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Security Feature

April 06, 2016

5 Call Center Security Tips For Protecting Customer Data and Preventing Breaches

By Special Guest
Mia Papanicolaou, Chief Operations Officer for document security specialist, Striata Inc.

The competitive landscape in the business realm has many organizations managing highly sophisticated call center operations for reaching sales goals and meeting customer service demands. However, even though call center operations are highly effective, the platform has evolved significantly over the years, opening the doors to a number of security risks -- some of which can considerably undermine the propriety data and business information of an organization. 

In fact, one such evolution that has greatly impacted call center data is the digital document transformation. In this new digital era companies are now using a variety of software solutions and technology platforms to gather, collect and share customer information. And, while many of these technologies significantly improve service efficiency and customer care, they do present a number of data exposure concerns as service agents share documents containing sensitive and confidential personal information. This is why it is important for companies to deploy the right security measures and data protection technologies in order to mitigate the risk of breaches from hackers.  

Another dynamic impacting call center data safety is the ongoing outsourcing of center operations which now has customer data being managed in numerous locations across the globe. Outsourcing risks include call center agents that aren’t always aware or trained of the potential customer data exposure, as well as service reps who may want to take advantage of accessing very valuable consumer information. In fact, just last year AT&T was fined $25 million for a customer data breach in their Mexico call center after two employees confessed to accessing customer information and reselling it to strangers.

An added challenge with outsourcing is the fact that third parties responsible for IT system development or maintenance of call centers do not always deploy the right security technologies, which introduces a number of network deficiencies that could easily be exploited by hackers. This is why it’s important for companies to not only focus on cost savings in their outsourcing decisions, but to also focus on the security solutions that will protect their customer data over the long-haul. This is especially important since data breaches can cost companies up to millions of dollars to recover. 

The good news is...outsourcing operations and managing digital documentation should not pose an automatic risk of breaching information. Electronic documents need to be protected at all points whether being handled locally or around the globe, or whether being stored in a repository, accessed in a call center, or sitting on the customer’s own computer. This can be achieved using a combination of encryption technologies, password protection, access control solutions and of course, through education.

With this in mind, below are 5 tips to consider for protecting customer documents:

Tip 1. Have strong Q&A security protocols in place

When a customer calls a call center, service representatives should be equipped with asking security questions that only an authorized customer has the ability to answer. This is why it’s important to have questions that allow customers to provide responses that are unique and specific to them, and that are strong enough to enforce the protection of their data. In addition to asking questions that are personal and distinct. Finally, only provide account information to customers who successfully pass through all of the Q&A security protocols.

Tip 2. Control access at document level

A digital document management solution should offer multiple layers of access control that enable call centers to compartmentalize and restrict access to different documents. Agent seniority or clearance should dictate what functions he/she can perform on a document: view, download or share. As an example, certain private records can be password protected so that the only access within a call center is the ability to send the document to the customer when requested, rather than the agent being able to view the details of that document.

Tip 3. Provide ongoing agent education

The easiest way for criminals to breach security and access a repository of confidential documents is by tricking or compromising an employee. In a call center environment, which suffers from high employee turnover, this risk is compounded. Be sure that all agents understand and operate by the security guidelines when it comes to accessing and sharing customer documents. Constantly reinforce that one should never click on links or open documents from an unknown source as this is a common method used to install malicious software that effectively puts the hackers inside the secure network.

Tip 4. Use multiple layers of protection

As cybercriminals continue to get smarter, traditional network and database security is not sufficient. To truly secure a customer’s document, multiple security layers are required, to the point of encrypting and protecting each individual document even if it resides on a secure network.  This also ensures that information sent via email between a call center agent and customer cannot be compromised if intercepted or sent to the wrong recipient.  It also protects the document 1) against unauthorized access from someone inside the network; 2) if a call center agent doesn’t have sufficient rights to view customer information; 3) if a compromised employee or a hacker is using stolen, but valid credentials.

Tip 5. Enforce a strong password policy

In order to secure documents from all vulnerabilities, a strong password approach is essential. This applies to the password an agent uses to access internal systems, the one a customer uses to log onto a self-service portal, or even the password used to open an individual document. If the password is weak, all other security is bypassed, especially since one study showed that 28% of breaches resulted from weak passwords. Educate both agents and customers on the value of using only strong passwords and the risks of using easily cracked passwords such as ‘123456’, ‘abc123’ or ‘password’.

By taking advantage of these simple security tips, call centers will not only be able to deliver a strong customer service experience, but also provide the technologies needed to safeguard their information. There are numerous solutions in the marketplace that can assist organizations with strengthening their call center data protection today, while also better fortifying their data protection for the future. 

Mia Papanicolaou is Chief Operations Officer for document security specialist, Striata Inc. Mia joined Striata in 2006 and having worked in Africa and the UK, now heads up North, Central and South American operations. Papanicolaou is a regular speaker on her areas of expertise – secure electronic document delivery and email marketing.

Striata provides strategy, software and professional services that enable digital communication across multiple channels and devices. Striata technology is used to secure, send and store confidential documents for the world’s largest financial services, utility, insurance, retail and telecommunications companies; who trust Striata to achieve unrivaled results in digital transition, adoption and transformation. To learn more visit

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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