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Client Data Security – Why and How

I have finally decided to break the jinx of not keeping my blog updated. I shall update it once a week. Here’s the post for this week.

In today’s fast changing business world, regulations related to security are pervasive, so much so that with every new project (whether in the same or a different geographical region as that of the client), comes a whole set of laws to carry out (to the letter) as far as client data is concerned. If there is anything that the law misses, it is covered in the contract.

The next question is – why do client put these clauses (related to their data privacy) in their contracts?
They put it there because if the information leaks/gets modified, the client is liable to suffer monetary & intangible losses (lawsuits, fines from government, damaged image, lost clients, etc.).

Hence, in order to make sure that we understand and commit to the security and privacy of client information, they put the relevant clauses in the contract.

Bottom line – client data is sacred, and any security issue related to it can come back to haunt us (legally and otherwise). Hence, it makes business sense to protect our client data.

This poses some challenges.

The challenge is – No one, in their right minds, would want to put client data at risk. However, by virtue of our work & our focus towards it, security sometimes takes a back seat. This is reflected in our activities (we can also call them habits, as they keep happening from time to time). Some of them are (the list below is indicative):-

1. Noting some crucial information on a piecec of paper and keeping it at a public place;
2. Sharing password so that any client information that you have is now easily accessible to others;
3. Not keeping your anti-virus software updated;
4. Clicking on a link in mail without checking it first;
5. Discussing/sharing sensitive client information with people who do not need it to do their work;

Human beings are creatures of habit. Habits are very important in security. If i have a habit of sharing my password, there is a high chance that people near me (with good or bad intentions) can get access to it; further, if i have a habit of not locking my machine while going away, it is possible for someone to look at a crucial information (of client or personal) & make use of it.

Below are some habits that are found to be helpful in increasing the security quotient of a project, and should be used by all to ensure that we do not compromise the security of client information:-

1. Secure your passwords
While it is not always practically possible to remember a password that resembles Garnier Fructis (Long and Strong), one should understand that once you put a sensitive information like password somewhere other than your brain, you should protect it, lest it get into someone else’s hands.

2. Do not share your passwords
Once a password is shared, it is no more yours. If you have to share it (due to project requirements), make sure that you do not re-use that password for any other purposes and that you change it as soon as possible.

3. Keep your anti-virus software updated
While anti-virus software usually are put on auto-update by default, it pays to be vigilant and update it manually if the update gets failed (e.g., due to bad network conditions).

4. Be careful while clicking a link
Most of the bad code (virus/trojan/worm, etc.) require your effort (unknowingly, of course) to get onto your machine. We do so by clicking on some link without checking it first, thereby getting a bad code on our machine.
Always check a link (by putting your mouse over it, not clicking) before clicking it. If the link is pointing to a direction (e.g., an IP address or some mis-spelt address), do not click it.

5. Do not share client information with anyone who does not need it
Now this is tricky! How to find out if the person who is asking it needs it? A rule of thumb is – if the person does not belong to your project and is not authorized by your respective manager / superior, he/she should not have that information.

6. Lock your machine while leaving it unattended
Leaving your machine un-attended is a dangerous habit as almost all the access rights/privileges are attached to our machine identities. As one moves up the corporate ladder (and sometimes depending on the project requirements), one gets access to information that is confidential in nature. This habit of leaving the system/desktop/laptop unattended & unlocked may prove disastrous (Think someone-stealing-a-file-that-your-VP-sent-for-your-eyes-only)!

  • Nice article for the novice user. thanks for sharing it.
    But, just wanted to share my views
    1. Password is alone is not secured, when you are using HTTP protocol for your regular use ex: Facebook, G+ etc.,
    Ans: I suggest always use HTTPS protocol, which makes the attacker difficult to get your information.
    2. Desktop antivirus software is one which will block the viruses which were already identified by the companies, it can not secure your system from latest viruses.
    Ans: We need some intelligent learning system which is able to learn from the patterns and identify the threats and save the valuable time and information[Not sure how much research is going on towards this kind of approach in Antivirus industry].

  • Sripati M S

    Well, i don’t want to raise panic, but the reason i wanted to tackle these points is that these are some common errors that give birth to an outage or data theft.

    However, i agree whole-heartedly on the point that a better configured system is the need of hour.

    Thank you for the feedback! Keep providing them so that i can improve. I will be regularly posting from now onwards.