As Emphasize Design’s inbound marketing specialist I encourage our clients to make the most of their website. Rather than a static few pages that are basically just large Yellow Pages ad, we can include a number of content elements that encourage interaction with your site, and hopefully, your products or services. Downloadable whitepapers, well-used calls-to-action and contact forms are ways to introduce yourself and your business to your customer, and to start up a conversation.
As good as our intentions are, we still ask people for a lot online. We ask that they provide their names, emails, addresses, credit card numbers and more in order to access newsletters, obtain reward cards, file a complaint and make a purchase. They put a lot of trust in us, so as site owners, we are obligated to ensure that we do our utmost to protect that information with every resource available.
I am well aware that hackers are getting better and better at their job. All of our websites are designed with the most up-to-date anti-virus software available, but that won’t stop n’er-do-wells from continuing to come up with new malware programs just as fast as the antidotes are created. We all have to be diligent in not only protecting our own information, but that of our clients as well.
How Hackers Work
The most common end game of the hacker is to try to find out personal information so they can impersonate people online, open bank accounts, rack up credit cards and commit fraud in others’ names. Strong passwords are one of the key elements of online security for your Calgary home and business. When creating a password, use a mix of numbers, uppercase and lowercase letters, and symbols. The more complex, the better. Compound words and phrases tend to make the best passwords, so choose combinations of words that mean something to you, but not others. If you have trouble remembering your passwords, consider a service like 1password to create difficult-to-crack passwords and then store them securely for you.
One of the most effective ways that hackers use to steal your information is through phishing. This often starts with an email designed to look like it comes from an official source. The email (or website) will often request you to verify or update account information, and when you click the link a couple things can happen. In one scenario, clicking the link or opening the attachment will open the door for malware to be downloaded onto your computer, which could allow a third party to take over your computer. Hackers will control your website and all of its information, and, as in the case of the University of Calgary in 2016, can then demand a ransom to release your website from being held hostage.
Finally, consistently backing up your files – either to a cloud or an external hard drive – is essential. Having all of your important documents and programs saved in a secondary location will allow you and your business to keep running smoothly if something horrible like a malware attack happens, or if you are broken into. Back-ups will also protect your data from other common occurrences like human error (who hasn’t spilled their coffee on their computer?) software glitches, power surges and server failures.
Storing Your Client Information Safely
Besides keeping aware of the greatest threats to online security and making sure to practice safe use of technology at all times, there are a few other ways we can help keep our client and business details as safe as possible.
- Keep your browsers and operating systems up to date.
- Ensure all of your computers and networks are password protected (have a professional set these up for you) and require everyone to change their sign in information regularly.
- Make sure you and your staff members all turn your computers off at night to make it harder for thieves to gain access.
- Only email .pdfs. Other types of files carry meta data in the background that people would like to know. Go a step further and password-protect extremely sensitive files.
- Use a CRM. Customer Relationship Management systems not only allow you to store all your customer information in one place, they will help keep data safe behind an additional firewall.
- Virus-scan all USB and external devices before connecting them to computers and networks.
Privacy policies clearly lay out how you collect information, store it and use it for your business. They provide peace of mind to your clients that only are you only gathering what you need in order to operate your business effectively, and that you are responsibly storing and caring for what you know. They are, quite simply, the right thing to do. Additionally, all business owners should avail themselves of the privacy laws in Alberta, which provide protections for consumers from having their information unlawfully disseminated or sold.
Emphasize Web Design Services in Calgary
By demonstrating a commitment to keeping your client information safe at the top of your priority list, you lay the foundation for a long-term relationship based on transparency and respect. The real effectiveness of good online marketing techniques comes from their ability to always to put the user or consumer first.
Have a look at Emphasize Design’s portfolio to see what we can do for you!