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Technology is evolving at the speed of light – literally. Fiber optic cables send light around the world. These beams of light contain information that can be shared in an instant with people around the globe.

That’s exciting! But for security experts, this is also terrifying. And, when you consider that automation is fast becoming the answer to humans that struggle to keep up with the speed of information, things become even more stressful.

Personalized automation demands specific data.

Automation is one thing, but consumers want a custom experience based on their needs. In fact, 77% of consumers are willing to pay more for a shopping experience that’s unique to them. But here’s the rub – how do you deliver a truly unique experience if you’re also relying on automation technology?

The answer is companies need to feed their algorithms with tons and tons of personalized consumer data. And what’s the fastest way to get the attention of cyber attackers? Place a treasure trove of proprietary and sensitive information in your data center.

The very thing that fuels algorithms is the same thing that will lead to increased attacks from hackers looking for a juicy target. And most retailers have decided the need for a custom experience is worth the risk.

These steps will allow companies to safeguard their data from thieves.

It’s impossible to completely protect yourself. Just look at Equifax’s recent breach. But you can take the following steps to make your networks more difficult to breach.

1. Ensure all connected devices are up-to-date and operating on encrypted connections.

This is an important step because most breaches are caused by out-of-date software running within an insecure environment. Microsoft releases patches on tuesdays – hence the term “Patch Tuesday” in cybersecurity circles. Nearly 90% of corporate workstations rely on Windows software, so keeping these systems updated is critical.

Corporations need to also take data encryption seriously. Encryption is more affordable than ever before – so no excuses if your IT budget is a little light this quarter. Get encrypted and you’ll enjoy a massive advantage over even relatively skilled hackers.

2. Back-up data every 24 hours.

When a breach occurs, the best thing you can do is pull the plug and boot-up from a known-safe backup. Most of the companies I’ve worked with keep back-ups of their systems on daily, weekly and monthly intervals. I know that this takes a lot of computing power, but quickly bouncing back from a cyberattack is half the battle.

If you can restart operations using an uninfected platform in a matter of hours, instead of weeks, you’ll be able to operate while plugging the vulnerabilities that led to a breach.

3. Scale back the information that you keep on cloud-based and networked systems.

No, not everything needs to be kept in the cloud. You can place a lot of information on local hard drives and non-networked devices. This could include outdated corporate data or past reports on company performance. Anything that is accessed less than once a month should be kept in local storage. This will limit the risk of data loss during an event.

4. Use long, memorable passwords instead of complex alphanumerics.

Earlier this year, the godfather of modern password protocols came out with startling news – he actually regrets telling people to use complex alphanumeric passwords. Based on two decades of real-world application of his guidelines, he strongly believes that complexity is far less important than length of passwords.

A shorter alphanumeric password with special characters is far more vulnerable than a long sentence. He would much rather have a password like “BobRanOverTheHillOnTuesday” than “A#!$TB&!”. Why? Modern password cracking software is slowed down exponentially by the length of a password, not the complexity of it.

And, he believes that friendlier passwords would make all of us more secure because they are easier to enforce with less cybersecurity conscious employees.

In conclusion, collecting highly specific and personal data is the currency of modern automation. And as long as corporations can squeeze out a profit by harvesting our digital breadcrumbs, we’ll continue to have hackers sprout up looking for ways to get their hands on our data.

Educate your workforce. Limit your vulnerabilities by deploying the latest countermeasures. And always be prepared to relaunch from yesterday’s clean back-up.

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