It’s a Risky World Out There: Protect Yourself from Data Breach

How often do we turn on the TV and see horror stories of businesses ending up in court and a judge orders the company to pay a settlement, legal fees or other court costs? It can be a devastating financial blow to any business. It can also be devastating to consumers whose data has been exposed and is being used on the black market.

To visualize the intensity and magnitude of the data breach problem, take a look at the World’s Biggest Data Breaches.  It’s overwhelming when grasping the number of people affected by this.

So what can we do?

As consumers, we all should be cautious about our personal information. Here are three things we can do to help us monitor out financial health:

  1. Get a copy of your credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com. It includes information from the big three credit bureaus. Everyone has a free, no-frills way to follow their credit movements. The website gives you the raw data related to your credit card and loan payments, but does not alert you to any potential errors. It’s up to you to go year-by-year, month-by-month and payment-by-payment to see if there are any possible mistakes or issues.
  2. Sign up for identity theft monitoring service. No credit or identity watchdog service can actually prevent anyone from becoming a victim of a cyber security theft a-la-Equifax, but it can help you become aware of security compromises so you can act on them instantly and minimize damages. MAR members have access to a discounted monitoring service via Identity Guard.
  3. Get your FICO score. You can use MYFICO for a fee. Also, many credit card companies offer your FICO score at no extra cost. MYFICO follows your daily credit transactions and will alert you if there are any suspicious changes. You can also set up alerts that warn you of questionable activity.

As business owners, we need to be extremely careful handling consumer personal information. Here are few steps to follow to keep their personal information safe:

  1. Make sure you know what personal information you have in your files and on your computers. Keep track of all computers, laptops, mobile devices, flash drives, disks, digital copiers, and other equipment to find out where your company stores sensitive data.
  2. Keep only what you need for your business. Avoid social security numbers, only if needed by law and don’t keep customer credit card information unless you have a business need for it.
  3. Protect the information that you keep. Make sure you have appropriate physical security and electronic security including firewalls, wireless and secure access in place.
  4. Create a plan for responding to security incidents and finally,
  5. Purchase a Data Breach and Cyber Liability Insurance, which can help your business survive small or large data breach and cover any litigation  costs and other expenses related to data breach.