We live in a digital world where the threat of cyber attacks is ever imminent. Experts warn that if small businesses don’t take the necessary steps to protect them against data breaches, it is only a matter of time before their systems become the target of cyber attacks. Small companies are at a much higher risk as compared to larger corporations for various reasons. The main reason being that they typically have fewer resources to allocate to security measures. And, this is precisely the reason why they need to be more wary.
Fewer resources also mean that a security leak can potentially wipe out the entire business. The graph below clearly indicates the rising costs of data breaches in the past years. Further, as the Ponemon Institute 2016 Cost of Data Breach Study reports, the average per capita cost of a data breach in 2016 was $158 as compared to the 2015 cost of $154. However, it must be noted that the long-term effects of the information leaks can be more significant than the immediate fallouts. Read on to understand how.
Your Company Stands to Lose its Reputation
Companies stand to suffer major reputation ramifications of a data breach. For instance:
- All confidential information that your company may not wish to make public can easily be exposed with a data breach. Once the details are out in the open, you have no way of recalling them.
- You may lose records of financial documents, taxation paperwork, property deeds and titles, and mortgages and other loans taken for the company.
- You could lose intellectual property such as product ideas, expansion plans, and other private data.
- You compromise the data that your customers, business partners, and employees share with you. As a result, you stand to lose credibility in the sphere where you work.
- If you have stock listed on the exchange, you could lose a substantial market share.
- Your plans for growth could also suffer a setback.
- In addition to taking information away, hackers have also been known to vandalize and add false and damaging information to websites and digital systems.
Your Company Bank Account Details Could be Compromised
By accessing your bank account information, hackers can clean out your company funds leading to disastrous effects. The biggest downside about cyber attacks is that business owners are typically unaware that they have been hacked until the time that large amounts of funds have been withdrawn and lost. You should be aware that cyber criminals are adept at using the most advanced of techniques to cover their trails.
You Lose Business Because of the Downtime
Once your company becomes the target of data breaches, you may have to stop operations while you focus on assessing the extent of the damage, taking measures to minimize the fallout, and informing the entities whose information is compromised. You’ll also have to institute security measures against future threats and alert government authorities about the situation. Consulting with your legal team and identifying the source of the leak are other activities that may take time away from running the business. You stand to incur heavy losses before your company is up and running again.
You Could Lose Your Customers’ Trust
Having learned about the hacking incident in your company, your customers could be wary of placing orders and doing business with you. Surveys show that at least 64% of consumers do not want to work with a company that has lost their personal information. They may also inform friends and family about the situation and you stand to gain a lot of bad publicity because of the “word of mouth” effect. Keep in mind that any kind of unfavorable news can make customers switch to buying products from your competitors right away. Any suppliers, buyers, and partnering companies may also cut ties with you fearing that hackers could access their systems with the help of the information stolen from your digital network.
You Risk Expensive Lawsuits
When corporate giant, Target suffered a data breach in the year 2013, the company had to deal with 140 lawsuits brought by customers whose credit and debit card information was compromised. Target ended up paying $10 million in damages to settle the lawsuit of which $10,000 was paid to each victim of the breach. You should also be aware that the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has recently passed a judgment and as a result, customers will find it much easier to bring class actions against companies that risk their information. If your small business were to become the target of a cyberattack, you may not be able to handle the financial setback that lawsuits like these can bring.
You Risk Federal Audits and Fines
By incurring a data breach, your company demonstrates that it has been ineffective in complying with the rules and regulations laid down by government agencies for the protection of consumer data. Not only will you incur large fines but you may also become subject to regular audits that the agencies conduct. Such invasive audits are often time-consuming, can disrupt the normal functioning of your company, and result in losses.
Protect Your Small Business from the Impact of Data Breaches
With hackers and cyber criminals developing highly sophisticated methods for accessing sensitive information in your digital systems, you need to take all the precautions possible to protect your small business from security breaches. Focus on installing and regularly updating your company systems with the latest of software and hardware that can effectively deter hacking attempts. To safeguard stored information once it is not longer needed, take the mandatory steps by hiring the services of a certified data destruction company that can wipe hard drives or shred them thoroughly so that the data on them cannot be deciphered.
Do keep in mind that the steps you take today can ensure the continued long-term protection of your business and its success.