Between the daily calls about your car’s extended warranty and credit card fraud emails from a bank you’ve never heard of, scammers and hackers are more active than ever with one sinister and synonymous goal in mind: to steal your information.
“One hit can take everything down,” said Carole Cross, founder and CEO of Mobile Marketing. “The impact can cause customer information or credit card information to be leaked and it can even result in a lawsuit if information is stolen. It’s a lot easier to attempt to protect hackers from getting in than trying to get them out once there has been a breach.”
When it comes to protecting your business from the bad guys, sometimes it can be overwhelming. That’s why it’s critical, experts say, to back up your data on a regular basis in the (inevitable) event of a security breach. “That’s probably the best thing that almost anyone can do right away,” said Chad Ogden, CEO of QFloors. Not just backups, but “disconnected” backups, he stressed. “The simplest form of that is if you make a backup onto an external hard drive or a thumb drive and then unplug it from the computer.”
Once any and all personal/important information is stored away, the next thing to do—although it sounds obvious—would be to keep your passwords hidden and complex.
“This seems trite because it has been around for 25 years, but it remains a problem, so we continue to remind people,” said Greg Beaudoin, vice president of operations and CIO of Mobile Marketing. “The most secure passwords are complex, containing a mix of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and special characters. They’re harder to remember, which prompts people to write them down.”
Be on the lookout
Both Beaudoin and Ogden suggested educating your employees on what to look out for in phishing email scams and to instruct them not to click on any links or attachments in emails unless they are from a trusted, familiar source. (One popular verification technique is to hover your cursor over the incoming e-mail address to confirm its authenticity.) “One of the biggest things hackers do is imitate people you know and put links or attachments in those emails and make them sound convincing,” Ogden explained. “And once you click on it, it lets them in.”
Mobile Marketing takes the guesswork out of deciphering who’s who by limiting who has access to its software, services and social media—and suggests you do, too. “Our IT department serves as a gatekeeper to prevent people from having too much access to our own systems and this is the benefit of retailers having IT locally, as well,” Cross said. “We also keep all our software, hardware and systems current with the latest software, whether that’s services we provide our clients or for our internal use.”
Beaudoin echoed those sentiments, stressing the importance and benefits of having a local IT person available. He explains how vital it is for retailers to have someone who can not only come into the building to fix software issues and keep systems up to date but to also ensure the company is not exposed to potential cyberattacks. Beaudoin also advised keeping web browsers updated as many upgrades contain security patches that provide extra layers of protection.
Lastly, strong firewalls and antivirus software can go a long way in keeping systems protected—as a last resort. While many people feel this is a first line of defense, QFloors’ Ogden expressed that it’s actually the furthest item down the list when building up a line of defense. While it is important, he said routine backups and educating your employees are the most important.
“Having gone through it, it has given us a perspective on how serious this is,” Ogden shared. Last year, the company experienced a breach whereby hackers infiltrated its systems, poking around in its networks for several days. Thankfully, the company discovered the breach in time, and it was able to recover quickly without suffering permanent damage to its systems or databases. “It makes me nervous still…because I know any day I could get that same phone call again, which is not a good phone call. We’ll do anything we can to help somebody else prevent this from happening or help them recover quickly.”