7 Ways to Protect Your Customers’ Identity with Data Stewardship


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Today, organizations are no strangers to the threat landscape and the alarming rate at which security incidents have grown in the past several years. Attacks have become more sophisticated and more targeted toward compromising individual credentials. Protecting the digital identities of employees and customers has never been more critical.

And yet, data leaks and security breaches often feel inevitable, and the most urgent threat may involve your own employees. Eighty-two percent of data breaches in 2022 involved human error and misjudgment, according to the Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report. 

While no data breach related to online identities and credentials is completely avoidable, organizations can take proactive measures to prevent these incidents from happening. Identity Management Day on April 11 is the perfect time to highlight the importance of protecting digital identities through better data stewardship practices.

According to Identity Defined Security Alliance, Identity Management Day is an effort to raise awareness about the dangers of casually or improperly managing and securing digital identities. Properly protecting your customers’ digital identities requires your organization to remain on top of security best practices and practice due diligence when it comes to vendors and partners. 

Data stewardship is an umbrella term for the best practices concerning the collection, use, and confidentiality of personal information. Proper data stewardship requires a comprehensive approach to fairness, transparency, and relevancy in data collection practices, in addition to adherence to robust legal and security requirements.

When looking at both identity management and data stewardship, it is clear that one cannot exist without the other. Protecting customers’ identities should be a natural part of data stewardship practices at your organization. 

7 Ways to Protect Customer Identity

Here are the common ways data stewardship can keep individual identities secure.

1. Don’t Ask for More Data Than You Need

The principle of data minimization (found in data privacy legislation such as GDPR) provides that personal data should be relevant and limited to the purpose for which it is collected.

Asking for unnecessary data from consumers sends a clear message that the organization is not prioritizing data security. This can lead to an unwillingness of consumers to share personal data, increasing the likelihood of poor data quality and putting your organization at risk. 

2. Use In-Transit and At-Rest Data Encryption

Whether data is residing in storage or moving between devices or networks, it is vulnerable to hacking attacks or human error. In-transit and at-rest encryption ensure that data is properly secured and protected at all times.

Strong encryption involves protecting the identities and devices of individuals with access to encryption keys and personal data. Part of encryption best practices also involve strong network security and passwords.

3. Keep All Apps Up to Date

Modern devices require a large amount of software to operate effectively, and your employees need additional applications and software for their jobs. App updates often include new feature releases, bug fixes, or other performance improvements.

To prevent identity-related breaches, these apps must be regularly updated whenever security patches or features are released. Be sure your security and IT teams vet new apps before downloading, stay informed about device updates, and remove unused apps in the system.

4. Only Keep Customer Data You Need and Only As Long As You Need It

Along with the principle of data minimization comes that of storage limitation. This involves only keeping personal data for as long as its intended purpose. Any data that is no longer necessary should be deleted to minimize security liabilities.

Ensuring your organization follows these best practices will require clear data retention policies. These policies specify how long data should be stored, for what reason, and in what format as well as steps for its proper disposal (whether by the organization or the customer).

5. Limit Access to Sensitive Data

Actively protecting digital identities requires identity and access management. Whether data is stored physically or digitally, it’s critical to limit user access and require verification for authorized individuals. Not all employees will need access to the same information, especially if it is sensitive data.

Regulating access to confidential information minimizes the risk of a cybercriminal gaining unauthorized access via an employee’s credentials. Those who do have access should be aware of password best practices and the role they play in preventing identity-related data breaches.

6. Obscure and Redact Sensitive Data

Data redaction is another simple way to safeguard sensitive or confidential information, such as social security numbers or credit card information. Most software provides some level of data obscurification for fields that ask for sensitive information, such as replacing original values with symbols. Data collection platforms like FormAssembly provide sensitive data management to mask data within responses and reports that must be unlocked to view.

7. Use Reputable, Security-Focused Tools

When migrating to modern applications and systems, it’s important to choose solutions that prioritize security and compliance. Cybercriminals routinely target software security vulnerabilities, which becomes more concerning without proper identity management. Choosing reputable solutions with advanced security standards provides an extra layer of protection against threats. 

For example, FormAssembly’s data collection platform offers enterprise-grade security, compliance, and privacy capabilities such as HIPAA, FedRAMP, PCI DSS, GLBA, SOC 2 Type 2, and more. FormAssembly also follows data stewardship best practices as well as for access monitoring, data erasure, in-transit and at-rest encryption, access control, and endpoint and network security.

Managing Security in Online Data Collection

Interested in learning how other organizations are managing policies and risks in online data collection? Download a copy of FormAssembly’s Digital Data Collection & Security report.

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