Call center security: The ultimate checklist

September 06, 2023

From protecting customer data to ensuring regulatory compliance, call center security is a unrelenting task that only grows more and more complex.

While it can be daunting to identify and implement all the required protocols, it also affords your call center with huge benefits – beyond merely staying compliant. It preserves operational effectiveness, enhances trust with customers, and helps keep your call center profitable.

As a contact center software provider for client organizations around the world, we use our industry experience to provide you with our comprehensive call center security checklist.

Explore our call center security checklist

  1. Access controls
  2. Data encryption
  3. Voice and data recording
  4. Data retention and disposal
  5. Endpoint security
  6. Incident response and business continuity
  7. Vendor and third-party security
  8. Call authentication
  9. Cardholder data protection
  10. Certifications and compliance

1. Access controls

Access controls are imperative for safeguarding sensitive information and resources within call centers. They protect data, ensure compliance with privacy regulations, prevent unauthorized access, and safeguard intellectual property. 

They also contribute to business continuity by preventing disruptions, provide auditing and accountability, and customize permissions based on user roles.

Access controls are essential for meeting regulatory requirements, maintaining data integrity, and managing cybersecurity risks effectively.

Three steps you can take:

1. Access rights assessment and role definition: 

  • Understand what resources, data, and systems are critical to the call center’s operations
  • Define roles and privileges based on job functions e.g. differentiate between agents, supervisors, admins, and IT staff
  • Outline the privileges associated with each role – ideally aligning with the principle of least privilege (i.e. granting individuals the minimum access necessary to perform their tasks)

2. Access control implementation:

  • Use access control technologies e.g. role-based access control (RBAC) to enforce defined roles and permissions
  • Implement strong authentication methods e.g. two-factor authentication (2FA) and other measures such as single sign-on (SSO)
  • Enforce robust password policies, including password complexity requirements and frequent changes (e.g. once per month)

3. Training and awareness:

  • Provide comprehensive training to call center staff regarding policies and procedures 
  • Promote security and awareness to educate staff about the importance of access controls and their role in protecting sensitive data
  • Encourage an environment of reporting suspicious activities and potential security breaches

2. Data encryption

Data encryption is pivotal for call centers as it safeguards sensitive information (e.g. customer data) by transforming it into an unreadable format. This helps to prevent unauthorized access during transmission (data in transit) and while stored (data at rest). 

Encryption is not only a legal requirement to comply with data protection regulations but also a proactive measure to mitigate risks, deter cybercriminals and, ultimately, secure data against breaches.

Three steps can you take:

1. Identify data to be encrypted:

  • Classify all sensitive data that should be encrypted (e.g. customer data, card details, and voice recordings)
  • Categorize the data based on its sensitivity and regulatory compliance to determine its appropriate level of encryption

2. Select encryption solutions:

  • Choose encryption solutions and protocols for both data in transit and data at rest.
    • Data in transit: transport layer security (TLS) for secure communication channels between agents, customers, and systems
    • Data at rest: encryption tools (e.g. AES-256 encryption) to encrypt data stored on servers, databases, and backups

3. Implement encryption policies and procedures:

  • Create documentation that clearly outlines how encryption will be used in your call center
  • Train call center staff on encryption best practices so they understand how to use encryption to protect sensitive data
  • Regularly audit and monitor the effectiveness of encryption controls to detect any security incidents

3. Voice and data recording

Voice and data recording in call centers are vital for quality control, training, compliance, dispute resolution, and legal protection. 

They enable supervisors to ensure agent adherence to policies and provide valuable training materials. Recorded calls serve as objective evidence in customer disputes, demonstrating compliance with regulations and protecting against legal liabilities.

Three steps can you take:

1. Assess regulatory and legal requirements:

  • First consider the specific regulatory and legal requirements that apply to your call center, as these can vary based on geography and industry
  • Ensure that your call recording practices align with these requirements, e.g. customer consent and adhering to data retention regulations

2. Select recording solutions:

  • Consider factors such as scalability, compatibility with your existing phone system, storage capacity, and compliance features
  • Implement voice and data recording ensuring that you can capture audio but also data – such as caller information, timestamps, and call duration
  • Verify whether the selected solution complies with encryption standards to protect the recorded data

3. Develop recording policies and training:

  • Make clear when, why, and how calls are recorded, and communicate these policies to all call center employees
  • Train agents and supervisors on the use of recording systems, emphasizing compliance with recording policies and legal requirements.
  • Establish measures for securely storing and managing recorded data, including data retention periods and access controls

4. Data retention and disposal

Data retention and disposal is crucial for regulatory compliance, protecting customer privacy, and reducing data security risks. By retaining data over shorter periods of time, call centers minimize the potential for unauthorized access, data breaches, and potential legal liabilities.

