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  • Writer's pictureP. Seely

3 Red Flags Your Small Business May be Hacked

I love helping small business owners educate themselves about the importance of making better business decisions. Oftentimes, small business fail because of making poor decisions; i.e., cash-flow, basic accounting, employee turnover, and managing customers. Apart of all these critical categories, is managing sensitive security issues like customer credit card information and employee personal information. It can be overwhelming and frustrating just navigating the maze of complex legal issues that business owners face in a wide variety of other topics.

I'm often asked by seminar and webinar attendees, "What are some of the signs that your business may be the victim of a data breach?" Please note, this post is not trying to address every issue related to cyber attacks nor solve every possible attack. I'm suggesting that these three signs may be an indicator of an impending situation; and, if not addressed can very costly to fix. I often hear, "If I only knew now, then..."

However, many small business owners take the ill advised approach of being more reactive rather than proactive when facing security related issues. If you are dealing with sensitive customer credit card information then you may want to also consider Data Breach & Cyber Liability Insurance. This type of policy helps cover the costs of a data security breach for things like identity protection solutions, public relations, legal fees, liability and more depending on the coverage you choose. In fact, according to a 2015 report, 62% of small and medium sized companies have been hit by a data breach. Even if you take every precaution, you’re still at risk. But if you ignore this situation you’re putting yourself and your company in danger of a serious disruption, loss of information and potential liabilities. At a panel presentation/discussion titled “Hacked: The Implications of a Cyber Breach,” hosted by Travelers in New York City, Timothy Francis, enterprise lead for Cyber insurance, noted that although most of the cyber breaches that make the headlines are from large, national companies, the smaller breaches of local companies are far greater in number.

If you are doing (or not doing) any of these three things you’re definitely more at risk of being hacked.

1. You have higher than average employee turnover
Some industries, like fast-food restaurants or seasonal businesses, have more turnover than others. But if you’re losing employees, more than the norm, than there may be a reason behind this – like lower than average pay, less than fabulous working conditions, etc. When employees leave they sometimes take data with them – usually inadvertently but sometimes on purpose to use with a competitor or other vengeful reasons. Re-address your employee concerns and do your best to limit turnover – you will reduce a chance of a hack that way. Remember to remove access privileges!
2. You have no IT support.
Speaking of an IT (information technology) person: get one. Even the smallest of companies are exposed to a data hack. Paying someone to evaluate your risks, install software, monitor activity and keep things up to date is a critical and essential business cost – even the work is done monthly (it all depends on your size and activity).
3. Your employees do not get trained.
Most security problems, particularly at small companies, are from employee-related errors – clicking on bad websites, opening up infected files, etc. Invest in a day of training a few times a year with a good IT security firm so that your employees are well aware of potential problems and can avoid doing dangerous stuff. Make sure employees understand what security software is running and how to understand the alerts it may display in the event of a data breach.
Proactive does not mean expensive, it means you are actively taking the steps needed to manage your environment by protecting a very important aspect of your business. We live and work in a highly competitive business environment. Reactive management will be costly in more ways than one!
Stay connected with me and share this article with others. It may just be the best advice for those with a limited technical background.
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