There’s been a lot of talk about cyber security lately, from email hacks at the Pentagon to breaches at insurance carrier databases. But big corporations and the government aren’t only at risk. Small and midsized businesses also must make data and network protection a top priority. If you still haven’t developed a plan to safeguard your company’s information assets, here are the top five reasons cyber security matters for SMBs.
1 – Your reputation will be at risk.
Not every breach makes headlines like Target’s did in 2013, but if your business has an exposure, you can be sure people will find out about it. The fallout can be devastating. Customers may doubt their data is safe with you, prompting them to shop elsewhere as a result. After all, if you’ve had one breach, what are the chances you might have another?
A data breach could even make your vendors wary of working you. Network connections you share with them—for processing payroll, for example, or for transferring email campaign lists—could suddenly be suspect. They have their own data to protect, and a breach might identify your business as the weakest link in the security chain.
2 – Breaches are a financial burden.
When a breach is discovered, systems are often taken offline to plug the security hole. During that time, you may not be able to process customers’ orders or continue operations. New equipment or software may need to be purchased to prevent a recurrence of the breach.
You might need to hire a PR firm to do damage control. Notifying individuals that their information was exposed entails printing and mailing costs. The costs to provide credit monitoring services to breach victims can quickly add up. And if affected parties sue your company as a result of the exposure, you’ll have legal fees and possibly a judgment award to pay.
3 – It’s not a matter of “if,” but “when.”
With the pace of breaches occurring in our hyper-connected, data-intensive world, no business, industry or region is immune. Cyber criminals have discovered that smaller organizations often house huge amounts of valuable data but sometimes lack the defensive measures of their bigger brethren. Today, SMBs are increasingly targets. Rather than hoping to simply avoid a data exposure, small businesses are learning it’s smarter to protect themselves and be prepared to meet hackers head on.
4 – Insider threats are real.
Dangers may lurk within an organization that are just as disturbing as any cyber criminal. Disgruntled employees can inflict tremendous harm if they choose to take revenge on the business or a coworker by divulging sensitive information. The same holds true for employees facing financial difficulties who may see the sale of confidential data as a way to solve their money problems. One of the most challenging aspects of an insider threat is how difficult it can be to identify who presents a risk and who doesn’t. Employers often aren’t privy to the danger until a breach has occurred.
5 – A cyber attack puts your customers and partners at risk.
Breach victims could suffer financial losses through the theft of payment card and bank account numbers. It’s also possible they could fall prey to identity fraud later if criminals use their personal information to open new accounts in their name. But the damage doesn’t stop there. With a name or a Social Security number, someone could commit a crime using the victim’s identity, putting that person’s livelihood and reputation in serious jeopardy. Given the danger identity theft and fraud post, protecting customers’ data is part of being a good business.
Some of the largest breaches during the past few years have been due to small businesses serving as vendors to larger companies. As part of the larger business ecosystem, small businesses will be scrutinized for data best practices so long as they serve as third party vendors for other companies.
Matt Cullina is CEO of IDT911.