Palash Borah, CSR Manager, Blued India

With the advent of COVID-19, the state of digital business transformation has been characterized by an increasing urgency to prioritize and enhance various digital strategies. According to the International Data Group, 55% of startups have already adopted a digital business strategy in comparison to 38% of traditional businesses. Such digitally transformed businesses are projected to contribute to more than half of the global gross domestic product by 2023. While such insights are fascinating, it also serves to underscore another equally important conversation pertaining to digital spaces: online user safety. With the mobile app economy skyrocketing in value, online applications and platforms have become a prime target for malicious activity. Hence, enterprises across the globe have undertaken numerous measures to promote and ensure user safety.

Online user safety covers a variety of matters from data privacy to improved authentication. However, if you’re designing an app or online community or navigating one yourself, the safety of users come second to none. Here are four practices to keep in mind to ensure user safety while using any application:

1. Using Privacy Apps

The availability of a variety of privacy apps has made user safety and management a simpler affair. These include but are not limited to private vaults, Tor network access, VPNs, secure password managers, private communication channels and encrypted syncing. The most well-known among these is a Virtual Private Network or a VPN. VPNs essentially protect your online identity by encrypting your internet traffic on unsecured networks, hiding your IP address, and shielding your online data from third parties. VPNs utilize real-time encryption and send your internet data through a secure virtual tunnel to reduce the possibility of your data being tracked or traced by anyone.

2. Setting Up Secure Helplines

In the event of a possible grievance, one’s immediate priority is to establish effective communication. It should be clear to users about who to contact if they want to communicate possible issues or have general enquiries. Set up a secure phone or email helplines specifically meant to deal with user grievances. Being accessible to users helps alleviate the stress they’re facing and can help speed up the resolution of the issue at hand.

3. Risk Response Strategies

In lieu of increased incidences of ransomware attacks, it is absolutely integral to have risk response strategies developed in advance. Such strategies should focus on removing the risk, reducing the impact, and employing contingency plans. Ransomware is a type of malware [a portmanteau of ‘malicious’ and ‘software’] that can essentially lock a user or organization’s computers. This is done by encrypting the entire operating or system individual files so that they cannot be accessed. A ransom is then required to secure the release of the data. The frequency of ransomware attacks has seen a dramatic rise globally in 2021 with a 93% surge in comparison to last year. Notable ransomware attacks include the Kaseya and Colonial Pipeline attacks which took place in the first half of 2021.

4. Implementing Monitoring Systems/Mechanisms

The best way to prevent or recover from a data breach is to employ a multi-pronged approach that combines numerous practices. The first order of business is to always ensure that your security software is up to date. Carrying out regular risk/vulnerability assessments can help you review or implement measures in line with updated data protection guidelines. User data must be encrypted and using the latest cryptography tools are a must to ensure your encryption efforts pay off. Implementing high-level authentication and making periodic password changes mandatory are your best bets to prevent password breaches. Lastly, when in doubt, never hesitate to bring in professionals for app security.

5. Promoting User Education

Ultimately, no application is 100% secure from hackers and security breaches. Informing users about the best security practices at their disposal can help drive awareness whilst achieving a safe digital space/experience.

At the end of the day, providing a secure digital platform for users makes for a more cohesive and safe experience.

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