Keeping Trust and Maintaining Security in the Face of a Data Breach

In the digital age, no one is safe from the threat of hackers.

Checking email, online shopping, managing your money or filing your taxes: When you conduct business online, the risk is there. We’ve seen it time and time again: information and money are stolen, the result of cybercrime attacks that could (or should?) have been prevented. But how?

Big data equals big risk of a data breach.

Everything is automated and online — bills, groceries, television, research — and everything is collected. Data is gathered and disseminated again in order to better equip business owners with a clearer picture of who and what their customers want; to inspire new product design; and to guide the direction of current and future marketing campaigns.

Companies and clients, alike, benefit from this sort of data development, but there are also major security concerns with the practice. The storage of customers’ personal and financial information leaves those customers vulnerable to security breaches, and it is the responsibility of any company working with customer data to be aware of the risks, and to take steps toward mitigation.

Do you know where you’re vulnerable?

The most common, straightforward data breach happens when a company’s online security system is out of date or otherwise incapable of defending against cyber attack. As the saying goes, the best defense is a good offense. A combination of the appropriate security software and a strong IT policy is necessary to maintain integrity from data breach.

Other times, hackers use to their advantage mistakes or security loopholes and gain entry into a company’s network, as if entering through a back door. This kind of attack is easily preventable with regular software updates — though there’s a hitch. Security updates publish information about the bug they’re released to squash, so where network administrators see a solution, hackers see a potential opportunity to exploit weakness.

Phishing happens too. Hackers gain access to passwords and walk straight through without knocking. And this is where the fight against data breach becomes more about IT policy. Install policies that regulate the creation and rotation of passwords, and limit unsecured Internet access.

It’s a matter of risk and reward.

Recent victims of attack like Target and Yahoo! Have weighed the benefits, and rebounded from attack by increasing data security measures while still collecting and analyzing users’ data. This was a risk they were able and willing to make. But of greater concern is the impact the same data breach has on small business when this level of implicit trust is broken.