Robust data disposal methods ensure that sensitive information cannot be retrieved once it reaches the end of its retention period, thereby proactively safeguarding your call center.

Three steps you can take:

1. Develop data retention policies:

  • Identify the types of data your call center collects, processes, and stores. Categorize data based on its sensitivity and regulatory requirements
  • Develop clear data retention policies that specify how long each category of data should be retained
  • Different types have data may have different retention requirements, so consider these factors when determining retention periods

2. Implement data disposal procedures:

  • Establish secure disposal procedures – for both physical and digital data – for when data reaches the end of its retention period
  • Record the disposal process, including the methods used, the individuals responsible, and the date of disposal
  • Train call center staff on the importance of secure data disposal and provide guidance on how to safely delete or destroy unnecessary data

3. Regularly review and update policies:

  • Regularly review and update policies in accordance with changes in regulations, business practices, and technology
  • Carry out audits to ensure that the policies are being followed consistently and make adjustments, where necessary
  • Monitor changes in data types, volumes and categories to ensure that your policies remain relevant to the data your call center handles

5. Endpoint security

Endpoint security is the practice of securing endpoints (e.g. laptops and mobile devices) from malicious attacks. It is of the utmost importance in call centers for protecting sensitive data as well as overall operations, and has become especially important with the growth of remote call centers.

It safeguards data, protects against malware and phishing attacks, potential downtime, and mitigates insider threats (threats from within the call center).

Three steps you can take:

1. Implement endpoint security solutions:

  • Utilize security solutions including antivirus software, firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPS), and anti-malware tools
  • Ensure that the chosen endpoint security tools are regularly updated to protect against the latest threats and vulnerabilities
  • Consider using Independent third-party penetration tests to identify and rectify potential vulnerabilities

2. Establish strong policies and training:

  • Develop and communicate clear security policies and procedures for call center employees
  • Conduct regular security awareness training sessions to educate staff about potential threats, social engineering tactics, and safe browsing habits
  • Encourage employees to report suspicious activities promptly and establish a protocol for reporting security incidents

3. Implement ongoing monitoring and incident response:

  • Continuously monitor endpoint devices and network traffic for signs of security threats or anomalies 
  • Implement security information and event management (SIEM) solutions to facilitate real-time monitoring
  • Establish an incident response plan that outlines the steps to be taken in the event of a security breach or incident

6. Incident response and business continuity

Incident response and business continuity planning help call centers to ensure uninterrupted customer service, data protection, regulatory compliance, and financial resilience.

Plans also help to safeguard sensitive data, regulatory compliance, and help to prepare against unforeseen events, e.g. natural disasters and cyberattacks.

Three steps you can take:

1. Risk assessment and planning:

  • First conduct an extensive risk assessment to identify potential threats including data breaches, cyberattacks, natural disasters, and power outages
  • Develop an incident response plan (IRP) outlining procedures for different types of incidents – including responsibilities and communication protocols
  • Create a business continuity plan (BCP) for maintaining critical functions during disruptions – including essential processes, resources, and personnel

2. Training and testing:

  • Train call center employees to ensure they understand their roles in the event of an incident and are familiar with both the IRP and BCP
  • Conduct simulations to test the effectiveness of the plans. These exercises help identify weaknesses and areas for improvement
  • Record and analyze the results of these exercises to continuously improve the IRP and BCP

3. Communication and monitoring

  • Identify communication channels both within the call center and with external stakeholders, such as customers, partners, and relevant authorities.
  • Use alert systems to detect and respond to incidents in real time, e.g. IDS, SIEM, and network monitoring solutions
  • Define escalation procedures to swiftly notify senior management and teams in case of a severe incident that requires their involvement

7. Vendor and third-party security

Vendor and third-party security is critical for call centers due to their potential access to sensitive data. Ensuring the security of this information when shared with vendors is vital for regulatory compliance and risk management.

Security breaches or data leaks at third-party vendors can directly impact call center operations, leading to financial and legal consequences.

Due diligence and ongoing monitoring of vendor security practices are essential components of comprehensive call center security.

Three steps you can take:

1. Risk assessment and due diligence:

  • Carry out a thorough assessment of potential providers, looking at their their cybersecurity practices, data protection measures, regulatory compliance
  • Establish criteria for vendor selection that prioritizes security and data protection – such as their security certifications and incident history
  • Include security and privacy requirements in vendor contracts or service-level agreements (SLAs), and make clear their responsibilities

2. Continuous monitoring and compliance

  • Implement a system for continuous monitoring of vendor security practices in line contractual obligations to ensure their adherence to agreed measures
  • Periodically audit vendor security practices ensuring they meet your standards. This can include third-party security assessments
  • Develop incident response and notification procedures with vendors to ensure a coordinated response in the event of a security incident

3. Incident response and contingency planning

  • Collaborate with vendors to establish incident response and contingency plans for detecting, reporting, and mitigating security incidents
  • Define clear communication channels and responsibilities for incident response coordination between the call center and vendors
  • Regularly test and update incident response and contingency plans in collaboration – perhaps through using simulation exercises

8. Call authentication

Call authentication is the process of callers following certain requested steps to verify their identity (e.g. multi-factor authentication). With the ever-growing rise of fraud, call authentication has become a must for call centers to safeguard their customers and data.

