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How to Safely Manage Your Digital Files and Customer Data

As online businesses and entrepreneurs, we can all appreciate the power and value of data on the internet today. No longer do we need to download and install software to a computer and be limited to where we can access our work or data online. At the same time, the costs of data storage and web space are also now cheaper than ever. With so much information constantly being uploaded, created and accessible on the internet, the business of online security is booming. While all of this is going on, it’s also important to understand why and how your data is being stored and if it’s being protected in the process.

Quick Tips for Keeping Your Personal Data and Customer Information Safe

The ability to store thousands of digital files in a single location has eliminated the pressure that a person might otherwise feel to organize those files if they were physical documents or materials that were cluttering up a desk or bookshelf. The “out of sight, out of mind” principal helps a person to ignore the clutter that is likely buried in their personal workstations, laptops, tablets and smartphones. But that lack of organization elevates that person’s cybersecurity risks. A physical document that includes sensitive personal or financial information can be shredded and destroyed, but a digital file that contains the same information can lay hidden forever.

Safe management of digital files begins with organizing those files into digital folders according to a consistent filing structure. Businesses with several employees can use a commercial document management system to automate this task. Duplicate digital files should be deleted to avoid losing track of sensitive information. Create a separate index of files to allow easy access to and recovery of data. Folders and sub-folders can become overly complicated, and a business that is not relying on a management system should develop its own folder filing system and naming strategy to minimize those complications.

Even with such protections in place, the number of attacks on personal data and customer information is still growing daily. Kaspersky reports 62% of people have experienced attacks involving their financial data, while 61% of those people were never able to fully recover data that was lost due to a cyber attack.

Document management should be coupled with a data backup strategy. Some commercial document management systems automatically back data up into the cloud. If cloud backup is used, make sure that all data sent to the cloud is encrypted at the time of the backup process. If cloud backup is not used, data can be backed up onto external hard drives, SSD devices, or other media that is disconnected from any online environment and stored in a secure location.

Customer files and other sensitive data can be further protected with hashing and salting routines. Hashing will authenticate messages to confirm the legitimacy of an information request. Salting adds extra values to passwords to make them more difficult for a password hacking algorithm to guess. When used with end-to-end encryption, hashing and salting will create an even more secure data management environment.

The Business of Keeping Personal Data and Company Information Safe

While these tasks might seem simple enough, data protection is a 24/365 game of defense for nearly all businesses and brands in the world today. With company and customer data being more crucial to protect than ever before, Microsoft recently came out with their own stats and infographic on the matter. Highlights from the report noted the following:

  • 140+ Days – The average number of days a hacker sits on your network before they are detected.
  • $12M – The average cost a business is impacted by for each security breach.
  • 72% of the U.S. workforce will be mobile by 2020, relying on devices other than their laptop to be productive.
  • 87% of senior managers admit to regularly uploading work files to a personal email or cloud account.

You can see even more information through the visual infographic below.

Unfortunately, even the safest management of digital files will not guarantee their protection from hackers who are intent on stealing the information in those files. In 2016, for example, the commercial cloud backup provider, Dropbox, suffered a data breach that leaked details of more than 68 million user accounts. Information in those accounts that was encrypted or otherwise locked down with hashing and salting was better protected from loss, largely because hackers will go after data that is easier to access without wasting time trying to break through encryption and other protections. Still, those data files did fall into cyberattackers’ hands and still remain at risk of being unencrypted.

Even with the potential for a data breach at all times, data storage platforms like Dropbox are still in massive demand and their usage numbers just continue to keep growing over time. Take a look at the chart below to see how Dropbox has scaled from their initial launch in 2008 to having more than 500 million users today. The massive growth behind Dropbox all started with their referral program that would reward users with extra space in exchange for referring a new Dropbox user. The funny thing about this process is that Dropbox was already ahead of the data storage game before many other companies and brands jumped into the mix.

Eight years later and Dropbox is still the largest player in this space, thanks to their five times faster sync on average versus competitors, having released over 90+ product updates in the past year and also having 500 billion calls to the Dropbox API per year. All of this is ultimately in place to not only scale the company in size, but to also protect customer data and files as well.

In addition to the massive business of online data storage and data protection, there is also going to be a world of opportunities for affiliate marketers to make money in this space as well — which includes everything from data monitoring, spyware software and data notification platforms that are constantly monitoring personal information and mentions online. The more money and competition that flows into this space, the more money there are for advertisers, affiliates and the sites covering such data and resources.

Personal and Customer Data Manage Best Practices are Key

At the end of the day, the more we talk about data management and the potential downsides and hacks that come along with it, it’s simply a matter of keeping us all aware of such conditions and informing each other on better ways to protect our information. There is no doubt that online data storage and customer data will continue to be hacked and released on the dark web by hackers, but there are also some precautions everyone can do to keep their data safe. The unfortunate truth is that most of these leaks will likely come from other companies and brands that already have customer information, and will soon be attacked.

Good digital file management can therefore raise the bar for cyber protection, but it cannot stop a cyberattack that potentially compromises data in those digital files. The question that frequently comes up during a data file management project is “what is liability insurance and how does it fit into management of data files?” The simple answer is that cybersecurity insurance reimburses direct losses that a business might experience when hackers break through its cyber defenses, and provides funds to pay certain liabilities to third parties and fines from regulatory authorities that are levied when sensitive customer data is lost.

One of the more consistent recommendations for good data file management is that doing something is better than nothing at all, and that a management project should be started as soon as is possible. Hackers and cyberattackers are working every day to find new gaps in cybersecurity procedures as older gaps are closed off. Managing data files and adding cybersecurity insurance can keep businesses and individuals at least one step ahead of the hackers.

To learn more about the costs associated with cybercrimes and data leaks, be sure to always keep an eye on the latest data leaks in the business world, and also set up something as simple as a “Google Alerts” notification around your personal name to see when and where your information might be posted online.

About the Author Zac Johnson

My name is Zac Johnson and I have been an online entrepreneur for the past 18 years and blogger since 2007. This is my personal blog and I welcome you to the site. In full disclosure, it is safe to assume that I am benefiting financially or otherwise from everything you click on, read, or look at while on my website.

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