As the number of data breaches involving smaller businesses continues to grow1, a new survey by The Hartford finds that 85 percent of small business owners believe a data breach is unlikely, and many are not implementing simple security measures to help protect their customer or employee data.
"Most of the business owners surveyed believe they are not at risk, when in fact smaller businesses are increasingly being targeted," said Lynn LaGram, assistant vice president of small commercial underwriting at The Hartford. "As cyber criminals set their sights on smaller firms, it is important for business owners to take proactive measures to protect data and minimize the likelihood of a breach."
The Hartford Small Business Data Protection Survey found that business owners varied in their adoption of eight data protection "best practices" to help reduce a business's risk of a breach:
1. Lock and secure sensitive customer, patient or employee data - 48 percent
2. Restrict employee access to sensitive data - 79 percent
3. Shred and securely dispose of customer, patient or employee data - 53 percent
4. Use password protection and data encryption - 48 percent
6. Update systems and software on a regular basis - 47 percent
7. Use firewalls to control access and lock-out hackers - 48 percent
8. Ensure that remote access to their company's network is secure - 41 percent
The Hartford survey also found that nearly two-thirds of business owners (61 percent) believe a data breach violates trust and would jeopardize their relationships with customers, patients and employees. More than a third (38 percent) say they have a more negative opinion of companies that have recently experienced a breach, based on the companies' handling of the breach.
About a third of business owners (34 percent) say they would have difficulty complying with government notification requirements, and nearly half (47 percent) acknowledge it would be impossible for a small business to completely safeguard customer, patient or employee data.
"Given the potential business and reputational costs of a data breach, it's also important for business owners to have insurance in place to help them respond and recover quickly and effectively in the event of a breach," said LaGram.
The Hartford offers information and resources for small businesses about data breach protection at www.hartforddatabreach.com.
1 Verizon 2012 Data Breach Investigations Report, Table 2: "Organizational size by number of breaches (number of employees)"