We live online. Our lives and business are conducted over the Internet in increasingly public ways that personalize our experiences. The places we do business are no longer just our favorite shops, reliable mechanics, or a source of entertainment. We trust them with our public personas and financial data, and expect them to keep that information private and secure. Some basic security measures on the part of a small business will protect their clients and themselves from predatory hackers, build goodwill, and form positive habits regarding data discipline.
With every swipe of our debit or credit cards, we trust the store owners to not defraud our purchase price. Few things are quite so damaging to a company’s credibility as allowing their customer’s credit card data to be compromised. While giant mega-stores like (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/20/business/ex-employees-say-home-depot-left-data-vulnerable.html) Home Depot are the most vulnerable simply because of their size and their volume of business, small businesses bear no less responsibility and nearly as much risk. Any business network can be compromised by a dedicated criminal, and many cyber-thieves target small businesses that don’t pay as much attention to their security as do the large corporations. Some protection exists for both consumers and shops when fraudulent purchases are made, but no amount of money can repair a store’s damaged credibility. Customers shop with confidence when they know their credit card information is protected.
We no longer just shop at a business. Social media has infiltrated every aspect of our lives to such a degree that we take for granted our ability to post and message from anywhere we happen to be. Some of that happens over the telephone, but many people depend on public wifi networks accessed through their media players, laptops, or tablets. Every one of those connections goes through the public router provided by the business and shared with all users in range of the signal. DKBinnovative, LLC added, “Consumers run the risk of granting predatory hackers free access to their secure data from devices on the shared network. Social networks also provide access points for malware and spyware disguised as applications.” Some parents use router dependent firewalls to block access to undesirable websites. When security fails or children have uncontrolled access, blame can be assigned rightly or wrongly to the public wifi network.
A business that operates a public wifi network can head off problems with a selective firewall allowing access only to sites suitable to their customer base. Keeping the public wifi separate from the internal network adds a layer of security that prevents hackers from accessing the business’s confidential information from their publicly accessible device. Instituting a social media policy amongst employees will go a long way toward protecting the company’s image and branding efforts. Consumers that have positive experiences at a place of business and feel confident in their online security are the best guerilla marketers possible.
Positive data and network discipline begins at the keyboard. Online threats get quite a lot of publicity, but old-fashioned burglary can expose a company to the same risks of fraud and theft. The physical computers used to run a business’s infrastructure often depend on little more than limited accessibility to protect the data they control. Machines and information become vulnerable when sent outside the business for repair, when employees leave on poor terms with the company, or when the machines themselves are stolen for the purpose of further fraud.
In this case, it is the business itself that is most vulnerable to the dedicated criminal. Individuals risk the loss of thousands of dollars. Businesses risk the loss of millions of dollars when criminals have access to their financial data, inventory flow, and purchasing processes. Positive data security habits include routine external backups, data encryption routines, regular password changes, and controlled hardware access. When internal security matches external security, customers experience increased confidence levels and employees perform with greater efficiency and productivity.