Sometimes it can feel like hackers are a mere relic of the ’90s: trench coat–donning, sunglass-toting nerds that navigate neon-lit cyber-realities.
The truth is, hackers are real, and they’re a real danger to your business.
Celebrities, multinational retailers, and social media websites have all fallen prey to their tactics. And with so much of our lives being uploaded, and so much sensitive financial data floating around in the Cloud, it’s now more common than ever for tech-skilled cyber criminals to make off with millions of names, birth dates, and credit card numbers.
What does this mean for your business?
It may be at risk of a cyber attack if you don’t take the appropriate precautions!
Investing in data security for your business will not only save you money, time, and stress should a breach occur — it can also actively help build your brand.
How Hackers Take Businesses Down
If you want to see examples of the realities of cyber crime, you don’t have to search too hard.
The recent Ashley Madison debacle — in which a group of hackers released the names, addresses, and emails of over 32 million users of the now-infamous infidelity website — created a huge surge of awareness about data security, and demonstrated the business-ending effects that a data breach can have.
Ashley Madison now faces a multi-million dollar class action lawsuit, which if won would effectively annihilate the business.
The recent Target data breach cost the retailer over $162 million and countless hours of effort trying to rebuild a tarnished brand and regain the trust of customers.
Hackers not only stole the names and addresses of unlucky shoppers, they even managed to gain access to their encrypted PINs. Target had to learn the hard way: sometimes prevention is far cheaper than a cure.
How a Good Business Responds
Businesses — large and small — should already be keeping a close eye on data collected from Web forms, mailing lists, and online transactions.
Not only should a good business take all the necessary steps and precautions to make sure their customers’ data is safe, they should take the opportunity to build their brand by letting their customers know about that extra bit of security they’ve implemented.
Here are some of the top benefits that being data-sensitive can provide for your business:
1. Customer Trust
According to a recent HyTrust poll, 72.5 percent of consumers don’t believe that companies care about the safety of their personal data. This lack of trust in major businesses is astounding and reveals a lot about the expectations of the typical consumer.
By going the extra mile in data security, you can communicate to your customers that you take their data — and trust — seriously.
2. A Bigger Bottom Line
Whatever costs you accrue making sure your data services are secure will be money saved in the event of an actual cyber attack. Not only do you lose money per record you lose, you also have to spend large sums of money recuperating from the attack, rebuilding customer loyalty, and repairing any damages to your breached website.
Often these situations can be extremely costly to handle adequately and, without the proper precautions in place, they can turn into quite the financial setback and even potentially put you out of business.
3. Brand Awareness
With so many poor examples of data security in the business world, it sure pays to be one of the good guys. Incorporating your data-conscious practices into your company’s branding can not only show your clients that you value their privacy, but also that you care enough to keep up with the latest trends in cyber security.
Your reputation will benefit as a result, and the amount of goodwill you can garner with some preventative steps can go a long way.
It’s also important to remember that a reputation founded after years of work can be absolutely undermined by a successful attack by hackers. Not only has it reflected poorly on businesses that have fallen victim in the past, it has also led to uphill battles regaining that lost confidence and rebuilding the image that they’d lost in the aftermath.
4. Peace of Mind
As with any other potential catastrophe, you always want to take steps to minimize its chances of occurring, and if it does occur, to minimize the damage it does to your day-to-day. Taking precautions against hackers can provide you with an unrivaled peace of mind, and knowing that a potential liability is negated can help your business run smoothly.
Preparing your business for the worst helps you keep your mind on innovating and helping your employees succeed instead of worrying about a data breach.
Improving With Data Security
Don’t slack outside the office!
After putting in all the effort to ensure that your business is secure, don’t let your downtime be the downfall of your business.
When you use public WiFi at your local coffee shop you may not realize it, but you could be making your most valuable client data vulnerable.
Wireless Internet can be extremely risky (especially open networks without password protection) and you could easily become the target of what security experts call “Wi-Fi snooping.”
With all of the scandal surrounding data-loss, who wants to be the reason a leak took place?
Only use password-secured, encrypted networks, and try not to save any sensitive documents or records on your personal computer.
As we move into an era defined by information, keeping a close eye on the information that matters most can be an extremely valuable trait for any business, and a valuable commodity that consumers will surely flock to in years to come.
As a small business owner, you should already be doing everything you can to protect your customer and financial data.
Incorporating this into your branding can give your business a leg up against the competition, improve client trust, and, most importantly, will give you the peace of mind to focus on the bottom line.
Are you already using data security measures to keep you can your customers safe? Let us know how by telling us your story below!
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Clair Jones is a journalist, online marketer and small business specialist who loves to write about social media strategy and digital branding. Check out her work at BusinessBee.com and Next Avenue.
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