In business, there are all kinds of different things that you need to be mindful of, and cautious about. It’s certainly the case that you need to invest your money wisely, and if you’re operating in the wrong niche, that in and of itself can be lethal.
Perhaps one of the biggest pitfalls that a new entrepreneur can fall into, however, is getting in bed with the wrong business partners, or becoming a bit too embroiled in shady dealings, alongside unscrupulous companies.
Certain businesses are likely to be a boon to you, if you work with them. A company that is focused on protecting the rights of maritime workers, and that is run ethically by an upright and reputable individual, is unlikely to cause you trouble if you happen to be in partnership with them.
Other companies, on the other hand, can ruin you by association.
Here are a few reasons to be careful about the company you keep in business.
You may get exploited and dragged down directly
The first risk that you face when doing business with an unscrupulous company, is that they exploit and drag you down directly.
It’s not unheard of for devious business partners to use fairly naïve entrepreneurs as “fall guys” for schemes that are fundamentally based on misrepresentation, and exploitation of the customer. In such cases as these, you might find yourself being contractually listed as the responsible party when things go wrong.
Other forms of exploitation are even more blatant – and involve things like the direct theft of your unsecured intellectual property.
Your reputation can be permanently tarnished by working with an unscrupulous company
In business, reputation is a big deal, and if you sink yours by associating yourself with deeply disreputable companies, it’s entirely possible – if not even likely – that you will never be able to recover, professionally.
Plenty of people find their reputations completely destroyed, not necessarily because of something they did, but because they got too close to assorted sketchy companies, and were painted with the same brush when things eventually came to a head.
Avoid this situation altogether, because trying to do damage control can be a real pain.
By being inattentive, and complacent, you may end up in a position where you compromise your own moral code
This is actually the most important point in the list, although it comes last in the article.
Plenty of companies act in ways that will violate various people’s moral codes and standards. Of course, living by a moral code, and being forthright and accountable to your own values, is perhaps the most important thing in life.
Without character, you have nothing.
Just by being inattentive, and complacent, you may end up in a position where you absentmindedly or unknowingly compromise your own moral code, by your choice of collaborator.
It’s very hard to regain self-respect if you come to find that a company you are closely working with has ruined the lives of your joint customers or clients through their immoral or reckless actions.
These days you’re likely doing a lot of business and performing your tasks online. While the Internet can be an extremely beneficial way to run your company, it also comes with its downsides.
One cause for concern is being vulnerable to hackers and those who wish to sabotage your files and business. The following ideas are going to help you learn and understand what you can be doing better at your workplace to protect your small business online. This is one subject matter you want to take seriously and attend to if you wish to keep your company free from any unfortunate situations that will be difficult to clean up later on.
Educate Yourself and Be Current
One idea for keeping your small business protected online is to educate yourself on the topic. Be current about knowing what anti-virus programs to use, what backups to perform and when and getting to know your computers better so you can make sure they’re consistently running smoothly. The more you know about IT maintenance, the less of a chance there will be that your business will fall victim to hackers and wrongdoers. You put yourself at risk for negative consequences when you choose not to learn more about online security and what you can be doing better to improve it at your workplace.
Another great idea is to hire help and pay for the professionals to assist you on the matter such as using a Managed IT service. The reality is there’s a lot of information in this area you’re not going to know and will need assistance with if you want to make sure your business is protected online. You likely have other pressing matters and initiatives to attend to and can’t always be in the know about what’s new in the IT world. Invest in using a third party to help you make sure you’re doing all you can to keep yourselves safe on the Internet.
Use Strong Passwords
Never underestimate the advantages of using strong passwords to protect your computers and files. Keep your small business protected online by committing to using passwords that would make it difficult for someone else to hack into your information. Create ones that are challenging and complex, but also update your current passwords often so that it makes it harder for someone else to guess it or compromise your data.
