Data Security for Events: 5 Strategies to Keep Info Safe

Today, technology means everything, and it’s no different for nonprofit event planners. While technology can streamline the entire process, there are several security implications that come with it. 

From payment information to mailing addresses, there are a number of reasons why hackers would want to steal your data.  Because of this, nonprofits have no choice but to expand their event planning efforts for the online community. 

Whenever we engage with the internet today, and especially when it includes payment processing or data entry, it usually involves multiple parties. In other words, both guests and planners need to be aware that the security of their processes relies on a configuration of various elements, not just one. 

Data security starts with your nonprofit. Lead by example and implement extra security measures; don’t just tell users what they need to do. 

Unfortunately, if your potential guests don’t know that their data is protected, they won’t register in the first place. Then, your team will miss its fundraising goals by a longshot.

 

In order to protect your sensitive event data, follow these effective practices:

  1. Invest in authentication tools.
  2. Use a secure registration platform.
  3. Constantly stay updated.
  4. Restrict access to data.
  5. Be prepared for a breach.

 

More likely than not, most of your supporters spend ample time online. To reach them, you need to leverage technology. Unless you take the appropriate security measures, your event data will be vulnerable to cybercriminals. If you’re ready to start protecting your event data, let’s dive in!

  1. Invest in authentication tools.

When it comes to any online platform, you should implement some sort of authentication tool. This is especially true when handling sensitive data for events. Doing the bare minimum isn’t safe anymore, so take a proactive approach to security.

These days, traditional login credentials (i.e. a username and password) are no longer enough. Instead, you’ll need to implement an extra layer of protection. That’s where multi-factor authentication comes into play!

Multi-factor authentication, also commonly referred to as two-factor authentication, ensures that your users are who they say they are. When implemented into your tech plan, guests will enter a few key identifiers:

  1. The username and password which they created to register for your event
  2. A uniquely generated passcode that’s sent to their phone, email, or authenticator app

 

User authentication has been around since 2011, but many event platforms still don’t leverage this secure tech. 

As technology evolves, so do authentication platforms. For instance, passwordless options are available now, too. Plus, they’re just as secure as two-factor authentication! Password-free login can be anything from a generated email with an encrypted code to fingerprint scanning. Each has a unique process, but all put an end to the forgotten password conundrum. 

To learn more about this unique twist on authentication, visit Swoop’s passwordless authentication guide.

 

The bottom line: Put up every barrier between hackers and your sensitive event data that you can. User authentication is a powerful first step.

2. Use a secure registration platform.

As a professional event planner, executing events flawlessly is nearly impossible. However, you’ll get much closer to accomplishing this with a comprehensive registration and ticketing platform. You’re bound to increase your registration numbers if you make your registration form as visible and accessible as possible.

However, you need to leverage a secure registration platform. Otherwise, your private event data will be vulnerable to cybercriminals. When researching your next platform, keep an eye out for these key security features:

 

  • Encryption. Since you’ll be handling sensitive payment data, find a platform that encrypts that data. In other words, it should scramble the data and store it in a way that’s useless to unauthorized users.

 

 

  • Secure integration. There’s more to an event than just registration. Because of this, you’ll need to leverage other software solutions such as event planning and marketing platforms. However, make sure those integrations are secure!

 

 

  • Check-in badges. A comprehensive registration platform will feature badge scanning for guests to check in. Not only is this more secure, but it’s also quicker than traditional check-in methods.

 

When selecting event software, ensure that it promises a secure experience for all parties involved. There are a number of safety features to consider in your registration platform. These are just a few baseline requirements to keep in mind.

 

The bottom line: Not only should you leverage user authentication on your own website, but you should also invest in secure event technology that features encryption, secure integrations, and check-in badges.

 

Need actionable tips for planning outside of your event tech? Check out our Ultimate Event Planning Checklist!

3. Constantly stay updated.

As technology advances, so do hackers’ techniques. To combat this, software providers consistently release updates that specifically target any gaps in security.

To keep up, your event management team should constantly update software. In fact, consider enabling auto-updates. This ensures that you never miss one of these vital updates. From ticketing software to your event website platform, ensure your tech is always up-to-date! All it takes is one slip up and your entire database can wind up in the wrong hands.

However, staying updated has more than one interpretation. Rather than just updating your technology, stay on top of the best digital practices, too!

