We often hear excruciating details about huge data breaches affecting large corporations like Equifax, Facebook, and Target, that chuck out millions of dollars off them. The news circulation about these data breaches covers up the other side of the story; the risk of data breaches to small businesses.
A data breach is the release of private information to an untrusted environment either intentionally or unintentionally. Be it large corporations or small businesses, data breaches can have severe consequences for both.
Take the following facts into consideration:
- According to Accenture, 43% of data breaches are aimed at small businesses. However, only 14% of those businesses are prepared to defend themselves from these data breaches.
- According to insurance carrier Hiscox, small businesses pay $200,000 on average because of data breaches.
- Within the last year, more than half of small businesses suffered a breach.
- According to the Zogby Analytics survey, out of 1008 small businesses that suffered a data breach, 10% of them went out of business. Additionally, 25% filed for bankruptcy and 37% suffered a financial loss.
Small businesses often assume that they are too small to be targeted with data braches. However, small businesses need to recognize that the consequences of data breaches to them can be huge, causing them to shutter.
Short term consequences of data breaches on small businesses
The short term consequences of a data breach become clear immediately and are every bit damaging to small businesses. In the wake of a data breach the immediate effects on an organization are:
A data breach leads to exorbitant fines and penalties from regulatory agencies. The direct fines can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
The business which falls victim to the data breach is responsible for performing the forensic investigation to determine the cause of the breach. These investigations can surely identify the cause of the breach, but can usually be extremely costly for small businesses.
Future costs of security
After being affected by a breach, businesses mandatorily have to incur the costs related to credit monitoring for customers whose data was compromised. The costs associated with card replacement, identity theft repair, and additional compliance requirements can also prove to be a huge setback for small businesses.
Long term consequences of data breaches on small businesses
The short term consequences of a data breach can already have financial setbacks for small businesses. However, it is safe to state that the long term effects can be even more troublesome.
Loss of customer trust
The biggest and the worst consequence of data breach is the loss of customer trust. Customers share their sensitive information with businesses, assuming that proper security measures are put into place to protect their data. According to a 2017 PwC study, 92% of customers agree that companies must protect their data at all costs. When a data breach occurs, it immediately causes the loss of customer trust, thus leading to diminished brand integrity and tarnished reputations.
Loss of other customers
Once customer trust is diminished, small businesses start to lose their other customers or potential customers.
Loss of trust and customer eventually means that most businesses are unable to get out of the losses and the defamation they face. Add to that the financial setback caused due to the breach, and it is evident that smaller organizations go out of businesses owing to these breaches.
Strategies for small businesses to prevent data breaches
Prevention is always better than cure. Hence, it always makes sense to do the basics, i.e. use stronger passwords, create a culture of security, train employees with PowerPoint presentations, and create a strong security system. The question here is, is it enough?
You might put the best security practices into place, but the fact is that your employees are your weakest link. They can intentionally or unintentionally leak data to outer parties, thus leading to a data breach that you cannot deal with.
Hence, it always makes sense to deploy solutions that can proactively prevent your data from being breached. Gamma can prove to be your best bet against data breaches that can take place because of your internal mail, communication channels, or version control systems.
Small businesses often use email solutions like Gmail and Outlook. At times, people inside the organization can accidentally or intentionally send sensitive data and company data to other people. To keep this in check, Gamma integrates with Gmail and Outlook to prevent data breaches from taking place.
Why secure mail?
Using financial data like bank account details in email violates banking regulations like PCI, NACHA, etc. Accidental sharing of sensitive and confidential documents via mail is the most common form of a data breach. Additionally, employees usually tend to respond to CEO Impersonation (Spear Phishing) leading to financial and credential loss. Hence, it is absolutely important to reduce human error by securing and monitoring email solutions like Gmail and Outlook.
How to do it?
Gamma runs Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) algorithms to automatically discover and tag sensitive data. Its automated technology controls ensure continuous compliance with Gmail/ Outlook, and its continuous training helps build a culture of security among employees. Hence, Gamma ensures safer email communication by proactively enforcing the organization’s security policies.
Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Mattermost are other ways of faster communication between employees in a small business. Similar to emails, people can send sensitive information to each other either accidentally or intentionally via chat. Hence monitoring and securing communication channels is another important strategy to prevent data breaches.
Why secure communication channels?
Sharing credentials on Slack, Teams, or Mattermost is extremely convenient and an attacker can harvest these credentials in one go. Since all people in an organization usually prefer chatting over emails, these applications are where most of your company’s secret data lives. Apart from that, it is very easy for hackers to install bots on channels, making it easier to extract all the data inside that channel.
Additionally, applications like Github, Dropbox, and Box easily integrate into these communication channels. This poses more risk as there are no security checks in place when sharing code or data. Hence, it is absolutely mandatory to secure communication channels in order to reduce the chances of a full-fledged data breach.
How to do it?
Gamma uses AI and ML to identify sensitive data, files, and credentials. It helps put automated technology controls in place. Gamma also coaches employees when they make a mistake, thus ensuring that those mistakes are not repeated. Gamma seamlessly integrates with privacy regulations like PCI, HIPAA, and GDPR and provides real-time insights about security violations to keep data breaches at bay.
Version Control Systems
Version Control Systems store code, i.e. your company’s most important asset. Implementing strategies to secure a version control system is another strategy for small businesses to tackle the possibility of data breaches, and to prevent themselves from being the next victim.
Why secure Version Control Systems?
The source code of a company is its most valuable Intellectual Property, which if leaked can cause havoc in the organization. Files checked into Github might not just contain code, but can contain login credentials, tokens, SSN, credit cards, and customer information that an attacker can access with ease. Additionally, when developers use personal email to access Github, it leaves them vulnerable because of a wide-open attack surface.
How to do it?
Gamma’s AI and ML capabilities can identify credentials, sensitive data, and sensitive files in Github repositories with ease. You can also integrate automated technology controls that ensure continuous compliance with Github.
With Gamma, you can train and coach employees to prevent them from making mistakes. You can also use Gamma to enforce organizational security policies on Github, thus making your organizational architecture a secure haven.
Needless to state, it is better to invest in a solution like Gamma to prevent data breaches from taking place within an organization. Your employees can be your weakest link, but they are also what makes your organization a complete unit. So, instead of treating them as weak links, make sure that you put the best security practices into place, and invest in a solution like Gamma to ensure that the consequences of a breach are something you never have to talk about.