Provide Best Practices to Your Employees
It’s not only your job to make sure your business is protected online, but also that of your employees. However, they may not be aware of how important this matter is or how to go about doing so unless you inform them. Provide best practices your employees can use to make sure their laptops and files are secure. For example, educate them about not clicking suspicious looking links, following through and complying with computer updates and who to ask or turn to should they have online security questions.
Cyber attacks spiked 164% in the first half of 2017, compared to the same period in 2016, entailing 918 disclosed breaches-according reports on broadcaster CNBC. Threats vary from sector to sector. Healthcare, for example, is more susceptible to crypto-locker ransomware like the infamous WannaCry.
Internet-connected consumer devices often fall prey to malware that shackles them to remotely controlled botnets such as Mirai. Varied though the threat may be, and staggering though these numbers are, the word disclosed highlights a central paradox: While transparency contributes to the overall fortification of cyber-security protocols and procedures, battening down the hatches presumably mitigates further financial risk.
Sure, a disclosure is immensely beneficial in terms of buttressing industrial safeguards, national and global security, and customer protection – not to mention mitigating the longer-term repercussions of an attack – but so too can disclosure exact lasting damage on a bottom line.
The nature, intent, and consequences of an attack notwithstanding, the way companies have responded to breaches is closely related to their designation: public or private. CFOs at public and private companies face different risks and pressures when it comes to cyber-security and disclosure, and exhibit divergent perspectives when it comes to preparation.
Broadly speaking, public company CFOs are more likely to outsource cyber-security to third-party firms, while private CFOs tend to invest in in-house IT teams. Regardless of who secures a company’s network, breaches are often known by CFOs before they are made public. By disclosing a breach, CFOs of publicly traded companies might trigger investor panic and sell-off, whereas private company CFOs risk irreparable harm to consumer and employee confidence.
On one hand, foreknowledge of pending disclosures can put unique pressure on public company executives, who often own considerable amounts of company stock. The ongoing federal investigation of three Equifax C-suite managers for insider trading arose due to alleged stock dumping prior to the revelation of the company’s catastrophic cyber-attack.
Equifax underscores the tension between a public corporation’s responsibility to its board, shareholders, and customers, and the financial implications of both the breach itself and legal requirements governing its reporting and remediation.
On the other, while private companies aren’t under the same legal obligations in terms of disclosure, and while the short-term consequences may be less impactful, these companies still face long-term pitfalls, such as lost trust and tarnished brands. Moreover, a medium-sized business may not have the capital or reserves to recover reputationally or financially after a major data breach the way a multinational corporation can.
Additionally, the moderate scale of many private companies sometimes instills a false sense of security. Middle-market businesses often assume they’ll be overlooked by attackers, whether due to a large number of similar companies, or a lack of enticing assets. After all, isn’t it the bigger fish that stockpile the type of data and info that hackers tend to target?
A lack of proper preparation only exacerbates the panic once an attack does occur. Attempting to deal with an attack on the down low can earn private enterprises a reputation as easy marks, and provoke subsequent attacks. Further, if the rearguard strategy backfires, or is exposed by the press, this can amplify the damage to a company’s brand and leadership, not to mention potential legal consequences if a court can prove negligence.
In terms of the bigger picture, the lack of reliable data pertaining to attacks on private companies leads to lopsided analysis regarding the multifaceted aims and motives driving these attacks, resulting in a sort of half-finished portrait of the threat landscape.
While cybersecurity prevention could be vastly improved by greater information sharing, some surveys of CSOs indicate that only one in seven attacks are reported to authorities. Alas, as it stands, adequate event modeling, and risk and security assessments, are being stymied by a lack of shared intel on private company breaches, effectively hampering the development of comprehensive prevention and management strategies.
This lack has precipitated the introduction of numerous cyber-security regulations around the world, and though the regulatory ecosystem is in a state of flux, the global trend is invariably toward greater transparency. CNBC notes that “governments around the world are introducing legislation which will force more companies to disclose data breaches,” a reach that already extends to private enterprises.
