The recent Target debacle in which a reported 40 million debit and credit card accounts were compromised has highlighted more than ever the need for businesses to exercise extreme precautions and measures when it comes to protecting private information. We live in an age of Big Data in which private information has never been more accessible. With more and more data being exchanged, uploaded, downloaded, and produced it has never been easier for hackers to intercept and steal sensitive information.
From incidents like the Target security breach and other retail breaches what has become apparent is that hackers are increasingly operating like businesses. “What we’ve seen in the last 10 years is a professionalism increase in the hacker community,” says Hugh Thompson, senior vice president and chief security strategist at Blue Coat, a security company whose technology is used by 86% of Fortune 500 companies. He goes on to point out that data hackers are looking at return on investment, just like a business, by asking a simple question: “Where do I break into to get the maximum yield of monetizeable data?” For many hackers the most obvious target is the retail industry where billions of transactions occurr annually creating enormous amounts of consumer data that can be exploited.
If there is a silver lining to the Target security breach, it’s that the incident has spurred retailers, banks, credit card companies, and other commercial businesses to focus intensively on implementing stronger security measures across the board. Many banks have recently issued new debit and credit cards to their customers as an extra level of precaution. And businesses in increasing numbers are also issuing website alerts and notes to indicate increased vigilance around security and data protection.
No business, however large their infrastructure and resources, is completely immune from security breaches. Apple has recently acknowledged a security vulnerability that allows hackers to intercept data from an iPhone while its connected to a public wi-fi network.
The implications here for small businesses should be all too obvious. After all, if a tech giant like Apple is vulnerable to security breaches, small business owners and leaders should be especially vigilant and concerned about vulnerabilities. Indeed, market signs are showing that companies of all sizes are spending more on security such as spam filtering, website security, data encryption, and anti-virus protection. Gartner estimates 8.4% annual growth with total spending on security infrastructures expected to reach $86 billion by 2016, up from $56 billion in 2011.
So the important question is what practical steps can small businesses take right now to ensure that their infrastructure has minimal vulnerabilities against cybercriminals and hackers. Throughout the rest of this series, we’ll take a look at 3 sets of strategies that small business leaders should take to protect their financial and data assets from exploitation and theft.
Stay tuned in Part 2 where we’ll look at the first level of defense that every business should take to protect against security vulnerabilities.