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A Complete Guide to Online Privacy for Small Businesses

In today’s emerging and digitizing world, while using the internet people perpetually provide their personal information and details to websites and other applications. Online privacy is crucial to avoid misuse of the information for malicious purposes. 

Not only for individuals but also for businesses, data protection is crucial for everyone. Especially, it is substantial for small enterprises. The reason is big businesses have an extensive network of clients and considerable resources, which make it effortless for them to recover from any unfortunate breaches. On the contrary, for a small business, the fallout can be disastrous and may even cause operations to close.

Sometimes the damage can cause immediate effects like loss of revenue as well as a tarnished reputation that can also impact your earnings for years to come. The best way to deal with such a situation is to ensure adequate privacy so that you never have to deal with the consequences of a breach at all. This condition applies to both customer and company’s information, defined as business and client data respectively.

It’s true that every organization will follow privacy guidelines based on the scope of operations and place a greater or lesser priority on the following practices. This straightforward guide to data security and online privacy tools is designed to help any small business keep their browsing sessions private and client interactions secure. Consider below mentioned matters with great concern now, so that you can save plenty of time and money in the future.

Let’s start!

Importance of Online Privacy for Small Businesses

Undoubtedly, online data privacy must be one of the top priorities of small businesses, whether it is related to protecting customer financial data, securing trade secrets, or maintaining HR records. 

Below will be substantial principles which should be noted and followed by all small business owners and managers.  Here, we will unwrap each of these practices in more detail for you.

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1. Ensure Password Security

The first line of defence in data protection is the use of strong passwords. Businesses should consider passwords that include a combination of capital and small letters, numbers, and special characters, and be a minimum of eight letters long. Making these requirements in your password along with regular resets must be mandatory for all employees. Also, password managers, which create, store and retrieve hack-resistant passwords are strongly recommended.

2. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) and Secure Socket Layer (SSL) Encryption

The best way to explain a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is that it is a closed network that is superimposed over a public virtual network – which is almost always the Internet. Consider VPN as a channel that runs through the WWW. Only those with access to the VPN can see the files that it contains. Employees from across the globe can access information securely as if they were all on a local intranet.

The working of VPN is creating an encrypted connection between your computer and the remote private network. It depicts that the computers and networks with a specific key can decode the information. In addition to improved security, VPNs let you access your website and files remotely, share files, and maintain online anonymity without your data being tracked, monitored, collected, and stored.

Especially, it makes VPNs substantial if your staff members often travel for work, and during crises including the current worldwide novel coronavirus pandemic. With so many workers out of the office for extended periods of time, secure email communications, and remote file access became even more of a priority than usual.

Usually, Secure Sockets Layer. (SSL) encryption is an extra security measure connected to websites. When this layer is placed all communications that go through your website are encrypted and can only be decrypted with a private key held by the software at their intended destination. Thus, if anyone else gets their hands on the information, they won’t be able to comprehend it.

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To ensure proper encryption your website should use the HTTPS protocol and should have an SSL certificate. So that when you visit a website with HTTPS in the browser bar, you know that the site has an SSL certificate securing the data transferred between the site and the user accessing it.

Some people might ask whether they need to use SSL encryptions if they are already on a VPN, the answer is actually yes. The overall effects are similar and create repetition of privacy policy. Hence, if one system is compromised, the effects won’t be too serious.

3. Encrypt Data on Devices

Taking the step forward in the privacy protection policy is through encrypting sensitive data on employees’ devices.In fact, small businesses often utilize BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies, and employees might keep work and personal information on the same tablet, laptop, or smartphone. That makes this kind of encryption especially crucial for smaller enterprises.

Data encryption activation on any machine is quite easy, although the particular steps depend on the model, make, and operating system that you’re using. You’ll be capable of finding and carrying out the instructions within a matter of moments. Also implement a Mobile Device Management (MDM) system to remotely wipe data or locate a device if it goes missing.

4. Make Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) Mandatory

No single method of data protection is flawless, which is why you must also use Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) within your company. Since it needs a little time and effort to set up, 2FA is often ignored unless employers make it obligatory. Essentially, a 2FA system do work similar to a lock and an alarm system on a building.

2FA is the perfect reply to the answer to the password shortcomings. It improves security by providing an extra layer of account protection. If someone trying to access files that are 2FA protected has to provide two proofs of identification, instead of one. For example, entering a password and a One Time Pin (OTP) sent to your mobile number when logging into a website. While prohibited individuals might be able to get hold of one proof, it’s highly doubtful they’ll be capable to access both.

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We suggest applying 2FA onto customer-facing sites and within your organization. Make sure that your company doesn’t unintentionally share client data with hackers and that internal information transfers aren’t intercepted. Currently, any of the 2FA apps that are available should allow you to set this up effectively.

5. Accomplish the Creation of System Audit Logs

Carefully track and record the login data by using audit logs. All the systems of the organization should create these logs, thus if any security breaches do occur, they can be properly investigated and dealt with. The information could also prove priceless in showing liability.

6. Write and Publicize a Transparent Privacy Policy

The privacy policy of the company explains how your business will collect, store, use and share your client data. The regulations on all data protection stipulate that this policy should be effortlessly accessible and understandable and should be kept in trend. Alternatively, the document should be written in layman language, with explanations on the way that updates will be announced.

Hence, if you are engaging with your visitors you will also need to ask them for their consent for any action you might have over their data, like sending marketing campaigns or newsletters.

Conclusion: Data Privacy Must Be a Priority

After reading all the details you must understand your privacy protection practices must be effective, strict, and entirely transparent. Currently, consumers are sophisticated, and likely to discredit a website that is bogged down in legal speak or bureaucracy. Must ensure that no matter how busy you are with your other business operations, you must take out the time to put proper privacy procedures in place.

Keep in mind that securing your systems and your data is just half of your obligations towards your customers. You are also committed to properly handle, store, process, and use personal information and respect their rights granted under the privacy regulations.

Don’t forget that data is a substantial commodity – so treat it that way. Thus, these practices are the best for maintaining online privacy in the small business environment.

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