One of the most apparent and concerning trends we noticed in 2016 was the rise of data breaches and the stealing of millions of Americans’ personal information. At Skinny IT, we believe every business, regardless of its size, should have an understanding of what cybersecurity is and how it plays a role in its success.

This blog post will serve as an introduction to cybersecurity for those who have little prior knowledge of the industry. It will be the first in a series of blogs focusing on cybersecurity as it relates to business owners and the capabilities Skinny IT has to help prevent a cyberattack.

According to a Gallup poll, 70 percent of the U.S. population is concerned about the possibility of their information being stolen. Whether it be cases of identity theft or credit card fraud, it has never been more important for business owners to ensure they are taking necessary precautions to protect their customers.

When a customer uses a Point of Sale system (PoS) to make a purchase at a retail store, pay for food at a restaurant or buy an item online, they are trusting businesses to ensure their information cannot be stolen. Data breaches cause companies to lose revenue, status within the industry and customer loyalty. Reputation is everything when running a business, and getting hacked is a surefire way to lose customers.

Business owners must understand the importance of cybersecurity in order to ensure the success and longevity of their company. Here is a list of 5 proactive steps companies should take to protect their business and customers:

  1. PoS Systems – Hackers often look for the biggest outcome that requires the least amount of work, which is why data breaches of PoS systems are among the highest ranked. These cybercriminals are able to steal large amounts of personal information from a single system. To protect the safety of customers, make sure your business is following government-regulated PCI compliance guidelines and always use the most updated PoS system. Currently, business owners should be using EMV chip card readers, which use computer chips to authenticate and secure debit and credit card transactions. Additionally, it is best practice for business owners to utilize a third-party vendor who is an expert in the IT industry to install and host the PoS system on an outside network.
  1. Employee Training – In order to ensure the security of your business, it is essential for all employees to go through cybersecurity training. This training will allow employees to watch for signs of a data breach and implement preventative measures to ensure the company’s success. Employee training is important because it acts as one more wall cybercriminals must navigate to access private information.
  1. Wi-Fi Access – Several retail stores and restaurants choose to offer customers free Wi-Fi access. These are large public networks that are accessible to anyone, and by anyone, we mean hackers. If your business chooses to offer free Wi-Fi, ensure it is a protected network. For Wi-Fi networks and all additional technology components that require password protection, business owners must change the standard default password that comes with the system in order to prevent an easy cyberattack.
  1. E-Commerce – If your business has an e-commerce site, offer customers a secure checkout process. Send verification emails once they have made a purchase, and remind them to report any emails that look suspicious or fake. For example, Amazon recently had an issue with a hacker sending customers fake emails requesting them to re-input their shipping information because it had been lost. The customers who responded to this email had their information stolen.
  1. Have a Crisis Communications Plan in Place – The unfortunate reality is that you can do everything in your power to prevent a data breach, and still fall victim. Cybersecurity attacks lead to loss of reputation, customer loyalty, and additional fines that can cause damage that is unrecoverable. Because of this, it is always best practice to have a crisis communications plan in place if a data breach occurs to help prevent your company from going out of business.
  • First, have a prepared statement drafted informing your customers of a data breach. Be transparent and provide all details legally allowed regarding the breach so your customers know you are doing everything in your power to fix the issue.
  • To ensure false information is not leaked, designate one member of the leadership team to address the crisis situation. No one else from your company should address the media. This way, you and the public can know that all information is coming from a reliable source.
  • Keep customers updated and informed on the status of the recovery process so they are aware of the action items you are taking to solve the problem as time progresses.
  • Lastly, once the crisis is under control and all issues have been addressed, notify all customers, apologize and explain the steps put in place to ensure it will not happen again.

Hackers often take seconds to break into your system, and reversing the consequences of that data breach can take years. Some companies never fully recover once they have been hacked. By taking action and securing your IT ahead of time, you are not only protecting your business, but the people who make it function: your customers.

As an IT company with years of experience within the industry, we have seen businesses that did not utilize a professional IT service fall victim to cybersecurity attacks. We want to ensure that does not happen to you. Skinny IT can help protect your business from cyberattacks and data breaches quickly and efficiently by ensuring your technology is installed and protected correctly. If you want to chat about cybersecurity and the security of your IT system, give us a call.