Data Breaches: What Small Businesses Can Do About Cyberattacks

August 18, 2022     |    7 minute read

Data Breaches: What Small Businesses Can Do About Cyberattacks

August 18, 2022     |    7 minute read

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ENTERPRISE SECURITY, THOUGHT LEADERSHIP

When you run your own small business, there are a lot of variables to consider. Hiring and personnel matters are vital, and decisions must be made for technology, marketing, and cash flow. Whether you need to manufacture a good or provide a service, there are steps to be taken to ensure that your business is healthy and primed for success. The last thing you want is for your small business to fall prey to cyberattacks.

The good news is that while a cyberattack or data breach has its share of negative consequences, your business will be able to recover. Safeguards to prevent potential cyberattacks should be a key component of every company’s business plan. One of the most important safeguards a small business can put into place to help improve its overall security posture is the use of biometrics.

What is a Data Breach?

Preventing cyberattacks means understanding exactly what they are. Data breaches and cyberattacks are not the same. A data breach is a type of cyberattack, with some, but not all, cyberattacks resulting in a data breach. Think of it this way: a cyberattack is like a thief’s attempt to break into a store, whereas a data breach is the theft that happens if the robbers are successful.

Data breaches typically happen without the businesses’ knowledge, at least initially. Digital reports, email lists, credit card information, client lists, or password information are all popular targets of data breaches. Any financial, private, or proprietary information that a business does not want made public is a risk to the organization if stolen and should be adequately protected.

Is a Data Breach a Big Concern for a Small Business?

According to Forbes, small businesses are three times more likely to be the victims of cyberattacks than larger companies. Responding to a cyberattack can be costly, with potential losses ranging from $55,000 to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Expenses can vary from professional services needed to evaluate the results of cyberattack to covering the costs of lost downtime and revenue. Given the very real financial costs of cyberattacks, small businesses must take the necessary steps to protect their data.

How Do You Spot a Data Breach?

No one is smashing windows to steal your data. Alarm bells are likely not ringing. So how do you know when data has been stolen? Because data breaches happen quietly, they can be difficult to detect. A data breach can also take different forms. They can be physical, such as theft of thumb drives, or digital, such as theft of passwords, reports, or other digital files or information.

The best protection against a cyberattack is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Small businesses typically use apps and other software for data management, accounting, timekeeping, and other business functions. Be proactive and ask your sales representative:

  • What is your data security like?
  • Have you ever had a data breach?
  • What steps do you take to prevent data breaches?
  • How do you handle digital access control?

On the in-house side, examine your technology administration. Do you have a person or team in charge of technology? Are they continuously scanning for suspicious activity? If your business is too small for a team or an outsourced vendor, is there a software solution you purchase to help keep your data secure? Are you being notified of any unusual logins or downloads? Are you monitoring that kind of data? By having a team of outsourced or in-house professionals, or a software solution in place, you will arm yourself against cyberattacks and be in the best position to prevent a data breach.

What Do You Do if You Suspect a Data Breach?

When you suspect a data breach, keep in mind that there are two key considerations at play. The first is to consider which state and federal data breach notification laws may affect you. The second is to consider how to rebuild trust between your organization and your customers. Every small business should have a data breach response plan in place, and the response plan should include an outline of who you need to notify and under what conditions.

Your obligation to report a data breach can vary from state to state, depending on the type of data that may have been stolen or exposed. Federal laws require notification if the following are breached:

  • Healthcare data
  • Financial institution data
  • Telecom usage information
  • Government agency information

The affected individuals must be informed if privacy data such as social security numbers or bank accounts are breached. Depending on the state, you may need to notify credit bureaus or the attorney general as well.

Take the appropriate steps to report it and do right by the law and your clients if a data breach should occur. But don’t assume that the danger has passed. It’s important to note that addressing a data breach is not a one-time occurrence, and cyberattacks are an evolving threat. Small businesses should continually research and understand which mitigation efforts they can put in place to protect data.

By being prepared with an action plan, your business will be in the best position to identify, contain, and eliminate any threats. Your business can then begin the work of restoring trust with your clients. Be sure to document each step you take to identify, contain, and eliminate threats so you can learn from the breach and ensure it doesn’t happen again. You’ll also want to let clients know your business’s actions to prevent data breaches in the future.

How Biometrics Help Prevent Data Breaches and Cyberattacks

Biometrics can go a long way in helping to secure a small business against cyberattacks. The following are some areas to consider:

Onboarding

Hiring employees can be an exciting time for a small business. A growing team usually means getting more done and, hopefully, increasing sales. But hiring has its challenges as well. On top of the pressure in choosing the right person for the job, there’s paperwork to handle. If you are a high-turnover business with a lot of comings and goings, this is even more stressful.

Getting the onboarding process right is important because once a customer or employee has an account with your company, they have access to your organization’s products, services, facilities, and information. How can you be sure that an individual is who they say they are? While falsifying a document like a passport may seem unlikely, there is evidence that synthetic ID fraud – where criminals use fabricated credentials to create a real and valid identity – is the fastest-growing type of financial crime in the United States.

That’s why the process by which newly hired employees verify their identities is so important. The right biometric solution helps to confirm an individual’s identity by ensuring their identifying documents are valid and that they are the true owner of those documents. Identity verification can be done entirely online as well, helping small businesses to open their talent pool to new geographic locations and negating the need for new employees to travel to the home office to complete their onboarding.

Authentication

Once your new employee is hired and onboarded, they’ll need access to the secure logical and physical spaces owned by your business. But even before that access happens, a person must verify that they are who they claim to be. Small businesses can use biometrics to help ensure access to the right places by the right individuals. Biometric authentication can compare physical traits to stored, confirmed data in a database. When a person’s face matches a face in your biometrics platform, authentication is confirmed, and your employee gets access to that client list, patient database, or server room. The best biometrics solutions don’t

store identifiable data. Stored identifiable data could be a risk for a company if it gets into the wrong hands – opening you to cyberattacks and data breaches.

Access Control

A reliable and comprehensive authentication system can lead directly to improved access control procedures. And while biometric authentication can secure important logical and physical spaces, it has the added benefit of eliminating passwords. Your organization is no longer at risk of an individual hacking or obtaining a password through phishing or social engineering when it’s no longer using them.

A small business should guard their company’s valuable resources – whether it’s physical access, like a room with physical records in it, or logical access, like a database of digital records. Both types of spaces can be guarded by biometrics. It’s often as easy as your employee loading an app, capturing a selfie or speaking a phrase, and accessing their space or account.

Moving Forward

Small business owners are stretched thin and can struggle to get everything done in the best of circumstances. Having to deal with a data breach can be business-ending. Owners should be armed with the right team or applications and a response plan to help chart a path forward if a data breach occurs.

The right biometrics platform means that users don’t have to remember passwords, and businesses can improve their data security by protecting critical spaces from employees and outsiders. Implementing biometrics to help secure critical business functions can also help minimize the risk of data breaches. Biometrics makes onboarding and authentication easy to use and hard to fake. Increased security and improved customer and employee confidence are just added bonuses for protecting your small business.

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