It Can Happen to You: What Every Business Owner Needs to Know About Data Breaches

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It Can Happen to You: What Every Business Owner Needs to Know About Data Breaches

Perhaps you’ve read stories of large companies like Macy’s and Target suffering data breaches over the past few years. Perhaps you’ve let these stories go in one ear and out the other. Your business is small so what are the chances of this happening to you? As a small business owner, that may not be the wisest approach. Data breaches are actually more common for small businesses, and unfortunately, they are one more thing you have to stay on top of if you want to keep your business running smoothly.

What exactly is a data breach?

Your company maintains data. It’s everywhere. Your financial records, employee records, customer files, passwords, etc. — all data. A data breach is when someone deliberately infiltrates one or more of your digital systems and accesses, copies, corrupts or steals your data. There are many reasons someone would do this, including financial gain, extortion, ransom, and to gain a competitive advantage.

How do data breaches occur?

So you know what a data breach is and how they are more common than you thought. But how do they happen, exactly? Some causes of data breaches are more malicious than others, and some are more akin to negligence or simple carelessness. Data breaches can be internal, external, or a combination of the two in their root cause.

You and your employees can be responsible for a breach. This can happen because you were careless (failed to keep passwords secure, for example) or because someone was malicious (a disgruntled employee leaking data or passwords). Criminals can gain access to your data through malware (computer viruses) or phishing scams. Poor digital security protocols will increase the probability that a data breach occurs for any reason.

You’ve been hit!

So you’ve suffered a data breach. Here is what you should do right away:

  • Disconnect data backups from your inter- and intra-networks
  • Change your passwords
  • Determine if you need help from a digital forensics firm like Secure Data Recovery. If you’ve been hit with a phishing scam or malware attack, you probably need the help of a professional to get your lost data back. Making this decision early on could help your business more quickly recover from the breach.
  • Be honest with your customers, clients, and business partners. Your data systems can hold very sensitive info and the people who have entrusted you to keep it need to know it’s been compromised. Consult your legal team, of course, but lying and hiding a data breach is never a sound long-term plan.

Prevention is the best defense

Recovering from a major data breach is possible, but it’s tough. The best way to help your business is to make sure it never happens (again). This should all start with staff training. You can do this through unscheduled attack simulations, education and training modules specific to their job and department, and even incentives for good security practices.

Next, take a good hard look at the hardware and software you use on a daily basis. Take a look at your point of sale system, for example. If it’s not up-to-par when it comes to security, you are leaving yourself vulnerable to cyberattacks every minute of every day. Avoid this and protect your data by switching to a more-secure system.

Finally, devote some more resources (hiring and money) to security and IT. It may not make your accountant happy, but resources spent up-front are well worth it if they prevent a major breach. Data breaches can cost businesses thousands and thousands of dollars — even if they recover.

It’s smart to be aware of and have at least a small sense of fear about data breaches. They will only become more common and will continue to befall small businesses like yours. Motivate yourself and your staff to do everything possible to learn about breaches, get help from security, IT, and data recovery specialists if something does happen, and implement multiple protocols to prevent future issues. Staying aware and being proactive can help your business survive and thrive.

Photo by imgix on Unsplash

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