Hundreds of millions of consumers around the world have had their personal data compromised by recent breaches at large retailers like Neiman Marcus and Target. Not only do cyber attacks like these affect consumers, but they greatly hurt a business’ credibility and bottom line – as evidenced by Target’s recent earnings report, which showed the retailer’s profits in the fourth quarter of 2013 fell 46 percent from the same period in 2012.
It’s no secret that large businesses have more resources to help thwart cyber attacks, but if they’re vulnerable to such fraud, small businesses likely are even more sensitive. Small business owners who instead want to increase profits and business capital should be vigilant in data security, because the cost it takes to fight it is less than the cost of breach aftermath.
To ensure the future growth and security of small businesses, California Attorney General Kamala Harris recently released tips that small business owners could follow to protect themselves against potential data breaches. Owners around the country would benefit from heeding the advice.
“There are a lot of businesses that are worried about payroll and taxes and health care; they don’t have millions, or even thousands, to spend on security,” said Kevin Mahaffey co-founder of Lookout, a San Francisco mobile security firm, said to The Washington Post about Harris’ suggestions.
The top five tips from Harris include for businesses to: assume they’re a target; lead by example; map and encrypt their data; bank securely; and defend themselves.
By assuming that they are not a target, small businesses put themselves at a great risk of suffering a breach, because nobody and no business is invincible. Taking even the most simple steps – like changing passwords on business equipment and devices frequently and holding all employees accountable – can better protect a business.
Even if an owner has an information technology professional on staff, they can’t assume that all cybersecurity protection is out of their hands. Only owners and management have true authority to make sure all measures are taken and that all employees follow protocol, so it is vital that they are involved.
Other tips from Harris include to:
- Educate employees;
- Be password-wise;
- Operate securely; and
- Plan for the worst.
“[T]he skyrocketing number of mobile devices has spawned new threats,” Harris said when introducing her recommendations. “Many of us now carry devices in our pockets that are more sophisticated than we ever could have imagined just a decade ago. Downloadable applications can render us vulnerable to fraud, theft and other privacy concerns and mobile devices that are constantly connected to the Internet or local Wi-Fi networks face persistent security issues. Mobile security is an issue that must be on our radar screens as we move into 2014.”
Small business owners who plan to secure a nontraditional loan from lenders such as National Funding should take all of these steps to ensure security and make sure their increased investment is safe.