Live chat and customer data security

Your live chat channel isn’t just a quick-fire communication option. It’s also a critical data touchpoint. Through your chat channel, high volumes of customers will share personally identifiable information and sensitive data. And this data exchange happens day in, day out.

So, a live chat deployment should be approached with customer data security firmly in mind. As well as carefully vetting your live chat vendor, you should also vet in-chat and post-chat processes.

But what are some specific best practices when it comes to live chat and customer data security? Here’s a useful overview.

Customer data security

First, your chat channel should make it easy to comply with regulations — even in highly regulated industries. So, look carefully at security features before deploying a solution.

A secure chat channel will have features and methods that defend against unauthorised access. You want to look at areas like:

•         Encryption

Does the chat service encrypt data as standard? What encryption method do they use?

•         Secure chat connections

Look at the number of bits in a session key. For example, WhosOn secures connections over an initial 2048-bit RSA exchange followed by an exchange of a 128-bit session key.

•         PCI/PII masking

Will the chat solution automatically mask sensitive data found inside chat sessions? How is masked data processed?

•         Intrusion prevention

Look at how the software prevents intruders from gaining access to your chat channel. For example, can only company IP addresses log in to the chat service? What happens if authentication fails?

•         Hosting options

You might want to host chat on-premises. Or, if you prefer cloud deployment, you’ll want to know whose data centre you’re using, and which country your data sits in.

•         Regular updates and upgrades

Outdated software suffers from reduced security. How often is the solution actively updated by its developers?

•         Permissions and access control

The ability to manage user access rights and set permission levels is a fundamental feature of any secure chat solution.

In-chat practices

When it comes to customer data security, it’s not just about the security of the live chat channel itself. How you use it also matters.

That is, your live chat agents should make efforts to keep information safe too. As such, there are a few in-chat practices that help you keep sensitive information private.

•         Obtain consent

First things first, consumer consent is a cornerstone of GDPR compliance. Your chat users must be able to take affirmative action to signify permission for you to process their data.

So, at the start of a conversation, you should obtain consent. This is a prerequisite for all other customer data security measures.

•         Don’t copy-paste sensitive data

No matter how many chats you have going, or how much of a rush you are in, avoid copy-pasting sensitive customer data.

When you do, you risk pasting it into the wrong chat window. Or, you may inadvertently leave it in your clipboard, ready to accidentally paste it somewhere it shouldn’t be.

•         Double-check recipients

Related to this, always double-check that you’re sending the message to the right customer. Particularly when dealing with personalised messages and customer data.

It’s easy to accidentally use the wrong chat window. And when this happens, you both compromise the privacy of the customer data, and come across as unprofessional.

•         Be cautious

It pays to exercise caution with most interactions online. Your chat channel is no different. Scammers and chatters with mal intent may, on occasion, enter your chat queues.

As such, when receiving a file, be sure to always scan it first. And, if you encounter a hostile user, blacklist them to prevent future risk.

•         Train employees

It should go without saying, but it’s still often overlooked: train your live chat agents on customer data security best practice.

Security threats don’t just come from outside. From the basics – locking machines, using secure passwords – to the intricacies of your chat channel’s features, make sure agents have the training they need to safeguard chat data.

Post-chat practices

Finally, you should also continue to ensure customer data security after the chat session has concluded. There are a couple of key areas you need to look at here:

•         Data storage

Is your chat data synced to another system? For example, a CRM, a feedback portal, a reporting suite, etc?

If so, ensure the confidentiality, integrity, availability and resilience of these services. Or, more simply, don’t share your chat data with an untrustworthy third party.

•         Data retention

Make sure you’re retaining data for the stated amount of time. Then, when that time period expires, delete it.

Or, in special circumstances, you can also permanently delete chats and all their associated data as soon as the session has closed. Either way, make sure you’re storing data safely and legally.

All-around security

Providing solid customer data security via live chat means embracing security from all angles. It means ensuring your software is watertight, your practices promote privacy, and your agents are primed on best practice.  

Start on the right foot when it comes to your customer data security. For a live chat solution with cybersecurity at its core, request a free trial of WhosOn today.

Useful links

GDPR compliance: a live chat checklist

Live chat providers: why choose WhosOn?

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