CRM systems are some of the most useful assets for an organization, enabling businesses to build meaningful customer relationships, find new prospective customers and drive revenues. Since CRM programs contain so much of customer data, they present a potential goldmine for hackers.
If your CRM data is hacked and leaked to the public, it can destroy consumer trust in your company and harm your business. Here are five ways you can protect your CRM data from hackers and exploiters.
1. Secure Your Data
The first step is to protect the IT infrastructure that hosts your CRM data. It’s essential to create multiple layers of security to make it all the more difficult for hackers to get in. You can start by installing a reputed firewall that will allow you to control who has access to your data. Next, install a trusted anti-virus program to protect your CRM data from viruses, worms and trojans. Most anti-virus programs provide real-time scanning to block intrusion attempts as they occur and contain anti-malware and anti-phishing capabilities that will allow your employees to securely browse the web.
Ensure that you regularly update your operating system (OS). Every OS has a default and recommended feature to automatically download and install updates, including those that fix security vulnerabilities. Some users turn off auto-updates, fearing loss of internet bandwidth and increased data usage, but it’s advisable to leave them on to protect information or assets.
You can also install software that provides encryption for your full disk. Encryption software can be easy to use and may even be already installed on your OS.
2. Choose a Trusted CRM Provider
Perhaps the most important step in securing your data is to choose a reliable CRM provider. Once you set up your CRM system, it’s quite cumbersome to migrate to a different one later. So research various CRM companies thoroughly before you make a purchase decision.
Look at trusted IT news sites like Computerworld and CNET that provide unbiased reviews and comparisons of various CRM software. Your CRM provider should allow unlimited secure access to your data and be able to follow strict data standards laid out in ISO 27001.
Check the provider’s website/blog and other IT news sites for any past history of data breaches and how the company addressed them. You can do that by simply searching for company name + “security breach” or company name + “data breach” in your search engine. Do your research to make sure your CRM provider is transparent in its communication and has a solid reputation for security.
Every established CRM provider will have a web page or PDF that lays out the security procedures they follow to secure customer data. Look for this documentation on a provider’s website or contact them and ask for this information.
Educate Your Employees
Many data breaches happen because employees unintentionally or carelessly pass around documents, data and even passwords. Also, as technology evolves and new technologies emerge, it’s possible that your security protocols become outdated. Conduct a risk assessment to identify the weak areas in your existing security protocols and fix them.
Train your employees on using their hardware, software and data and the right way to safeguard against breaches. Also, provide video tutorials and conduct role-playing workshops to inform them about the dos and don’ts in case of data breaches. After training, ensure that you periodically test your security protocols.
Also, educate them about safe web browsing to thwart internet-based attacks. Cover topics like how to avoid falling victim to phishing attacks, which could result in loss or theft of company or customer data, and avoiding sensitive transactions over public wireless networks.
Use Passwords Effectively
One of the most common reasons for which a system can be hacked is that it uses common, easy-to-guess passwords. Ensure that your employees use strong passwords (a strong password is a sentence that’s at least 12 characters long) and use a unique password for each account. Teach employees to keep passwords written down in safe places away from their computers and/or consider using password managers to securely store their passwords.
Many companies and software programs have begun relying on strong authentication that requires users to have more than just their passwords to sign in to accounts. Strong authentication – which can include security keys, biometrics and/or one-time codes sent after entering a username and password – provides an added layer of security to protect against account hijacking.
5. Monitor CRM Activity Regularly
You don’t need to monitor every activity of your employees as they use your CRM system; however, you can set up security alerts that notify you in case of unauthorized access or security breaches. You can also create real-time online dashboards to regularly monitor the security status of your CRM system and company network. Many of these dashboard tools have out-of-the-box capabilities to integrate with your security system and can help you quickly track the key security metrics for your IT infrastructure.
Wrapping It Up
These five tips will help you evaluate your CRM security,and take steps to fortify it further. Just as your customers matter, so does their data. Data breaches can ruin your company’s reputation and allow competitors to steal your customers. With a multi-layered security system and well-trained employees, you can peacefully focus on growing your business instead of worrying about when your business might be the next hacking target.
About the Author
For more than eight years, Sreeram Sreenivasan has worked with various Fortune 500 Companies in the areas of business intelligence, sales and marketing strategy. He regularly writes at Fedingo about a wide range of business growth ad marketing topics. He’s also the founder & CEO of Ubiq BI, a cloud-based BI platform for small and medium-sized businesses and enterprises.