Data privacy and cybersecurity became buzzwords in 2020, and for good reason. Due to bad privacy practices and cybersecurity mistakes, businesses both big and small were affected by data security vulnerabilities. Data breaches such as the Solar Winds hack, Nuclear Weapons Agency Breach, and Clearview AI's entire client list being stolen were just a few results of software vulnerabilities. Hackers gained access to T-Mobile's employees' email accounts, compromising customer and employee data, and Nintendo left 160,000 users vulnerable from a massive hijacking campaign. Even Twitter experienced a large phishing attack that resulted in penetration tools being stolen. The number of attacks were ample, proving that businesses must take cybersecurity and data privacy more seriously. Companies Don't Inform Customers About Tracking To find out how businesses protect and treat data, Zoho conducted a privacy survey among more than 1,400 business leaders at companies of various sizes and industries. Surprisingly, 62% of U.S. and Canadian companies stated they don't inform customers that they allow tracking code from third-party services on their websites. Ironically, most of these companies also claim to have well-defined and stringent consumer data privacy policies. More alarming, the survey found third-party ad tracking pervasive with 100% of respondents saying their company allows it. Understandably, third-party tracking and the selling of data have become lucrative for companies, yet many businesses are unaware how unethical and dangerous data collection tactics can be. Capturing information, often of a sensitive nature, leaves users' data exposed to glaring vulnerability gateways. How One Business Transformed their Cybersecurity Unfortunately, many businesses have had to learn difficult lessons from their cybersecurity mistakes in 2020. However, for one Zoho customer, a data breach pushed them to practice stronger policies to ensure unassailable security. Call Center Sales Pro (CCSP), a call center and answering service provider based in Tennessee, works with medical and legal services, which means they must meticulously care for data to maintain HIPAA compliance. The business consists of multiple brands within the umbrella of the company, so when several of their brand sites were hacked, Call Center Service Pros took the matter very seriously. Marc Fishman, director of sales and marketing, said, "All of my brand sites that were not on Zoho sites got hacked and while no data was breached, I'm grateful we were able to regain control quickly." Luckily, no data was breached and CCSP was quickly able to regain control of the websites, but this experience confirmed that consolidating all of their holdings into a secure system was a necessity. Call Center Sales Pros has learned from its mistakes and now the team is focusing on taking time to gather insight into any potential weak points so that they can resolve issues faster. Because of this, CCSP is able to better protect their customers' data. Additionally, they avoided future cybersecurity mistakes by using software that enacted smart security measures like two-factor authentication for logins and frequent password resets to maintain a secure system. Learning from the breach, Marc said, "In 2020, everything was reactive. In 2021, we might be lucky enough to work with some foresight." The Reality of Data Privacy Misuse While no company can predict the future, it's important they take a proactive approach and safeguard data by implementing better security. Regulations such as GDPR, the California Consumer Privacy Act, and The Consumer Privacy Rights Act have helped broadcast the need for regulation, but there's still work to be done. Throughout the last few years, data-privacy transparency has been skewed by big tech companies collecting mass amounts of data for financial gain through surreptitious methods. Simply considering adjunct surveillance evident through third-party trackers that sneakily monitor consumers while simultaneously collecting data shows us that the need for transparency is past due. What Businesses Can Do Fortunately, there are ways businesses can ensure they're not an offender of data-privacy misuse and avoid cybersecurity mistakes. Education and ongoing training is key for businesses to ensure compliance and guard themselves from potential threats. Whether a company can afford a security team or not, it's prudent that team members stay up to date on the latest laws and certify that their protocols are aligned with regulations. Businesses can enact specific data privacy training centered around how their company collects data as well as how the software they're using collects business data. To aid security education, it's also critical for businesses to continue audits, tests, and compliance checks. Regularly testing the sophisticated systems in place will not only protect businesses against potential threats, but also position companies to better adopt new laws. Additionally, using security tools such as encryption, multi-factor authentication for secure logins, and VPNs will protect against potential portals for misuse. Lastly, businesses should remove any third-party trackers and only collect data when necessary. By practicing scrupulous security methods, businesses can weather potential privacy and security damage. As technology advances, data collection and cybersecurity threats will only become more secretive. It's time for businesses and individuals to re-assess what technologies they use both for work and on a personal basis, and how those vendors are using their information. Businesses must also take a firm approach in boosting their internal cyber security practices in staying compliant, exercising audits and tests, and using secure software solutions as well as secure encrypted logins. By providing data privacy transparency and strengthening cybersecurity, businesses will be able to block future threats and look forward to nothing but secure operations through 2021.