For the millions of consumers who had their information exposed as a byproduct of the now infamous Equifax data breach, data security is at the top of everyone’s minds. But the implications for businesses, especially small businesses, should not be underestimated. Quite simply, the Equifax data breach could impact your business in ways you hadn’t even thought of yet.
How Businesses are Affected by the Equifax Data Breach
As of now, it is not believed that business information was exposed during the Equifax data breach — the company is claiming that only individuals are affected.
How individual breaches hurt businesses
Even if the Equifax data breach did not expose any businesses, personal information exposed during the Equifax data breach will also have a profound effect on small businesses. Many entrepreneurs rely on lines of credit to purchase supplies, inventory and even sometimes to make payroll. And while this is a vital option for many, for small businesses, the available lines of credit very often rely heavily on the personal credit of the business owners.
If you are unsure, check to see if you are one of those affected by the Equifax data breach — and be sure you are using the official site. Someone created an imitation last month that was unknowingly sent out by Equifax themselves via social media (irony much?). Select the “Am I Impacted?” option to get started. If personal information is exposed and then used by criminals to open up fraudulent accounts, that business may find themselves subject to higher interest rates or even outright rejections of loans, forcing them to make some tough choices about their organization.
Business data breaches
The Equifax data breach also gives us an important reminder of the vulnerability of much of our data. When you are running a small business, your time is a valuable and finite asset that is almost always demanded in multiple places at once. It is no wonder, then, that small business owners and managers have a tendency to backburner the implementation and updates to their data security so necessary to the overall well being of the company. Perhaps that is why, according to one recent survey, it is estimated that a full 61 percent of the victims of breaches in 2016 were small businesses employing fewer than 1,000 people (although another recent survey found that 85 percent of small business owners do not think that they are at risk). Once the system is breached, cybercriminals can create a world of hurt for businesses in a variety of ways, from ripping off credit card information or other sensitive consumer or employee data to infesting computers with harmful malware or performing fraudulent transactions.
Tips for businesses to secure their data
In general, you will want to be sure that all of your company’s sensitive information is handled professionals and in a secure manner. It may be appropriate to consult with someone who can help you identify which information you have that could be vulnerable.
Much of this is dependent on your type of business and how you operate. However, all businesses who conduct payroll must prioritize the security of that system. Whether your payroll happens in house or is outsourced elsewhere, use the Equifax data breach as a catalyst to raise the question about your data security so that you can reassure employees and partners that their information and the business’ information is safe.
Next, be sure employees are able to spot faulty links and suspicious emails. Have a policy in place to ensure that employees don’t leave computers unattended, that they frequently change passwords and that they install updates as needed to their machines. Getting these types of practices in place will only become more important as technology becomes increasingly important to businesses.
Everyone should consider getting their tax returns done as early as possible — even if it means enlisting the help of a professional — because some criminals have been using tax ID numbers to file fraudulent claims and collect refunds. If it turns out that you have already fallen victim and your tax return has been filed fraudulently, file the appropriate forms with the Internal Revenue Service as soon as possible.
Get Professional Assistance from PayTech
Are you worried that some element of your business is vulnerable to a data breach? Call us today for a free consultation. While we are not a security firm, per se, we handle sensitive information for all of our clients across different industries and the integrity of that data is always our priority. We offer safe, efficient solutions to many integral business functions to keep payroll, account and tax return information completely secure. Additionally, we may be able to offer suggestions for other areas of your business and help you find solutions so that you can have the peace of mind knowing that if something like the Equifax data breach happens to businesses, your organization will be well prepared.