What would be the fallout if cyber-criminals got their hands on your most personal company and customer information?

For many small business owners, that is a road they hope to never have to cross.

With all that companies stand to lose from even one incident of identity theft, it is imperative that they have in place a sound security system, one which is nothing short of foolproof.

As the news has shown in recent years, data breaches have targeted not only smaller companies, but some of the best-known brands on the market. As a result, many employers have had to go about rethinking how they can prevent becoming the next victim.

So, would even one incident of identity theft put you out of business?

Educate Yourself and Your Employees

In order to keep cyber-criminals as far away as possible, you must start with a solid plan.

That plan must encompass not only how to keep them away, but also what to do by chance if they manage to work their way through into your computer system. What safety net or nets do you have in place that will allow you to not only recover quickly from such an attack, but keep the bulk of your customers from up and leaving you?

Instead of you facing the burden of looking at countless programs on the market, turn to a company that reviews various identity theft protection programs, allowing you to determine which one is best suited for your brand.

From there, the law of commonsense is in practice (though it should be that way 24/7/365).

With that being the case, check to see if your small business is making these two practices a priority:

  1. Employee education – How often do you educate your employees on the importance of not divulging sensitive company or customer information online? For example, you run a real estate business and two employees are having a chat on their personal Facebook accounts during a lunch break. One of the employees’ mentions that a certain home that is unoccupied just sold for X amount of dollars, along with the fact the new owner won’t be moving in for at least 30 days. While the buyer’s name is not mentioned, the fact that the home is unoccupied (but fully furnished) is. In the event a cyber-criminal either has regular access to the Facebook accounts (they’re public and not locked) or they have broken into the accounts, they now know that the home is sitting empty and will be for another month. The cyber-criminal then passes that information on to someone who has a knack for breaking into unoccupied homes. If someone does then break into the residence, it could prove troublesome for a number of people, including your business. Personal chatter like that should not be done over the Internet, especially when one can’t say with 100 percent certainty that they have a secure connection;
  2. Safety away from the office – Even though many smaller businesses do not have the travel schedules that the bigger ones have, there are still smaller companies sending employees out to trade shows, networking events etc. When this happens, it can include an overnight stay of one or more nights. As a result, the employee is likely to use his or her laptop for company business. Not knowing if your hotel or motel of choice has a 100 percent secure connection could potentially put sensitive company and customer information at risk. You’d be better served using a mobile device that you know is secure to transmit any sensitive information, saving for the laptop for normal work tasks like putting together a Microsoft Word .doc or the like.

While there are other factors that go into securing your Internet needs as a small business owner, educated employees and protecting your interests when away from the office are both critical.

Remember, just one slip-up could open the door for a cyber-criminal to cause your small business a world of hurt.

Unlike some of the bigger companies, many small businesses have less of a margin for making critical errors.

About the Author: Dave Thomas covers small business topics on the web.