Simple Steps Businesses Can Take to Protect Themselves from Cyber Crime
Susan Sarna, Vice President of Marketing and Product Management for EMBARQ Business
When the World Wide Web launched almost 20 years ago, it generated a lot of buzz about how it would revolutionize the way we do business, but many questioned whether these projections were fact or just grand words.
Today, few can argue that the Internet has transformed business operations. For example, it has changed the way we share information, talk to employees, advertise jobs and sell services and merchandise to customers. It has opened the door to resources from all over the word. It has become such an essential tool for business success that few can afford not to have a Web presence.
But the Internet has done more than change the way we work; it changed the way criminals commit crimes. Cyber criminals view the Internet as a tool they can use to launch daily cyber attacks such as computer viruses, worms, spam, phishing and identity theft, and the Web presence that businesses need to be successful is what makes them vulnerable to these attacks.
Businesses go to great lengths to protect themselves and their customers from traditional criminals. They put locks on their doors, install security systems and cameras, perform background checks on potential employees, shred private documents and even hire security guards. But if they are not taking the appropriate steps to protect themselves from cyber crime, all of these other measures could be in vain. Criminals today do not have to step foot in a business or even the city, state or country in which it is located to steal information or damage equipment.
The results of the 2005 FBI Computer Crime Survey found that 90 percent of the 2,000 public and private organizations questioned had experienced computer security incidents in a year’s time, and 20 percent indicated they had experienced 20 or more attacks. Viruses and spyware were the most common types of attacks. Viruses and worms were the most costly. They accounted for $12 million of the $32 million in total losses that were incurred by more than 64 percent of respondents. The sources of the attacks came from 36 different countries.
Being a victim of cyber crime can cost a business more than just the cost of repairs; it can also cost them customers. A survey by Tabulus Inc. found that 82 percent of respondents would warn others not to do business with companies that have been the victims of a security breach. The same percentage of respondents also said that companies that have never had a security breach are “more trustworthy” (Cards and Payments, 2007).
At EMBARQ, we found that at least half of all businesses feel that security of their data is one of the most pressing issues they face. Despite the level of importance businesses place on security, a 2006 survey by Yankee Group found that many smaller organizations have no or only minimal safeguards in place to address these concerns.
This is partially because security can be an especially complex issue for small businesses that often can not afford dedicated IT mangers. This means there are a lot of organizations struggling to figure out what they need to do to protect themselves as well as their customers.
While securing your business from cyber criminals can seem like an overwhelming task, there are some simple steps you can take to decrease the likelihood that your business will become the next victim.
- Make sure you install and update security software — It should come equipped with anti-virus, anti-phishing, anti-spyware and intrusion prevention software to keep out malicious people and programs. The security software also should come with backup and restore ability so that you can recover any information you might lose.
- Do not open unknown e-mails, visit unknown Web sites or click on suspicious links or attachments — If you are even slightly unsure about a link or attachment, do not open it. It is not worth the risk to your business or your customers.
- Create smart passwords — All of your passwords should be at least eight characters long and should incorporate both letters and numbers. Use different passwords for each account, and change them regularly. Do not share your passwords or write them down where other people could access them.
- Educate employees — The biggest risk to the security of a business can be an employee who does not have a basic understanding of cyber security. Implement regular training sessions for employees so that they become familiar with security measures they can take.
- Create a contingency plan — You should have a contingency plan prepared in case your business becomes the victim of a cyber attack.
- Simplify the Process — Your time is money, so work with a provider that offers a full portfolio of security options instead of purchasing products and services separately from different vendors.