Data protection is important for any business. When you’re an association manager, it’s vital to protect your clients’ data to earn the continued trust of clients and to retain their business. Managing a homeowner association (HOA) or condominium association (COA) requires you to process a lot of private, personal information about your clients and the members of their association.
This means you need to take extra steps to keep association management data safe from unauthorized users. Using HOA/COA management software makes it easier than ever to manage an association. However, the one potential downside to going digital is that your data becomes vulnerable to hackers and other unauthorized users if you’re not taking active steps to protect it.
Remember, when an association hires you to be its manager, you’re going to be handling sensitive financial data as well as personal information for the community’s residents. You’ll need to make sure this data never falls into the wrong hands.
So how do you keep association management data safe from unauthorized users? The good news is that guarding your clients’ information is relatively simple. You don’t need to be a computer wiz to add an extra level of protection to your system. Simply implement the following strategies to keep your HOA/COA data safe:
Use Cloud-Based Software
Cloud-based software refers to any program or app that stores your association management data across multiple servers in different physical locations, accessed via the internet. Although it might seem like cloud-based software would be less secure than storing your data on a single hard drive on your office computer, cloud technology offers great built-in security features.
First, cloud-based HOA/COA management programs like CINC Systems use a powerful security tool called data encryption. This means that your data becomes “scrambled,” or encrypted, as soon as it’s uploaded to the cloud. The encryption then uses a very specific, computer-generated key code to unscramble the data. Even if an unauthorized user downloads your data, they won’t be able to access it unless they have the key code. This key code, meanwhile, is virtually impossible to crack or guess.
Cloud-based software also protects your association management data from computer problems. If your hard drive crashes and can’t be revived, your HOA/COA data is still safe in the cloud. For anyone who’s ever spilled a cup of coffee on their laptop or opened an email virus, you’ll understand how this feature is a huge bonus.
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Limit User Access
The next step to keeping association management data safe from unauthorized users is to limit user access. If your HOA/COA management business doesn’t have any employees except yourself, this isn’t an issue. However, if you have coworkers or employees that you manage, think carefully about who has access to what kind of data.
For example, if you have an employee who needs access to the client’s work orders, but not their finances, restrict their access accordingly. This isn’t about trust. Your employee might be amazing, but they’re still subject to human error as well as hacking. Each individual who has access to your client’s HOA/COA management data creates a weakness in your digital defenses. Strengthen your security by limiting this.
Most association management software can create user profiles with different levels of access, so adjust your settings to make sure the only people with full access are the ones who actually need it.
To see how association management software can protect your data from unauthorized users, try CINC Systems. Request a free demo or call (855) 943-8246 to learn more.
Invest in a Firewall
Next, invest in a firewall for your company. A firewall is a security device that monitors incoming and outgoing traffic on your network and restricts any suspicious or unauthorized access. Think of a firewall as an extra layer of security that blocks potential cyberattacks before they can begin.
There are multiple types of firewalls, which can be software or hardware devices. Firewalls can also be customized to block access from specific regions, including parts of the world that are notorious for hackers. Other firewalls focus on protecting your system from different types of threats, like specific viruses.
Firewalls are available at a range of price points, too. Often, they also include antivirus software for your desktop or laptop. Figure out the best firewall for your business based on your computer system, internet speed, and how many employees you have. Then, invest in a solid firewall to keep your association management data safe.
Implement Secure Passwords
Often, unauthorized users gain access to private data because of poor passwords. In fact, setting a secure password is one of the best ways to immediately boost your data security.
Although it’s tempting to use a password that’s easy to remember, like the name of your business or your business address, an easy password is a weak password. The simpler your password is, the faster someone can hack it.
The formula for a secure password is simple:
- Use at least 16 characters.
- Include at least one uppercase letter, one lowercase letter, one number, and one symbol such as $, %, & or @.
- Substitute numbers and symbols for letters so you’re not using actual words in your password. For example, if your password includes the word “beaches,” write it out as “be@che$” instead.
- Avoid using words or phrases that relate to your life, such as middle names or the names of your pets.
Experts also recommend using unique acronyms in your passwords. For example, if your favorite song is “I Want to Hold Your Hand” by the Beatles, you could include it in your password as “iwthyh.” This will make your new password more personalized and therefore easier to remember, without sacrificing security.
Make sure you never share your password with anyone or store it on your computer in a Word document or spreadsheet. Also, be sure to use a different, unique secure password for every account you have. Then, if your email gets hacked, your association management data is still secure. If you have trouble remembering your passwords, try a secure keychain program like LastPass or KeePass.
To learn more about the latest security threats in 2021 and how to keep your company safe, download our latest whitepaper.