Most identity thieves are no longer targeting individuals who fail to shred their bank statements. Instead, they now look to businesses for valuable customer information, including credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, passwords and more. As a business owner, a data breach can be fatal to your operation, and you can lose thousands of loyal customers who no longer feel safe with your service. It’s crucial that you understand how to protect information.
How Data Is Stolen
Most data thieves are highly intelligent hackers. They use a variety of platforms to illegally access personal, business and financial information. Furthermore, many hacks occur off the Internet. Here are the most common ways that data gets out:
- Lost device –Smartphones come built with some high-tech security features, but those don’t deter thieves who know about hardware. A lost phone, computer or external drive can provide a stranger with just about everything they need to take over an account.
- Wrong address –Information can go to the wrong customer by mistake or because an old record has not been updated. This happens via email, fax and with physical mail.
- Malware –Malicious software operates on special codes that compromise security. Thieves use spyware, Trojan horses and other malware tools to enter protected server systems.
- Hacking –Usually performed using malware, hacking is unauthorized access to a personal email, FTP login, host login or other secured account.
- Credit Card Fraud –This can occur on location, such as a retail counter. Bogus card skimmers have been discovered on ATMs and gas station pumps.
- A Mole –Unfortunately, you may have hired or contracted with a dishonest person.
What to Do If You Experience a Breach
You should contact law enforcement immediately upon learning your security has been compromised. Prompt action will lessen the blow and show your customers you care about their information. In fact, most states require you to notify all parties currently or previously involved with your business.
- Business Partners –A company data breach can affect clients, vendors, suppliers and even the individual financial institutions where your customers bank. Be sure to contact the major credit bureaus about Social Security theft.
- Customers –The Federal Trade Commission recommends that business owners seek counsel from local law enforcement before notifying customers of a data breach. Whether it’s through letters, phone calls or public statements, you should tell people what information was taken, how it’s been used and what you’re doing to rectify the problem. You should also recommend the best course of action and provide contact information for law enforcement and the FTC.
Ways to Prevent a Breach
Thieves are not always after whole identities. It’s important to invest in proper security, especially if you offer credit sales or store valuable information about customers. A handful of credit cards can buy a lot of stuff online. A data breach is invasive, embarrassing and can ultimately cost you your business.
Prevention is the best method of attack. First, make sure you understand what information you have, where you have it and how it can be accessed. Take stock of all computers, mobile devices and physical inventory. You should not be storing paper receipts out in the open. If the information is not important to your operation, get rid of it safely. Data is a liability, and any information you do keep should be physically or electronically locked. It’s also important that you fully understand and regularly update your security system. If you offer customer accounts, be sure to require password changes at regular intervals.
Finally, have a solid plan in place in case you experience a data breach. Thieves are smart, and many are able to work the most advanced security systems. Immediate action is your most powerful tool, and it can greatly improve the outcome for both you and your customers.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.