Both private and public companies are compelled to comply with local, national and global disclosure regulations, including Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), and the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
The GDPR, which regulates the collection and storage of customer information and data, and can levy fines of up to €20 million, requires that private companies disclose if they have a footprint in Europe, or otherwise handle the information of European citizens.
In the US, Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) indexes the responsibilities of both public and private companies, including rules pertaining to compliance with federal prosecutors, and criminal penalties. Further, HIPAA governs how any company, public or private, handles personal health information.
Though public companies, traditionally, may have shouldered an inordinate amount of the fallout from disclosure, this has left them better readied for the implementation of legislation designed to enforce transparency. Even more advantageous, public companies now have hard-won practice mitigating the financial risks and ramifications resulting from disclosure.
Private companies, by contrast, are less aware and agile in terms of prevention and response; protecting their brand, for example, or proactively communicating with clients. Simply put, having been in battle, public CFOs are stepping up and getting more involved with cyber-security, while private CFOs, hovering on the sidelines, appear far more circumspect.
Make no mistake: this problem is only getting worse. The situation could improve rapidly if execs from companies of all stripes and sizes shared details of attacks with the larger corporate community.
Whether you are a CFO of an international, publicly-traded conglomerate, or a mid-sized regional business, it is well within your portfolio to do everything possible to properly prepare for the threat. Engage with the board, secure funding for proper security controls, and encourage leadership to be forthcoming when not if, your company’s cyber attack occurs.
About the Author
Andrew Douthwaite has over 17 years of technology experience joining VirtualArmour in 2007 as a senior engineer. Now as Chief Technology Officer, Andrew focuses on leading growth in the managed security services business and ensuring VirtualArmour is a thought leader in the security industry.
More people than ever are using cloud platforms for both business and personal use, and the numbers are set to continue growing. Consider how recently it used to be that photos and documents had to be emailed or sent over via a USB flash drive. Nowadays, large volumes of data can be shared quickly and easily, making cloud platforms one of the most essential priorities for businesses and individuals. Now that so many people use cloud technology, the onus has shifted to more security awareness. All online processes are vulnerable to risk, and cloud technologies seem especially vulnerable. If you’re concerned about your levels of security when using cloud platforms, here’s what you need to know.
Access Issues: Your Priority
One of the biggest benefits of the cloud is that you can access your data from any device and from anywhere in the world. While this is very convenient, it also means that hackers have similar access options. It’s vital to remember that although you own the data that you upload to the cloud, you do not own the security infrastructure. Being more responsible for your data is the key to better online security, and if you’re using a cloud platform then you should consider the following strategies to boost your own security:
- Know what they do: If you haven’t read your user agreement then how do you know how those platforms are planning to protect you? It may take some time, but reading the user agreement will help you to understand how cloud platforms work and how they plan your security. McAfee has some in-depth assessment guides, so if you’re asking ‘what is cloud security’ then this could help you understand just how in-depth the security measures that they use can be.
- Password Protection: Everyone knows that they need stronger password management. No matter how many times you read and ignore this piece of advice, it remains as true as ever. Never use the same password on multiple platforms, and consider making use of a password management system to give your online security a serious boost.
- Essential Encryption: This is by far the most effective way of protecting yourself and your data. You can encrypt your cloud data by using software that necessitates an additional password before full access is granted. That way, even if hackers do get into your system, they cannot gain access to the encrypted data. This is essential for more sensitive information. Some cloud providers offer encrypted services as part of their package, and this could be the key trend to watch in the future.
Whatever you use the cloud for, be it personal photos or business documents, keeping your data safe should be a high priority. Understand what cloud providers are doing to protect you, and improve your own personal online security. Don’t assume that hackers only target large corporations. Both small businesses and private individuals are common targets, and you will be able to relax more knowing that your cloud security is fully optimized and as strong as it can possibly be.