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6 Common Customer Data Security Threats to Watch Out For

Global cybercrime costs $6 trillion a year, which amounts to $190,000 a second. This means you should be constantly aware of the most common customer data security threats so you can protect your company.

Elea Andrea Almazora

Elea Andrea Almazora



Guest Post

In our connected society, nothing is more valuable or more vulnerable than customer data. In a report by Experian, they found that more than 55% of businesses across the globe have suffered losses in the last 12 months due to online fraud.

Not only can this be detrimental for customers, but it can also have severe consequences for businesses, including, fines, loss of custom, and customer payouts.

Data protection should be at the forefront of best business practices. Global cybercrime costs $6 trillion a year, which amounts to $190,000 a second. This means you should be constantly aware of the most common customer data security threats so you can protect your company.

Below, we will discuss the most prevalent data security concerns to watch out for and examine how you can mitigate those threats.

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1. Ransomware

While this may not be the most common type of threat, it’s one of the most detrimental to systems. Ransomware is a type of malicious software that cuts off your access to systems or data. Businesses should never allow cyber actors to hold their customer data hostage.

It can be extremely expensive to get this data back. There is also no guarantee they’ll return your data or will not sell all or parts of it to a third-party. Therefore, you should optimize your IT budget to protect against attacks like ransomware.

Within your IT department, you must commit to protecting your networks. Here is a list of things you can do to reduce your risk:

  • Have backups. Always have backups of your data stored off your network.
  • Perform risk analysis. Determine how vulnerable your company is to ransomware.
  • Train your staff.
  • Application whitelisting. Only allow approved applications to run on your systems.
  • Penetration testing. The best way to prevent an attack is to hire someone to try and enter your systems.
  • Wireless. When your network is online, it can be vulnerable to attack. Make sure you follow wireless security basics and best practices.

In the last 12 months, 22% of organizations have had to cease operations because of ransomware. It’s a type of security threat you cannot afford to ignore. Make sure you, your staff, and your IT department know how to prevent it and what to do in case of a ransomware attack.

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2. Mobile Device Attacks and Takeovers

While ransomware affects networks, mobile devices are also vulnerable to attacks and takeovers. We use our mobile devices more and more to complete daily tasks, and while technology can boost productivity, it can also make us more open to security threats.

We’re more likely to connect to open Wi-Fi on our mobile devices and to have other connection points like Bluetooth. That’s why mobile phone takeovers are on the rise. This is when someone takes over your mobile device virtually. They steal your number and then potentially have access to your accounts.

They reached 679,000 in number in 2018 compared to just 380,000 in 2017.

Especially if your employees are using personal phones for business, you should bring security risks to their attention. One of the most common attacks comes in the form of malicious applications. Around 24,000 malicious mobile apps are blocked every day.

If you provide your employees with mobile devices, consider their security features. Also, make certain to configure the device to be more secure. When using file sharing apps on mobile devices, ensure they require passwords or biometrics every time the data is accessed. This will mean your company data is protected, especially if the device is stolen or lost.

3. Synthetic Identity Fraud

Synthetic identity fraud or theft is when synthetic identities are made to look like real customers using a social security number (SSN) or credit privacy number (CPN). They blend real and fake data and it’s often difficult to spot because the victims aren’t reporting activity right away.

The fraudsters create identities from the information they get from data breaches. So, not only can you potentially provide information for synthetic identities if your data is stolen but also your business can be vulnerable to these identities.

For example, a synthetic ID ring racked up $200 million in losses.

While we can predict the likelihood of the authenticity of identities, there can be a lot of gray areas. As can be seen in the matrix below, quite a few profiles from nine sources of external data showed uncertainty in whether they were authentic.

Research from McKinsey to Determine Likely Authenticity of Digital Identities

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To help protect your customers and your business from synthetic identity fraud:

  • Make sure you do regular security checks to ensure your customer’s data is safe.
  • Have customers go through two-step verification and other security features for login and profile setup to ensure they’re a real person.
  • Make sure your staff communicate about company cybersecurity. For example, have a team chat where employees can bring potential security breaches or synthetic identities to the attention of the IT department and fellow staff members.

4. Credential Stuffing

Credential stuffing is something that can impact your customer data security even if you don’t have a data breach. This happens when attackers get usernames and passwords from other data breaches or phishing schemes and attempt to use them to log into another digital service.

While you cannot protect your customers on other platforms, you can take steps to prevent credential stuffing on your site.

  • Encourage your customers to use unique passwords.
  • Have them change their passwords on a set schedule.
  • Have two-step verification.
  • Track logins that result in fraud and blacklist those IP addresses.

5. Hardware and Software Failure

If you have software or hardware that is not regularly updated, patched or replaced, you may be putting your customer data at risk. Software that isn’t updated or patched after a problem arises can be vulnerable to attacks from malware.

Use peer to peer video conferencing to regularly check in with staff and your IT department to make sure they know of potential risks and any updates can be rolled out and hardware replaced.

You should also look into software that can keep your team connected. There are plenty of Microsoft Team alternatives to keep your staff, including the IT department, aware of software and hardware updates. These types of platforms can be a great way for IT to communicate important updates and patches to your other employees too.

6. Internet of Things (IoT) risks

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The Internet of Things (IoT) is the devices and objects that connect to the internet. Everyday objects like baby monitors, locks, appliances, and toothbrushes now connect to the world wide web. By 2025, there are projected to be 75.44 billion devices that can connect to the internet.

If your business uses or sells these connected objects, you must turn an eye toward customer data security. Attacks on the IoT were up 600% in 2017. Businesses should have a strategy for stopping IoT botnets

Like your other hardware and software, make sure your IoT is updated and patched. Monitor network traffic and ensure your wireless network is secure. If you sell IoT, inform your customers of the ways they can protect themselves from an IoT attack while using your products.

Stay on the Lookout

Because your customer data security should be at the forefront of your IT objectives, you need to be vigilant re cyber-attacks like those discussed above. Make sure you are performing regular checks to see how your data is doing.

It may be useful to use the Google Sheets Gantt chart to make a regular schedule of when certain security checks are completed. This will keep your company organized and focused on customer protection.

Common indicators of an attack are:

  • Unauthorized changes to software, firewalls, or access levels.
  • Unexpected software, applications, or payments.
  • Logins from unusual locations.
  • Repeated failed attempts at a login.

Keeping an eye on cybersecurity not only protects your customers but your business too. Laws and fines for data breaches are increasing globally as governments are finally realizing the importance of digital data protection.

Below is a map of the presence of data protection and privacy legislation across the globe.

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Even simple business processes, like your order management software, can be the access point for a data breach. This can not only cost your customers dearly but can also be detrimental to your business.

Businesses can be fined, have compensation payouts to cover, lose customers, and lose data or money directly.


Protecting your customers' data should be at the forefront of your day-to-day operations. A well-rounded digital strategy should include security, automation, communication, and ethics (like finding ways to combat cyberbullying and digital discrimination in the workplace).

These should all be working together to make your company as protected as possible. Good communication and ethics will keep your business honest with itself and its customers, while automation and security measures will help your network do most of the work.

In the end, with the costs a data breach brings, you can’t afford not to make security a priority.

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