Although it might seem like IT security is spoken about a bit too much in the current media, one could make an argument that it simply does not take up enough headlines, and maybe never could. Organizations in the public and private sectors continue to struggle with the protection of sensitive data, as well as networks and other components of the infrastructure, while hackers' activity has seemed to reach new heights amid a lack of attention to detail among victims.
The direct financial burden of falling victim to a data breach can be devastating, with most putting the average expenditures between an estimated $500,000 and $750,000. This can be especially difficult to bounce back from when the victim is a small or medium-sized business, as these firms tend to have much less cushion to land on should a major adverse event strike that challenges their financial stability.
It has become clear that organizations are working in a highly reactive fashion, trying to bounce back from major events of data breach rather than minimizing the risks before an event ever takes place. Studies indicate that the vast majority of breaches - as many as nine out of every 10 - could have been entirely avoided had simple security frameworks been in place, including data security and employee training programs.
What's more, the costs of ensuring stronger security are virtually always lower than those of trying to recover from a major instance of information loss, making proactive investments sound financial decisions for any company. With cloud services and a variety of other solutions available to better protect information and systems from the threats present on the Internet, it is time that small business owners mobilize and become more proactive in their security practices.
What about reputation?
Tim Wilson, writing for InformationWeek, recently reported that the average consumer is becoming more fearful about identity safety in the digital era, citing findings of a new study conducted by the Ponemon Institute and sponsored by Experian. It should not be surprising that consumers will be generally less likely to frequent a business that has fallen victim to a data breach given the raw number of identity theft cases that have taken place in the past five years.
According to the author, 35 percent of respondents were either impacted by a retail data breach, or one related to credit card companies, in the past two years, while nearly one-fifth had seen some sort of issue with their social media accounts in that same time frame. He noted that the most concerning types of information in the eyes of consumers who responded to the Ponemon survey were Social Security numbers and account credentials.
Wilson pointed out that data breaches were cited by the 700 respondents as having the most dramatic impact on brand reputation, well ahead of labor disputes, government fines, poor customer service and environmental disasters. When considering how important client retention, trust and satisfaction are to the continuity of a business, it becomes clearer that the average business must protect identities and data to remain competitive in the modern market.
As a note, the author pointed out that while more than three-quarters of the respondents were overly worried because of being impacted by a breach, less than half of the group took any action in working to reverse the adverse effects.
"This inaction may be a result of data breach 'fatigue,' as 30 percent of those surveyed received at least two data breach notifications and 15 percent received three in the last two years, while 10 percent received more than five," Ponemon stated, according to Wilson. "Unfortunately, more than one-third of consumers ignored the data breach notification from the company and did nothing. However, almost 30 percent of consumers accepted the offer of free identity protection services."
In the end, cybersecurity strategies will continue to become more closely intertwined with brand management and reputation.
Leverage the cloud
Cloud computing can have a significantly positive impact on security for any small business, especially in the modern market where mobility and big data are becoming so important to general corporate performances. Cloud services can be used to effectively centralize the oversight and management of access and data control, meaning that IT departments will be able to more fluidly and accurately protect identities in online environments.
If it has not become clear enough yet, small business owners must recognize soon that the ability to protect information - their own and that of their clientele - is not optional or an additional selling point. Rather, it is an expectation that must be met to ensure a positive standing in any market, especially those that manage more sensitive types of information.
Remember, the best defense is a good offense in the great battle of cybersecurity, and small business owners have a unique opportunity to lead the charge against digital crime.