How to Prioritize Business Security in 2016

Now that 2015 has wrapped up…what would the year have to say for itself? And what did it teach us that can help make security in 2016 even better?

Don’t worry; this isn’t about resolutions or being motivated by guilt. Rather, I’m referring to moments that leave us a little wiser.

Moments that trigger us to take positive action. For a business, this means actions that improve daily operations—with consideration, of course, to how this will impact your employees and customers.

As busy as you are running your business, it may seem taxing to add anything more to your calendar. In reality, it’s simply a matter of fine tuning what you are already doing. As a bonus: you’ll reap greater success. It’s really a no-brainer!

Take your cues from highlights of our interview with 2015:

EZShield: 2015, you were a pretty big year. What do you think stands out about last year?

2015: I was chockfull of identity crimes. From identity theft to fraud — I saw Americans hit hard by an assortment of financial threats.

EZShield: Hasn’t that been true for the past few years?

2015: Yes…but the persistence of such crimes can’t be ignored. They continue to impact U.S. consumers every two seconds, according to Javelin Strategy & Research. And, per the Association for Certified Fraud Examiners, small businesses incur disproportionate fraud losses.

EZShield: Speaking of businesses, what were some of the biggest threats to an organization’s success in 2015?

2015: Certainly the vast intrusion of malware, the continuous surge of data breaches and personal identity theft. But don’t forget occupational fraud.

EZShield: Great points for any business to take note of.

So we’ve boiled them down here to help you more easily fine tune your business practices in 2016.

Hire with Care
Whenever you are in the market for new employees, be sure to conduct thorough background checks. There are many reputable third-party employment screening services. Verify that the service is a certified Consumer Reporting Agency—per the Fair Credit Reporting Act. This ensures you are working with a federally regulated entity that follows stringent criteria for privacy protection and dispute resolution. After all, employment forms are some of the most sought-after types of data (documents). 

Background checks screen for issues in an applicant’s history, including any legal actions against them, and help you validate the accuracy of the applicant’s resume. Just as vital, be sure to follow EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) standards to adhere to nondiscriminatory hiring practices.

In terms of hiring vendors, it also pays to do your homework. An excellent place to start is the Better Business Bureau. They provide business reviews, ratings and reports detailing documented complaints against unethical business practices.

All around, these hiring precautions help protect you and your business from both internal fraud and legal risks.

Compute with Caution
The convenience of cyberspace can’t be beat. So I would never suggest foregoing email or online transactions. However, given the numerous online risks to information security, there are important steps you should take to protect your business information.

This could mean being as vigilant as limiting your business’ online banking to one computer that is not used for any other online activities—a suggestion from Internet security professional Brian Krebs. But, at a minimum, reducing your online risks must include educating yourself and all of your employees about the following secure computing practices:

  • Use strong passwords, unique to each account, that you don’t share and update every 90 days
  • Don’t conduct financial transactions on Wi-Fi
  • Don’t open emails or click on link from unfamiliar sources/senders—they could contain malicious links
  • Password protect or turn off computers whenever you step away from them

At an operation-level, it means you should:

  • Encrypt all stored data
  • Update your systems and software when security patches are released
  • Ensure your customers are aware of how you communicate with them
  • Institute a firewall and virus protection
  • Be mindful of phishing and malware

Consider posting these safe computing practices at each workstation as a helpful reminder.

Revamp Your FAQs
Most businesses are ready to answer the basics—and typically have a list of FAQs on their website. But what about more difficult questions? Among the many things a customer may ask, be prepared to respond to the following kinds of inquiries:

“What are you doing to prevent a data breach?”
“What will you do if a data breach does happen?”
“Why should I trust your third-party vendors?”
“Will my information be shared with third-parties?”
“How can I be sure an email I receive from you is legitimate?”

When you step beyond the standard FAQs to incorporate data security, you help build greater customer trust—which is especially fragile in recent history. Javelin Strategy & Research found that 60 percent of consumers compromised in a data breach lose significant trust in the company.

Rethinking your answers may also trigger you to make important updates to your data-security procedures—a boost to the overall success of your business.

Ready to take action to improve your business’ secure information practices in 2016? What will be your first step? We’d love to hear in the comment section below.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of EZShield Inc. alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other person or entity, including specifically any person or entity affiliated with the distribution or display of this content.

John is General Counsel and Chief Privacy Officer of Sontiq, the parent company of the EZShield and IdentityForce brands. He is a Certified Compliance...
Read more about John Burcham.

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