As technology has improved and provided society with many avenues to conduct commerce, so has the rise of fraudulent activity and data breaches. Even the most well-prepared business owners can find themselves susceptible to a breach. While cybersecurity is complex, this article will provide you with a brief overview of your legal responsibilities, your vulnerability in being a small business owner, and how to safeguard your data, as well as the steps you can take to remedy the situation if you have been subject to a breach.
It’s the Law
Whether you’re an existing small business or just getting into the game, it’s imperative that you familiarize yourself with local and state laws that impose duties upon you concerning customer and employee information. The federal government, states, and local governments protect consumers through rules and regulations aimed to improve transparency, regulate data sharing, and manage customer information. On top of that, federal and state laws protect employee personal information that, if breached, can lead to steep penalties.
In order to stay in the know, you should do some of the following:
- Regularly conduct research.
- Hire legal counsel to ensure you and your business are in compliance.
- Attend classes on data and privacy protections.
- Subscribe to newsletters that keep you abreast of developments.
Knowing Your Vulnerabilities and Preparing for Attack
Even big business with a designated IT department, legal departments, policies, procedures, encrypted information, high-tech software, and thorough screening processes are vulnerable to and have been hit by data breaches. Hackers, thieves, and disgruntled employees know that small businesses have fewer cybersecurity resources than big businesses. Take the offensive approach and assess every area of your business to identify its vulnerabilities. Use employees and third parties to identify your weaknesses, and develop a plan on how to best protect yourself. Some strategies you can implement proactively are:
- Safeguard employee information and ensure only key people have access.
- Encrypt your network and set up a firewall for your internet.
- Regularly backup data.
- Limit authority to who can install or download software.
- Develop a digital footprint that enables you to view which employees have access to which information.
- Educate yourself and your staff.
- Get insurance that covers a potential breach.
- Be cautious of who you share employee and customer information with.
- Set up a plan of response in the event of a breach, including notifying customers, employees, and the authorities.
Operation Data Breach Response
In the event of an interior or exterior data breach, you must react quickly and efficiently, and your response plan should be top-notch. The first goal is to prevent any other breaches from occurring while simultaneously preserving your system to ensure all evidence can be traced that could lead to the perpetrator. You will want to swiftly assemble a team of experts to walk you through the response, including legal counsel, forensic tech experts, and key employees.
As soon as possible, you will need to notify law enforcement, applicable regulatory agencies, third parties who have been impacted, employees, and customers. Many states have a specific notice requirement, which you need to familiarize yourself with.
The notice should include the following information:
- The type of breach
- Information that was or may have been compromised
- How the information could be used to harm the party
- What actions you are taking to fix the issue
- Safeguards you are offering to remedy the exposure
- Steps the other party can take to protect themselves
- Contact information
When it comes to data security, half of the obstacle is identifying that your small business is a target. From there it is up to you to be proactive, learn all you can about what you and your company are responsible for, identify your weaknesses in fulfilling your responsibilities, and establish a plan to protect against a data breach. Developing a response plan to a breach not only ensures you are covered but will give you the peace of mind of knowing how to respond.
Guest post courtesy of Lindsey Weiss