In all the excitement and buzz about setting up your work from home business, client data is probably further down your list than it ought to be. Dealing with clients on a day-to-day basis, you will have some of the following client data in your hands that requires protection:
- Business name and client name
- Their operating address
- Possibly, their bank details if they pay by bank transfer
- How much they are paying you and how often
You are now obliged to protect that sensitive data and do everything you can to cover yourself and your client(s). You don’t need expensive equipment; just follow some of these common sense steps.
Don’t Leave Your Electronics Open To Public View
One advantage of working from home is the ability to work out of the home. Coffee shops, pubs and restaurants can make a great change of scenery where there is a decent wifi connection. When you go to the toilet or up to the bar to order a drink or food, do you lock your machine? Leaving it open leaves you at risk of data loss – not just your own, but that of your clients too.
Firewalls and Virus Protection
Everybody should have these considering all possible outlets for data loss and hacking and how much data can be worth financially to those with malicious intent. Most commercial packages are relatively inexpensive. McAfee, Kaspersky and Norton are the most popular home software kits that you probably already have installed. The package that comes with Windows may be adequate for your home computing needs, but you should invest in something better for your clients. Don’t forget, you can claim this as a business expense.
Password Protect Everything
Your phone / phablet, tablet, laptop / desktop should all be password protected. Data can be stolen relatively easily when a data thief is able to access it without needing to get through a security protocol. Secondly, ensure that you log out of everything – including social media accounts, email and accounting software when not in use. It is amazing what a data thief can piece together by picking up bits and pieces of information from a variety of sources, sources that you think may be innocuous on their own.
Choose Strong Passwords
Logging out and using passwords is great, but if you choose passwords that are easy to guess you may as well not bother using them. It is shocking the number of people who use “123456” and “password” as their passwords to services that contain sensitive data. For an extra level of protection, consider purchasing password manager software. These will choose random strings of text for passwords that nobody could guess and you can use a single password to access all of them.
Use Only Secure Networks for Sensitive Data
Your home network should be secure and password protected for your safety and that of your clients. This is common practice and common advice. However, not all public wifi networks are safe, even though you must log into them. With the right software, a determined hacker could access your computer without the right protocols on your part. The best thing that you can do is not access sensitive data when working away from your own secured network.
The best way to ensure protection of your client data is to treat it as if it is your own. You wouldn’t hand over your own financial details to a stranger, so don’t be cavalier with your client’s data. You could lose your good reputation for any data breach that is traceable back to you. Far from fears of malicious and widespread hacking, human error is often to blame for the majority of data breach cases – and that means leaving electronic equipment open to public view.