hacker or program with unauthorized access. From a security standpoint, encryption is your final layer of security against a breach. When your data is encrypted, even if you get hacked, the perpetrator will be unable to use a single byte of the data they manage to peek at or steal. For this reason, getting your files encrypted is an important part of a complete cybersecurity plan and allows every company to be prepared for the possibility of a security breach. Join us next time for the second half of our two-part article where we’ll talk about storing personal data, encrypting logins, and protecting your sensitive business information! For more information about encryption and cybersecurity procedures for your business, contact us today!