Data Security Is Top Priority as Payments Enter Zettabyte Era

businesswoman at laptop

You’ve probably heard it before, but data is undoubtedly the oil of the 21st century.

And, just like oil, any data breaches or the equivalent “spills” of consumer information can be damaging to both businesses and their ecosystems. Particularly given the fact that we are now in the zettabyte era, with more consumer-generated data being created on a daily basis than at any time in history, the importance of embracing effective data security has never been more of an imperative for organizations, enterprises, and the individuals they serve.

On Wednesday (May 8), the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Data Security, is convening a hearing titled “Strengthening Data Security to Protect Consumers.”

The hearing will focus on the importance of data security, and how to protect the confidentiality, integrity and accessibility of consumer data and safeguard data against unauthorized access, including through data minimization and robust data security practices.

Data security is paramount in today’s digital age, especially considering the significant volume of personal and sensitive information stored and transmitted electronically. PYMNTS Intelligence found that 82% of eCommerce merchants endured cyber or data breaches in the last year. Forty-seven percent say the breaches resulted in both lost revenue and lost customers.

The lawmakers will call as witnesses representatives and senior leaders from Palo Alto Networks, the Security Industry Association, the Identity Theft Resource Center and New America’s Open Technology Institute.

The hearing is happening against a backdrop where more and more firms are leveraging data to create and support seamless, end-to-end experiences across payments and commerce.

Read more: Third-Party Vendors Emerge as Data Security Threat

Data Security Emerges as an Imperative in Digital Age

Consumer data often includes sensitive information such as financial details, personal identifiers and health records. Breaches of confidentiality can lead to identity theft, financial fraud and other forms of cybercrime. Maintaining confidentiality ensures that individuals’ private information remains secure and inaccessible to unauthorized parties.

And while maintaining security is crucial, it’s equally important to ensure that authorized users can access data when needed. Accessibility involves providing timely and efficient access to data for legitimate purposes, without compromising security measures. This ensures that businesses can operate smoothly and deliver services effectively while adhering to privacy regulations.

To safeguard consumer data and address key aspects of security, organizations can embrace strategies that include data minimization and encryption to reduce the risks associated with storing excessive information, while also implementing access controls and conducting regulator audits of key systems and networks.

Beyond that, it is crucial for businesses to ensure that their employees are educated around data security best practices and that a comprehensive incident response plan to address security breaches effectively has been put in place.

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Data as a Compass for Navigating Uncertain Times

“I like to look within our own industry to see where the consumer will be as well as what our competitors are doing,” Citi Chief Digital Officer for U.S. Personal Banking Michael Naggar told PYMNTS. “I like to see how users are adopting new technologies and how that could apply to what we’re doing in banking. Then I marry those observations to the internal data of what consumers are actually doing on our platforms. We have an extensive focus over the last two to three years on our data. We connect all of it to understanding what our customers are doing so we can get ahead of them before they need it.”

Naggar characterized Citi as taking a prudent approach, prioritizing customer security and data protection.

By prioritizing data security and implementing best practices, organizations can effectively protect the confidentiality, integrity, and accessibility of consumer data, reducing the risk of unauthorized access and mitigating potential harm to individuals and businesses alike.

And, importantly, once sensitive data has been secured, it can then be activated. With the right technology, businesses can unlock critical insights hidden in their own customer data, Galileo CEO Derek White wrote in the new PYMNTS eBook, “The Implications of Uncertainty.”

Achieving this kind of clarity from data insights is no small feat — particularly for organizations that are locked in data silos and legacy systems. The key to overcoming this challenge is using technology to implement the five C’s of data: Capture, Clean, Cache, Call and Connect, White explained.