What is website data? Who Wants It? And how do I protect it?

The minefield of data captured, stored, used and GDPR compliance can be a minefield to navigate. Read on if you want to get a handle on the data you hold and how best to protect it.

What we will cover

What is website data?

Modern websites are made up of databases, images, text and code. Data on a website could be the information input by the user on their website journey or the files, text, images, and cookies downloaded to a device when user accesses the website.

All of this data has differing levels of sensitivity, triggers different areas of GDPR compliance and can mean that you hold personal information about a user’s location, behaviour, and interests.

Whether it’s for business or pleasure we all take the internet for granted, and with the necessity for transmitting data on a regular basis we often don’t spend as much time as we should making sure all our online activities are secure. In May 2018 GDPR came into effect to help protect us and has since managed to fine a few of the tech giants, but it resulted for most small businesses in a more robust cookie consent popup and some better practice policies.

With stories about hacking frequently dominating the headlines and the sophistication of hackers increasing all the time it’s becoming more and more important to pay attention to our digital security. If you’re running an e-commerce store, you hold a lot of personal information and that could be very valuable in the wrong hands.

When running a business now it’s even more critical to think about how data is transmitted, for the sake of the company and its employees. This means understanding the dangers, knowing how to prevent them and most importantly making sure the company’s website and internal systems are as secure as they can be.

What website data you have to hide

Being a business online is a bit different to being an individual online. While an individual will want to keep certain personal details to themselves, such as their address and telephone number, businesses are expected to be more open.

There are still some things that should be off limits however, like personal information about its employees – whether that’s on the company website or its social media channels.

For information that isn’t kept behind closed doors, such as that shared on social media or posted on a blog, it’s always worth using common sense to determine how much you should give away. It’s OK to be on first name terms with your customers,  but you might want to be cagey about sharing anything more revealing such as birthdays, details about people’s families and their location.

The more valuable data people will be after is that which is kept under login form and password. For many online businesses who collect and store customer information this will be addresses, phone numbers and financial information. Anything that could be sold or used to commit fraud or identity theft.

Who wants personal data?

Many people want personal data, and they’re not all scoundrels. A lot of data shared over the internet is gathered for non-malicious purposes but there are also a lot of people out there looking to harm businesses, whether for personal gain or just for fun.

  • Advertisers: Apart from tracking the shopping habits of your employees on their lunch break advertisers pose little threat to businesses, the data they collect from individuals will ultimately be used to better target the ad campaigns so you get the most bang for your advertising buck.
  • Local Villains: Local Villains could be rivals who might be digging for more information on your company or someone with a grudge, such a disgruntled ex-employee. Not as tech-savvy as hackers a local villain can easily be foiled by being careful with the information you share and having secure passwords.
  • Hackers: Although hackers get a bad rap in the news not all of them are the malicious kind, looking to cause trouble for the fun of it or to build a reputation, but a lot of them are. It can be hard to foil a criminal doing it for fun but the most effective way is to make it less enjoyable for them.

How to protect your website data

To a potential hacker a weak password is about as effective as using a padlock from a Christmas cracker to secure the chain on your bike. Although the more random and difficult the password is the more effective it will be, a good password doesn’t have to be impossible to remember. A solid combination of letters, lowercase and uppercase, numbers and other characters is recommended. It’s always a good idea to establish a system where everyone changes their passwords on a regular basis as well, every six months at the longest.

Wi-Fi networks at the very least should have a secure password and be encrypted, and ideally the network should be behind a hardware firewall. For larger businesses setting up a VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a good idea, adding another level of security and encryption. It should also go without saying that all machines used by the business, in the office or at home, need some kind of anti-virus software installed.

Turning your company into a digital Fort Knox is one thing, but it’s no good if the janitor is leaving the back door open. Educating your staff is one of the most important steps you can take – by simply making sure everyone does the basics the majority of security issues can be avoided. Stress the importance of secure passwords, make it clear what information they’re allowed to share and that everyone is aware of potential phishing scams.

While there’s plenty you can do to keep your business’s data safe the security of a website ultimately starts with the host. Here at Vu Online we’re always striving to improve our security, making sure our websites are hosted on the most secure servers and that our customers get the peace of mind they deserve.

If you want a local agency for support and knowledge that they are undertaking safe and secure Website Design & Development, then please feel free to get in touch and discuss further.

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