In addition to authentication tools and secure event tech, there’s a number of other security precautions to take. For instance, you should:

 

 

  • Use a firewall. This is a barrier that protects your system from harmful software encountered online.
  • Install anti-malware software. This will protect your system from all types of malicious software.

 

    • Use secure, unique passwords. Don’t use the same password for multiple accounts.

 

  • Exercise caution with public Wi-Fi networks. Sometimes, hackers disguise their Wi-Fi by naming it after a nearby business. 

 

 

Once you’ve compiled a list of best security practices, share any useful information you learn with your event guests.

 

The bottom line: By constantly updating your software, you stay one step ahead of hackers. Stay on top of the best security practices and share them with your event guests, too!

4. Restrict access to data. 

It may come as a surprise that your staff is just as likely to create security gaps as your event guests are. Because of this, you should restrict access to data both externally and internally.

To jump-start this protective strategy, try the following:

 

  • Require passwords for all accounts. Without passwords, anyone could access staff members’ or attendees’ emails and private data. Then, hackers have a direct route to other data as well.

 

  • Limit accessibility settings. For instance, attendees shouldn’t be able to see anyone’s information but their own. As for employees, they shouldn’t be able to see private guest data such as payment information. Make sure to adjust the settings on a user-by-user basis.

 

 

  • Enforce password requirements. This means enforcing special characters, a minimum number of characters, a mixture of letters and numbers, and so on. Otherwise, users will create easily-guessed passwords that aren’t secure. 

 

 

  • Provide passcodes for events. When hosting a private event, have registrants use a passcode to log into your event app or website. Then, share that passcode with a specific list of people. This will limit public access to information such as event location, time, and so on.

 

Anyone who has access to private event data is responsible for keeping that information private. However, in the event that a breach does occur, your company or nonprofit will instantaneously take the fall, making your event go viral for the wrong reasons.

The bottom line: Not everyone should have access to your event data. Restricting access can be anything from editing accessibility settings to enforcing password alternatives.

5. Be prepared for a breach.

Although you can implement a billion safety features, there’s still a strong likelihood that your data will be hacked. Because of this, you’ll need to put a cyberattack plan in place.

 

  • Create a Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. Have registrants sign a form that protects you legally in case there is a breach. Don’t allow them to sign up for your event otherwise. This ensures that they know what’s happening with their private data.

 

  • Regularly back up your data. Don’t risk having to start from scratch. Ensure backups are encrypted and stored offsite or in a cloud-based system. Then, test these backups to see if the information is still coherent.

 

  • Create an incident response plan. Your team’s natural instinct may be to freak out after a breach. To avoid this, make sure there’s a plan in place so that they know exactly what to do.

What to Do After a Breach Occurs

You’ve protected your data to the best of your ability, but a breach still occurs. What do you do next?

 

Well, you should have backed up all your data, so ensure that the copy is still intact. Then, follow these steps:

 

  1. Alert the proper authorities. They may not be able to do anything, but you need the incident to be on the record.
  2. Check your backup. See if that data is still intact and usable. That way, you know if you need to have participants register again. To entice guests to sign up again, make sure you have an engaging fundraising event planned (click here for inspiration!).
  3. Be transparent. Let event registrants know what happened immediately. They’ll be worried (maybe even mad), but they’ll appreciate the honesty. Then, they can take the appropriate steps on their end.
  4. Announce the steps you’re taking and the steps guests should take. While your team finds out what data was taken, registrants should change account passwords and report their payment information as stolen.

 

No matter how many security measures you implement, you can never fully prevent a breach. However, to grow event support, all you can do is be prepared and hope for the best.

Thankfully, embeddable tools have come a long way over the past decade, and you no longer have to make a choice between security and user experience. Creating a streamlined authentication process while using secure registration tools should help an organization cover all its bases.

 

Now that you know the ins and outs of event data security, don’t wait; start protecting your guests’ data today!


Author: John Killoran

John Killoran is an inventor, entrepreneur, and the Chairman of Clover Leaf Solutions, a national lab services company. He currently leads Clover Leaf’s investment in Swoop, an authentication service that eliminates the need for passwords on websites and apps. 

Swoop launched in late 2018 and helps software providers upgrade their single or multi-factor login experience and shed obsolete passwords. With Swoop, instead of logging in, users “message in” with two taps: one to create a pre-addressed email and the second to send it. Authentication is secured by cryptographic keys inserted by the email server—infinitely more secure than a password. Swoop is now the authentication expert for teams that build everything from data analytics platforms to e-commerce apps.

 

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