Entries tagged with “data security for small businesses”.

Cyber security breaches regarding financial data seem to be a recurring theme lately.  From large department stores to national banks, hardly a day goes by that you don’t hear about a cyber attack on one business or another.  Just recently news broke that another national brand, this time in the home and office industry, is investigating a possible data breach in the Northeast. In response to all of this, the fourth annual Cyber Security Summit opened Tuesday in Minneapolis.  All businesses, large or small should be aware of not only the possibility, but the probability of this happening to them.  They should be working on ways to beef up their own cyber security.

One of the ways to prevent cyber security breaches is to encrypt your data so that even if it is stolen, it won’t be able to be read. Another is to make sure your systems PCs, laptops, etc. are protected by firewalls and up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware programs. Work out a system for detecting breaches- monitoring traffic and creating a central log of security-related information to alert you to suspicious activity on your network would also be helpful.  Hackers may know your router’s default settings so always change the username and password for new routers immediately.  Did you know that pass phrases are more secure than traditional passwords?  Use long pass word phrases when securing sensitive data. An example of this is “Ilovepizzapie”.  Use proper capitalization in your pass phrase to increase its complexity and make it even more secure.

To find out more on how you can protect your business from potential cyber security threats, please contact us.

Cyber security breaches regarding financial data seem to have become increasingly common over the past year.  Our last example of this series gives the example of a large bank corporation that fell victim over the summer. It’s reported that this particular cyber-attack affected nearly 80 million households and small businesses combined.

The hackers reportedly accessed the applications and programs that run the banks computers.  One article described this access point as “a road map via which they could cross check with known vulnerabilities in each program and web application, in search of an entry point back into the bank’s systems.”

The hackers were able to obtain the names, addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses of account holders. While no fraud has been committed yet, the information obtained is a virtual goldmine for those potentially plotting an attack sometime down the road.

The sophistication of the attack has the bank and investigative agencies in shock. The hackers were able to obtain the highest level of administrative privilege, leading some to surmise that they were Russian computer experts, perhaps even backed by the Russian government.

Whatever their origin, the hackers have managed to shake the confidence of businesses and consumers nationwide. Up until this point, banks had been seen as some of the least vulnerable institutions to cyber-attacks due to the extensive security measures which they employ.

The bank is now planning to spend  millions of dollars on new security measures. Ironically, they might have been able to save at least part of this sum if they would have managed to retain more of their security staff. A great many of the individuals employed by them in this particular area had already left to work for other banks, and more are currently preparing to leave.

Having the right staff in place to adequately perform security measures might have saved them not only money, but a great deal of worry as well. For the right security measures to keep your firm’s financial data safe, contact us.

Living in a modern world of convenience has left us open to vulnerability and fraud. Unfortunately businesses, no matter the size, are not immune to fraud.    According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), companies with less than 100 employees lose approximately $155,000 as a result of fraud  each year. It can happen to anyone at any time. To protect yourself and your business, here are some tips on fraud prevention for small businesses.

Credit Cards and Bank Accounts

It seems like common sense to keep this information private, but it is the most common area of fraud in the United States. The first way to protect your  business from fraud is to separate all personal credit cards and bank accounts from your business accounts. This will help protect the business if a fraudster  gets their grubby fingers on your personal information.

Make smart decisions when it comes to credit card usage. Don’t allow employees to use your card or give out your card number to anyone, employee or vendor, in person or over the phone. Making the switch from paper bills to online billing not only helps the environment, but keeps your credit card information from falling into the wrong hands. Using online billing also enables you to check your accounts on a daily basis for any unusual activity. Catching suspicious activities right away minimizes any loss or damage.

Phishing Scams

If you have an email, chances are that you have received a “phishing” email. Whether it’s the Nigerian Prince wanting to transfer money to your account or someone posing as a legitimate business asking for personal renewal information, many people fall victim to these scams every day.  Their goal is to get your personal information in order to steal your money and identity.  While many of these scams seem legit, there are easy ways to recognize if it’s real or not.  Click here to check out an article on how you can better recognize and protect yourself from these scams.

Password Policies

Having a policy in place for passwords is another huge help in protecting your company from fraud. Passwords should be changed regularly, every 60-90 days or so, and you’ll want to establish a new password for each online account. Making your passwords unique is a great precaution as well. A good password will include a combination of letters and numbers so that it’s harder to guess.

Computer Security

In today’s business world, securing your computer is vital. With increasing usage of computers, we are more susceptible to security problems.  A few precautions to take as a business owner should be to have firewalls installed, anti-virus set up to frequently scan for viruses and have routine checks for updates of the computer operating system.  You also want to exercise good care when downloading software or opening attachments.  If you ever suspect that your computer isn’t running normally, have your computer analyzed by a qualified technician.       

