In today’s digital world, data has become the universal currency for almost all transactions. To pay for goods and services, we exchange information about our finances and ourselves. While this virtual world offers us extraordinary new conveniences, there are dangers lurking there as well. What happens when this sensitive data falls into the wrong hands?
Perils of Poor Security
Increasingly, data does fall into the wrong hands, and the consequences can be dire. Earlier this year, the CEO of retail giant Target lost his job because of a massive data breach that compromised the personal and financial information of more than 100 million customers. In the last few months, large and powerful firms ranging from Neiman Marcus to the World Bank have suffered similar network breaches that have compromised sensitive data. These organizations had to scramble to repair the damage and restore their public image in efforts to reduce the amount of lost business.
Everyone is Vulnerable
Unfortunately, it’s not only giant organizations that get hacked. Thieves are targeting every business that maintains customer data, from restaurants and small businesses on Main Street, to doctors, lawyers and accountants, and they respect no boundaries. Since privacy laws and guidelines govern nearly all industries and professions, businesses can get in legal trouble even if there’s been no actual violation of information security, and no data theft. As a business owner, it is your responsibility to communicate the data loss to your customers, which could result in lost business, a lasting negative public image and, potentially, legal actions.
So every company, from the corner store to a multinational conglomerate, needs to put data security measures in place — and not a generic fix, but a security solution that meets the unique needs of its business.
Start with Common Sense Measures
It sounds daunting, but you can start with simple common-sense practices that every business should follow:
- Change passwords every few months, especially if part-time employee turnover is high such as at restaurants.
- Control downloads. Everything you or your employees download may contain spyware, malware or viruses.
- Don’t forget your mobile devices. Smart phones and tablets often carry business data that can be lost or stolen.
Coping with these vulnerabilities begins with solid policies—what employees can and can’t do—and extends to implementing security technologies.
Security Is Your Competitive Advantage
All this might make you feel like getting off the Internet altogether, but of course, that’s unrealistic. It makes much more sense to embrace the incredible marketing power of digital media to grow your business, and to make data security one of your core competencies.
Data security should be seen as a competitive advantage, not a cost. Wouldn’t your customers and vendors prefer to deal with a business that is vigilant in protecting personal or business information? Really, it makes much more sense to embrace your security program as a benefit you can extend to your customers. And if you’re concerned about the costs, there are now “managed security” offerings that handle all kinds of information security for a relatively small price.
For example, the Managed Security service from Time Warner Cable Business Class protects information assets around the clock, all year long, at a fraction of the cost of in-house solutions. Most importantly, it provides gateway unified threat management (UTM) to block potential threatsbefore they reach the network. At the same time, it helps the company save on software and IT staff costs.
This solution combines the features of a firewall, anti-virus/anti-spam tools, remote access, and content filtering, and does it all at the server level. This means the immpreneur can focus on the business, rather than constantly updating the security software used in the office — which takes additional time and money away from the business.
There are numerous specific benefits to having such an arrangement in place:
- The security policies are highly customizable to ensure network integrity, and to prevent both internal and Internet-borne attacks
- Companies can define their own content-filtering rules to block what they decide is inappropriate content, decreasing the risk to the business
- Firewall device monitoring and maintenance provides proactive firmware updates and bug fixes—no need to constantly check for what’s new
- The easy-to-use dashboard provides detailed weekly reports and online, on-demand reporting for current status across several metrics.
Bottom line: We usually don’t know whom cybercriminals are until after the damage is done. What we do know is that they’re always at work, with sophisticated technologies and global, anonymous operators who are always rummaging through exposed networks for any piece of information they can find and profit from. A single restaurant’s list of credit card numbers, for example, can be sold online instantly for high prices.
The best way to ensure solid protection is with enterprise-class technology solutions that are reliable, flexible and priced specifically for small and mid-sized operations. And that’s exactly what Managed Security offers.