Effective verification not only enhances customer experience but also protects customer privacy, contributes to dispute resolution, and maintains accountability through audit trails of communication and transactions.

Three steps you can take:

1. Verify something the caller knows:

  • Knowledge-based authentication (KBA) e.g. questions based on information only the legitimate caller would know
  • Passwords or PINs that have been previously set up with the caller – with all details securely stored and encrypted

2. Verify something the caller has:

  • Mobile application (or token-based authentication) enabling an authentication process e.g. prompts to enter a PIN via the application
  • SMS or email verification by sending the caller a one-time code to the caller’s registered mobile number or email address

3. Verify something the caller is:

  • Voice recognition that analyzes the caller’s voice patterns and characteristics to verify their identity
  • Location-based authentication by cross-referencing the caller’s location data with their registered location information

9. Cardholder data protection

Safeguarding cardholder data is absolutely critical for complying with legal and regulatory requirements, such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).

Protecting this data is crucial for upholding customer trust and preserving the call center’s reputation, as data breaches can lead to customer churn and reputational damage.

Financial security is at stake as well, as cardholder data breaches can result in financial fraud and legal liabilities, including fines.

Three steps you can take:

1. Compliance with standards:

  • Maintain strict compliance with PCI DSS by familiarizing yourself with its requirements – such as data encryption, access controls, and network security
  • Keep storage of cardholder data to an absolute minimum and implement secure deletion procedures for data that’s no longer required
  • Encrypt cardholder data during transmission (e.g. over-the-phone payments) and when it is stored on servers or in databases

2. Access controls and authentication:

  • Implement access controls for any agents handling cardholder data, also assigning them with unique IDs and robust password policy requirements
  • Use two-factor authentication (2FA) for access to systems and databases containing cardholder data
  • Monitor and log access to cardholder data to ensure any suspicious or unauthorized activities are tracked effectively

3. Security awareness and training:

  • Provide comprehensive security training for call center employees to educate on cardholder data protection and best practices
  • Make employees aware of phishing threats and social engineering tactics for stealing data – and teach them how to respond to threats effectively
  • Conduct simulations and scenario-based exercises to test employees on the training they’ve received

10. Certifications and compliance

Certifications and compliance help call centers adhere to legal and regulatory requirements, including data protection and privacy laws, which diminishes the risk of legal penalties. 

These certifications also build customer trust and maintain a positive reputation, as they represent a commitment to industry standards and best practices in data security and privacy.

They can also help to give you a competitive edge, facilitate client expansion, and strengthen vendor relationships.

Three steps you can take:

1. Acquire relevant ISO certifications:

  • Seek to attain the most appropriate ISO certifications, namely ISO/IEC 27001: the international standard for information security management
  • Acquiring this certification will help your call center implement the best practices and procedures for remaining compliant
  • Consider additional ISO certifications, such as ISO 22301 (business continuity management system) and ISO 18295 (customer contact centers)

2. Compliance with GDPR:

  • First identify all processed personal data in your call center (e.g. names and phone numbers) and create a data flow map to track data movement
  • Develop and implement GDPR-compliant policies (consent, lawful processing etc.) and establish protocols for data subject requests and breaches
  • Establish strong data security measures, appoint a Data Protection Officer (DPO), train employees, and conduct regular compliance assessments

3. Consider other certifications:

  • Determine whether your call center will benefit from holding specialist or industry-specific certifications
  • For call centers handling cardholder data, compliance with Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is essential
  • Other certifications or compliance may be required for sectors handling exceptionally sensitive data – such as financial services or healthcare

A contact center platform with all of the above

VCC Live works diligently to ensure its data security and compliance is exceptionally robust – so our clients can focus more on their businesses.

Explore our cloud contact center software.

Get regular updates
from VCC Live

You'll get an email as soon as we publish
new insights or have updates worth checking out.

Leave your email for regular insights

By submitting your email, you agree for VCC Live to send you service related news and updates, as well as agree that VCC Live will use your data according to the Privacy Policy.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Subscribe to get emails when we post something you might like

By submitting this form I agree to be contacted by VCC Live. Review Privacy Policy

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.