Regardless of if you have a customer-facing business or a private enterprise, there is one thing every company has in common, and that is that they all handle private data that must be protected at all costs. As a company owner or IT specialist, it is your responsibility to provide your customers with a service without putting them at risk of becoming a victim of cybercrime. If you do not yet have a system for preventing cyber issues, then it must be your next priority.
Over the last year, instances of cybercrime have climbed substantially, with over 1000 cases occurring in the year 2020 alone. Hackers are becoming more brazen as time goes on, and their tactics will only continue to evolve. Now is the time to find and secure any vulnerabilities and prepare your systems against future attacks. Let’s talk about the importance of doing so and essential next steps.
The fact is that just about any piece of data or personal information can be used for malicious means when in a hacker’s possession. Criminals can use credit and social security numbers to take out loans and make big purchases that could put your customers in extensive debt. Even email addresses and last names can be used to send dangerous phishing emails to other unsuspecting victims. On top of that, all information stolen can be sold on the black market to other criminals, and stopping these digital thieves once they have the information is very difficult at best.
As a company, you don’t want to even risk the chance that customer data can be stolen because if the act is discovered, it could bring down your company. One of the reasons is because once customers catch wind that their information is in danger, it is natural for them to lose trust in your organization, and they may want to take their business elsewhere. We have all heard of the major data breaches at companies like Target and LinkedIn, and even though years have passed since those transgressions, many people still associate those businesses with these issues of the past.
In addition to the potential loss of customers, your company could also lose money in the case of a data breach. Lawsuits are not uncommon from customers who feel that the company did not have their best interests at heart, and fighting off those often public attacks can be costly and embarrassing. On top of potential lawsuits, you will also need to fix the data leak and all vulnerabilities, and that will add more to your bill. All in all, the average cost of a data breach can reach over a million dollars. If you are a smaller business, that may be too much to handle and recover from, so it is better to be proactive with data protection before it is too late.
Data protection needs to start on day one of a company’s existence, and after that, your IT team should be routinely checking your current systems for any security risks or vulnerabilities. It is important to keep in mind that hackers use many different approaches to try to breach your business, so you cannot leave any rock left unturned.
In addition to employing viruses and malware, hackers can also use skimming devices to steal credit card data or they can set up fake Wi-Fi accounts to steal personal information from cell phones. You may not want to think about it, but you could also be put at risk by current employees with a hidden agenda who can easily take home sensitive information and sell it to unsavoury characters.
The amount of work needed to protect these avenues and prevent threats is a lot for a small IT team, so consider getting the whole company involved by organizing a bug bash. Essentially, this is a major project where many people within your organization, from the administrators to the CFO, can get together and test all systems to try to find dangerous bugs and vulnerabilities. If any issues are discovered, the bugs must be prioritized and handled on a timely basis so they don’t become a bigger issue.
You can also check for current viruses and malware by installing antivirus software on all computers and running scans at least twice per week. It is important to use the newest version of any given antivirus program and update it whenever there is a new version as that is the only way to ensure that you are protecting your organization against the latest threats.
Eliminating current threats is only one part of the equation as you also need to reinforce your systems and train the staff to prevent future issues as well. A good start is to employ the services of an IT security specialist who will have the primary responsibility of regularly analyzing all of your systems to catch potential threats. This specialist can also provide great ideas for security around the office and introduce policies that all employees can follow to prevent issues on their end.
For instance, all staff members should be educated on proper password usage and informed that they must have a password on all work programs. These passwords should have a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters, and they must be updated every couple of months. Employees should also be trained to never leave their computers unattended, whether they are in or out of the office.
Since we are living in a very remote world these days, your staff should also be educated on how to properly use their work devices when out in public, including the dangers of staying away from public Wi-Fi. The IT team should keep track of all devices and monitor their usage so they are not used improperly. If security risks seem likely, your company may even create a policy that says that work devices can never be taken out of the office.
So yes, it is very important to protect your customer’s data, both for their sake and for the success of your own business. Start implementing smart security procedures now and you will be protected in the future.