Data theft is a potential consequence of any security breach. What would it mean for your business if it happened to you?
If cyber criminals gained access to your business computers, what kind of information could they potentially steal? Would you be able to recover from any level of data theft, or would the loss of sensitive information sound the death knell for your business?
Right now, the matter of cyber security is a top priority for many businesses, thanks to the fast-approaching GDPR deadline. Under these rules, the responsible processing and storage of personal information isn’t just a moral requirement but a legal one. But the consequences for not adhering to GDPR have been well publicised (including in our own blog), so we won’t cover that here. Instead, let’s consider what other kinds of data you could lose in a security breach and how it might potentially affect your business. There will, of course, be some overlap with GDPR, of course, but the information and advice in this article would apply even if new laws weren't heading our way.
If criminals are able to access your bank accounts, then it’s open season on your finances. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t store passwords or PIN codes in text files on your computer – that would basically be an open invitation to hackers.
But you also need to look out for malware, which could be installed from a unsafe email or website. If one of these malicious programs installs a keylogger, it will track what you’re typing and where you’re typing it. Through this, criminals could work out what your passwords are for particular sites.
Another way cyber criminals get hold of banking information is via phishing emails. They send emails pretending to be from banks and building societies, and they include a link for users to log into their accounts. As you can guess, those links go to fake websites, which steal login details.
Completely controlling anything that can exist in a digital format is practically impossible. Once songs, books, videos and so on have been released, they’ll soon appear on piracy sites. If your business relies on any kind of digital media like this, then you’ll potentially have to deal with this problem regardless of any data breaches.
Where it can be particularly harmful is when the data in question hasn’t yet been released. High profile cases have seen unreleased books, albums and films stolen and distributed online. Small businesses don’t have quite that scale of content to worry about, but they might well have design blueprints and not-yet-submitted patent applications that they don't want to share. It's not hard to imagine how the public dissemination of such material could destroy some businesses completely.
Got a merger coming up? Or maybe you’ve caught the eye of a bigger company, and you’re in the early stages of a lucrative buyout? That’s exactly the kind of thing that could be derailed if it were to become public knowledge prematurely.
If that information were stolen, it could be used by criminals to demand a ransom. Or it could simply be released into the public sphere by hackers, just for the fun of it.
Understanding your customers and the market you operate in is an essential part of running a successful business. For some business owners, that comes from intuition and years of experience. For others, it comes from extensive research and planning – all of which takes time.
If your research is lost or stolen, it could be enormously costly and time-consuming to build it all up again.
How To Prevent Data Theft
As well as robust technical solutions, like firewalls, antivirus and email scanning, the people in your business need to be on guard. They need to know how to spot fraudulent emails, for example, and how to avoid websites that might cause harm.
It’s also vital that you keep your software up to date, because security patches are frequently released by developers.
Nothing is 100% effective, of course, but you can dramatically reduce your risk of data theft through best practice. Exactly how much time and money you spend on that is up to you. If you hold minimal amounts of sensitive information, for example, you probably don’t need enterprise-level security solutions, and your efforts would be better directed towards regular backups and updates.
Ultimately, you know your own business and what risks you can afford to take, but for most companies, data theft is not something they should be taking chances with. Aside from the losses detailed in this article, a significant breach could also hit your reputation. That, as you can imagine, could be the most damaging consequence of all...