By Zachary Amos, Features Editor at ReHack
With so many transactions and interactions taking place online, a comprehensive focus on data security is more important than ever. Each time a consumer, client, or patient puts their information into a web form, they need to be assured their data is protected and secure. How can the average user tell if a business has good data security?
Two-factor authentication (2FA) is an additional layer of security that all websites should make available to their users.
2FA generates a multi-digit code of usually six numbers, but it can be any length and include numbers, letters, and special characters. This is delivered to the user’s email or phone. The code is necessary for a successful login. It can be a valuable tool because it prevents hackers from simply guessing a password.
It’s not foolproof. If a bad actor gains access to the user’s email address, they will also have access to their two-factor codes. However, in general, it is one of the best options for user data security. Users may need to go into their settings to turn on two-factor authentication if the website doesn’t offer it as an option upon account creation.
Encryption and Secure Socket Layer Protocols
This is the bare bones of reasonable data security, especially in the modern age. If private information is at play, including seemingly innocuous data like names and email addresses, then encryption is essential. The same rule applies to secure socket layer (SSL) protocols.
The easiest way to identify the latter is to look at the URL. If it begins with HTTPS:// instead of HTTP://, then the site utilizes SSL protocols to create a secure connection between the user’s device and the website. Users may still find websites that don’t use SSL protocols, but SSL and encryption should be a requirement if they input any protected information.
How hard is it for a user – especially one who isn’t tech-savvy – to report a bug or a flaw in a website’s operations? How transparent is the company with its security practices?
Companies may try to claim they’re protecting proprietary industry secrets by being vague. But if they’re playing their security plans too close to the chest or making it impossible for users to submit bug reports, that’s a big red flag when it comes to data security.
Having a security plan in place is only part of the puzzle. Companies concerned about data security need to carry out frequent security audits to ensure their security measures protect customer data.
Publishing the results of these audits is also essential. Even if the details aren’t made public knowledge, customers have a right to know that security audits are happening and if the company is making any changes in response to these audits.
Data security is becoming more highly regulated by the year. What started with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union has expanded into various regulations that outline companies’ responsibilities when it comes to protecting user data.
One of the easiest ways to determine whether a company has good data security is if they comply with GDPR and other similar regulations. This compliance should be both complete and transparent. Hiding that data from users is another big data security red flag.
No security system is entirely unbreachable. In the event of a breach, the critical information to look for is how the company responds and the steps they take to prevent such a breach from happening again.
As with many other types of information on this list, breach information should be entirely transparent. Additionally, the company should take steps to provide restitution or identity protection for anyone impacted by the breach.
This may include working with third-party companies that offer identity or credit monitoring – a service the affected company can then provide for free to their users.
Keeping Private Data Safe
As more services become available on the internet, data security will be more critical than ever. Users need to be on the lookout for companies with good data security and actively avoid any that refuse to update their data security practices.
With personal data theft having become an incredibly lucrative industry and hackers getting savvier with each passing year, making choices with data security in mind is the only viable option for consumers and businesses alike.
As the Features Editor at ReHack, Zac Amos writes about cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and other tech topics. He is a frequent contributor to Brilliance Security Magazine.