There have been several data breaches in the news recently, and they should incite fear in your C-suite. Don’t think that your business is immune to a data breach, because it isn’t. Since this could happen to your business – no matter its size – here are some important security lessons.
First, be up front with your customers if and when a breach happens. Don’t sugarcoat the situation. Don’t tell employees and stockholders one story vs. a different story to customers and the media. Be as transparent as possible, and you may still have customers the day after a breach happens. Also, provide a customer service team to handle questions and complaints. Don’t disconnect your customer service number or online chat. Don’t wait weeks or months to inform your customers about a breach.
Second, immediately assemble your security team to dissect the why’s and how’s of the breach. Train employees throughout the company who don’t work in security so that they understand the importance of being proactive when it comes to protecting sensitive corporate data. Your security team can only be effective if all employees understand security.
Third, choose customer-facing personnel carefully. Customers will, without a doubt, have questions resulting from the breach, and they deserve knowledgeable personnel to handle their questions.
Fourth, depending on the extent of your breach, you may want to offer your customers free credit monitoring service subscriptions for specific lengths of time.
Fifth, consider if a product or service discount would be welcomed by customers. Will your customers appreciate a discount, or will they think it’s too little too late?
But above all, don’t think that if you have a data breach, no one will find out. There’s a website just for this purpose. The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse features a Chronology of Data Breaches and is updated on a regular basis – sometimes daily. The site’s tagline is “Empowering Consumers. Protecting Privacy.” Once you take a look, you’ll think of breaches differently. Here’s the link:
There’s no doubt that a security breach can have a long-lasting impact on your organization, but your response time and quality of response can determine if your customers remain customers or choose your competitors.
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This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.