The increased proliferation of digital channels over the past two decades—including the rise of mobile phones, social media, and the internet—has led to greater connectivity, convenience, innovation and access to information. However, it’s also led to a vast amount of personal and private information being held by our digital devices and accounts, which makes them vulnerable to identity theft. In fact, in 2016, there were 82,000 cyber incidents, 4,149 of which exposed 4.2 billion records, with the cost per compromised records averaging around $221!
While the threat of cybercrime and identity theft can seem daunting, there are many proactive steps you can take to help reduce your risk and better protect your personal and business information. According to the 2016 Data Breach Study conducted by the Ponemon Institute & IBM, the average cost of a data breach involving fewer than 10,000 records was $4.5 million and the cost for over 50,000 records was $10.3 million.
Below are a few quick and easy ways to better protect your data, and yourself, from crime and millions of dollars of repair costs. Sixty percent (60%) of small companies go out of business after a cyberattack, so we urge you to consider the following practices:
- Lock it up. Properly maintaining the storage for sensitive data is essential—especially for businesses. Make sure all documents are stored in a locked file cabinet, and that you enforce clear protocols on employee and visitor access to the files.
- Shred before you dump. Improper disposal of information leaves your business vulnerable to identity thieves, and to fines and litigation related to violation of privacy protection regulations. Make sure your business has standard procedures and guidance on shredding for confidential documents.
- Keep it fresh. Change your passwords frequently, and make them strong by using a combination of letters, numbers and characters. Work to limit old files, and properly destroy files as soon as legally permissible. Keeping fewer files limits the risk of breach or data loss.
- Stay Alert. Employ a training program for employees on how to be vigilant about maintaining records, protecting data, and keeping an eye out for suspicious activities or people, in and around your workplace.
- Update your software. Cyber attacks exploit vulnerabilities in your software to gain access to your data. Applying security updates from your vendors is the best way to avoid these hacks. The majority of malware doesn’t target new and unknown security vulnerabilities.
While protecting yourself and your business from cybersecurity threats must be part of your ongoing business efforts, by considering some of the strategies above, you’ll better protect your customers and their data.
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