Staying Safe Online

One of the easiest ways that businesses get hit is online.  We’ve seen recently a number of well-known companies fall victim to cyber crimes and security breaches including Target and Home Depot.  Smaller businesses have actually started to become bigger targets because cyber criminals know they have fewer resources for defense.  Companies should assess their risks when it comes to potential cyber-attacks and see what policies or procedures they have in place to prevent it.  As companies become more dependent on the internet, they need to take necessary steps to protect sensitive information like customer data, financial records, and intellectual property.  Check out this article on assessing your risk from Staysafeonline.org.

Fraud can happen to any business, even when precautions are taken. Taking the steps to prevent it and following these tips will help lessen the blow if it does occur and help you get back on your feet faster. For more information on safeguarding your business, please contact us.

When you have a small business, one of the things you want to do is to make sure that you’re protecting your business, clients, and employees from fraud.  Below are seven tips for fraud prevention for small businesses that will help you stay secure and protect everything and everyone in your business.

-Use checks that are high security – Check fraud is the most common type of fraud when it comes to business payment, and businesses don’t have the same protection as consumers. Use checks that are high security to stop check forgery, check copying, and check washing.

-Review business financial statements regularly – It’s essential to review all of your business account statements personally. Make sure that you’re watching for suspicious transfers and withdrawals, along with checks that were written to unrecognizable vendors.

-Secure important documents – Keep your business and client files, along with your employees’ information, secure and away from general access. This includes any documents with your account numbers, the payment information of clients, SSNs of employees, and your TIN.

-Shred your sensitive documents – Many fraudsters will go through recycling and trash bins to get account information. Be very diligent about shredding the documents which contain sensitive or proprietary information.

-Be aware of suspicious phone or email inquiries – Make sure that you are validating any requests for personal or sensitive information coming by phone or email, including requests that come from a financial institution.

-Use excellent network protection – Make sure that you install firewalls and update the security software for your network on a regular basis.  Create strict policies regarding remote access and employee permission for network access.

-Have a plan – It’s essential to have a plan in place if you discover financial activity that is unauthorized or a breach in data. You have to know the next steps to take and your responsibilities. If you are conducting business with consumers, you’ll have certain responsibilities legally for notifying them and remedying the breach.

The best thing that you can do for fraud protection in your business is to prevent it before it happens. Be sure that you are doing everything in your power to protect your business’ assets and the sensitive information of your customers.  You will be well respected and you will have a better chance of success since your customers will know you have their best interests at heart.

If you would like to know more about our services or what we can do for your business, contact us and let us tell you what we can do for you.

“The times are tough now, just getting tougher  - This old world is rough, it’s just getting rougher - Cover me, come on baby, cover me” – Bruce Springsteen 1984

Businesses work very hard to build their brand.   Small businesses are no different.  Establishing trust and loyalty among the customer base is essential to the longevity of any business.  Many companies focus on marketing and sales relationships to ensure that connection between customer and company continues to grow.  Social media, direct mailings, radio and tv advertising, print advertising, and data security and privacy policies all contribute to the growth of brand trust.  What a minute!  Did I say data security and privacy policies?  You betcha!  This is what I like to refer to as “brand security.”  Businesses spend an inordinate amount of time and money on establishing a brand that customers trust.  One of the fastest ways to lose that trust is to suffer a data security breach or to violate customer privacy.  For that reason, I often refer to data security and privacy programs as “brand cover.”

I’m going to borrow heavily, and probably poorly, from law enforcement and military actions here.  When you go into action, you generally have a forward team and then you have a team that provides “cover.”  This team keeps an eye out for threats that may not be visible or apparent to the forward team, but pose significant risk.  In the business world, one can think of your sales and marketing efforts as the forward team, while data security and privacy programs provide the cover.  You marketing and sales efforts move the company forward and increase awareness.  Your data security and privacy programs help to mitigate unseen, and sometimes unknown, risks to your brand’s integrity.  In fact, some larger organizations, particularly not-for-profits, are more concerned about brand damage in the event of a security or privacy compromise, than they are the fines that may be associated.

For small businesses, implementing and enforcing data security and privacy policies can seem daunting.  The Better Business Bureau, though, has put together a primer for businesses to help them develop these programs.  If you accept debit and credit card transactions, you can look for services to help minimize how much of that sensitive payment data your business stores.  You can also undertake an inventory to see just what data you are collecting and storing and how you are protecting it.  You can also evaluate the partners that you use and how you share data with them. Understanding your data can ultimately serve as a very effective means of protecting your company, your brand, and your customers.