5 Ways to Make Customer Data More Secure in the Manufacturing Industry

Manufacturing is an industry that requires dedication. Your process determines product quality, sometimes for hundreds or even thousands of customers each year. Manufacturing is high in the vertical integration chain and almost always B2B. This means that your customers aren't excitable consumers following trends and flashy advertisements. They are respectable, established companies who choose their business partners with discernment.


To remain competitive, you need to offer more than customer service. You offer superior products, better prices and, of course, excellent data security. Hackers and data leaks are the business epidemic of new millennium. Everyone is worried about having their identities, financial accounts, or proprietary business information stolen and used for nefarious purposes. And no B2B service like a manufacturing firm would want to be the reason your customers are put at risk.


Fortunately, promising and providing excellent data security are things any manufacturing business can do with a little dedication. Here are five easy ways to make your customers' data more secure. 


1) Encrypt Business Emails


The first thing you can do is to make sure your business email system is encrypting messages. You want messages sent between employees and clients to be guaranteed as private. Unfortunately, anything sent over the internet is potentially vulnerable to being read in-transit or when accessed from a hacked device. Encryption makes sure that any unauthorized viewers of an email or sent data is useless. Because it is encrypted, the data looks like gibberish and a hacker won't be able to use it.


There are several ways to make sure your business messages are being encrypted. You can find out if your current email software provides encryption as a feature, and if that feature is sufficient. You can source new secure email software, or you can hire a custom software developer to make a secure email solution that would be unique to your business.


You may also want to consider encrypting (or using encrypting software) for other business communications on any channel you use. Customer service chat, for instance, should also remain confidential, as should any integrated communications or messaging systems that may be on your website or mobile app.


2) Secure Customer Data Storage


The next step is to secure any data that you keep about your customers. Most businesses have some kind of CRM (Customer Relationship Manager) that stores a modern Rolodex of clients, contacts, phone numbers and of course financial information for easy billing. This information is the customer information it is most important to keep safe, because hackers will come looking for it.

Your best bet is, once again, encryption. When it comes to security, always assume the worst. Some clever or very determined hacker will eventually get in and try to access your stored customer data files. Simply make it impossible for them. Store all of your sensitive files encrypted, with only authorized employees able to access. This will ensure that even if hackers get inside your system, they will not be able to read and steal your data.


3) Employee Cybersecurity Training


No doubt, you already have a decent firewall and virus scanning set for your business network and workstations. If not, now is the time to arrange for it. However, no automated security system can be stronger than it's most foolish employee. If an employee visits an infected site or clicks on a targeted phishing email, invasive malware can and will get into your business network.

This means that the best way to close your biggest security hole is employee training. Make sure that everyone who handles data or has a secure login knows how important their job is. Emphasize security in your company culture. To motivate your employees to become security experts, offer rewards for reporting (and not clicking) suspicious emails. And invite your IT team to stage cybersecurity drills like fake phishing emails.


4) Security From the Top Down


Upper management is just as vulnerable to cybersecurity breaches as employees. In fact, there's even a special form of phishing known as whaling where hackers target execs. Hackers are known for posing as executives to give false orders to subordinates or even to trick other execs into sharing business-confidential information. Anyone can get phished, no matter what their job title might be. Data security is not something that can be passed down from the upper levels while being ignored by management. If your higher-ups don't conform to cybersecurity rules, employee discipline will break down and cyber security will not be a company value.


In order to make sure that securing customer data is always a top priority, you need to actually make it a top priority. Make sure that every member of the company from the top down uses the secure emails, is careful about their communications, and are always willing to accept a double-confirmation request.


5) Regular Virus Scanning


Finally, never underestimate the potential subtlety of malware. Spyware, in particular, is notorious for quietly infecting a computer or an entire network then lurking for months or years. The spyware is programmed to look for, collect, and send data covertly. Or possibly to trigger a much worse attack when it perceives a trigger. And it could be on any of your network endpoints just waiting to cause a problem.


The fact of the matter is that malware can get on your systems in a wide variety of ways. It might be an employee getting phished, browsing risky sites at work, an infected USB drive, or even an intentional hacker intrusion. And when symptoms don't appear immediately, there's no way to know when or if your system has been compromised.


So do a full scan. There are two ways to make sure that there are no bugs on your system. You can either scan deeply with high-end software or reset all your devices to factory settings and rebuild your network. With the right backups, the second option is sometimes faster and easier.


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Keeping your customer data safe as a manufacturing business is all about being thorough. Your company networks must be safe, the data must be stored in a safe way, and employees must know how to protect the data. For more tips and professional advice on the ideal data security solutions for your manufacturing company, contact us today!

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