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Op-Ed: Is your contact centre a weak link in your cyber security chain?

Daniel Harding

It’s Privacy Awareness Week in early May – an opportune time to make sure your contact centre isn’t a candidate for an expensive and damaging data leak, writes Daniel Harding, director – Australia operations, MaxContact.

It’s Privacy Awareness Week in early May – an opportune time to make sure your contact centre isn’t a candidate for an expensive and damaging data leak, writes Daniel Harding, director – Australia operations, MaxContact.

Concerned about the prospect of your business falling victim to a hacking or malware attack? Or suffering a data breach that sees your customers’ particulars up for sale to the highest bidder on the dark web?

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You’re right to be worried. The risk posed by cyber-crime has increased significantly over the past year. So has the average cost of remediating a major data breach. It now sits at $3.35 million, according to IBM’s 2020 Cost of a Data Breach Report.

On top of the obvious outlays – think specialist ICT support, legal and compliance costs and potential financial penalties if the OAIC, Australia’s chief privacy watchdog, deems the incident sufficiently egregious – data breaches have a high hidden cost. They can damage the good name of your organisation and erode the trusted bonds you’ve worked hard to forge, with your customers, partners and suppliers.

Safeguarding a wealth of customer data

Contact centres tend to be rich repositories of data. As a result, they can provide prime pickings for the unscrupulous, to whom other people’s personal information represents an opportunity to make an illicit buck or several, by way of phishing scams, identity theft and the like.

That’s why ensuring the integrity of your contact centre system should be top priority for your business – before, not after, something goes wrong and you face the awkward task of telling customers that their full names, dates of birth, contact details and more are out there in the ether.

Layers of protection

Reputable contact centre vendors typically have multiple layers of security in place, to minimise the opportunity for adversaries – both external and internal – to disrupt operations and access sensitive commercial and customer data.

If they’re selling a solution that’s based in the cloud, it will likely be hosted by a tier one vendor, such as Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services. These big players invest heavily in their own security infrastructure and personnel and store data here in Australia, not in an offshore jurisdiction where privacy regulations are less stringent.

Other protective measures to look out for include the services of a dedicated crew of network engineers whose job it is to test the contact centre platform for vulnerabilities that could offer a hacker an easy ‘in’. Bonus points if their efforts are augmented by a third-party penetration testing service whose ‘white hat’ hackers can tackle the challenge of gaining entry with an outsider’s eye.

Baked-in security

As well as having smart people on the job, premium contact centre vendors are more likely to have cyber-security features ‘baked in’ to their platforms. One example is the ability to whitelist IP addresses.

This is especially valuable in the remote working era because it means individuals are only able to access the contact centre platform from company approved locations. It’s an effective safeguard, in the event an agent’s log-in credentials are compromised – and a simple way to prevent a disgruntled agent who’s preparing to leave your employ from logging in remotely and wreaking a little mischief before they depart.

Sophisticated audit tracking that allows a business to see every keystroke its agents make is another example of inbuilt security technology that reduces the risk of data compromise or theft. It makes it easy to identify the perpetrator, if files or records are downloaded illicitly – an effective deterrent for employees who may be tempted to pull off an ‘inside job’.

Protecting your brand

None of these security measures are free or cheap. They require an ongoing investment in technology and expertise and they’re part of the reason a quality, cloud-based contact centre solution is worth its mustard in the long term.

Yes, there are alternatives available for a fraction of the cost.

But, at a time when damaging cyber attacks and data breaches have never been more prevalent, or costly, a robust, secure platform could be an investment in customer privacy and your business, you can ill afford not to make.

Daniel Harding is the director – Australia operations at MaxContact.

Op-Ed: Is your contact centre a weak link in your cyber security chain?
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