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Risk

12/9/2009
12:29 PM
Fredric Paul
Fredric Paul
Commentary
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5 Tips To Help SMBs Stop Identity Theft

Many SMBs like to think identity theft is someone else's problem. Sure, consumers have to worry about it, and so do large corporations that collect information on millions of customers. But not smaller companies, right? After all, who'd bother targeting a run-of-the-mill SMB?

Many SMBs like to think identity theft is someone else's problem. Sure, consumers have to worry about it, and so do large corporations that collect information on millions of customers. But not smaller companies, right? After all, who'd bother targeting a run-of-the-mill SMB?Well, it turns out that you don't even have to be targeted to be vulnerable -- in a couple of different ways. First of all, losing a laptop or misplacing a thumb drive can dump sensitive data into the hands of folks who might misuse it. Secondly, consumers want to feel safe buying from your company, and many will go elsewhere if you can't give them confidence that their data is secure. The costs can add up.

According to Scott Mitic, CEO of TrustedID, which specializes in helping companies avoid identity theft attacks, The Center for Identity Management & Information Protection tracked 50% of the identity theft cases to information lost by a business. And the Identity Theft Resource Center estimates that since 2007, identity theft has cost businesses $49 billion.

So what can your business do about it? Mitic offers 5 tips:

1. Collect only information you need from your customers. The more information you store, the higher your storage costs, the more information you can lose, and the your greater potential liability.

2. Invest in software and hardware to protect your customers' data. There are a number of industry best practices for secure data storage and privacy. Online businesses should create a Privacy Policy that details how the company collects, stores, secures, and shares data. Make sure that customers know about the policy.

3. Limit access to sensitive information. Only employees who have a valid business reason should be able to access that data. And no matter how trustworthy you consider your workers, you may want to err on the side of caution and require background checks and even drug tests.

4. Secure your physical workplace. Identity thieves can steal information directly from offices, so it's important to routinely lock mailboxes, desks, file cabinets, computers... anything that might contain valuable information. At the very least, you should require all office doors to be locked every night, and you might want to consider installing video cameras to monitor nighttime activity.

5. Properly dispose of information when you no longer need it. Use a cross-cut shredder on all paper documents -- even ones you don't think are sensitive. Make sure electronic files are completely destroyed -- simply deleting them in Windows is nowhere near good enough. Fortunately, there are plenty of industrial-strength tools to fully destroy electronic files. If your company deals with of large amounts of sensitive information, consider hiring a trustworthy outside company to do handle it for you.

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