As a CEO, the worst thing you can experience is the theft or destruction of the property and ideas that you have worked so hard to create.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where nothing is certain and unsavory characters can cause havoc on our companies, and while you can’t change the culture of the world, you can take certain steps to ensure the safety of your investment.
To assist, we have composed a guide that can help you to understand potential threats, including theft, cybercrime, physical damage, lawsuits, and more, and provides tips for how you can be proactive and keep your company out of harm’s way.
Issues for Store Fronts
If you own a physical storefront, then you need to consider the possibility of sustaining property damage either from criminals or the natural elements. To prevent this possibility, start with an alarm system that comes equipped with cameras, motion sensors, and alarms. To be notified if a break-in occurs, you should have your alarm system connected directly to your smartphone so you can take immediate action or inform the authorities.
While the appearance of security cameras around the establishment in itself will be a deterrent to criminals, you should make it a point to inspect your cameras and your recording software at least once per month to ensure that the cameras are always filming and that you can review and save the footage. Doing so will be essential in the case that you need to provide the video to the police or to the insurance company to get reimbursement.
If the cameras do not deter an intruder, then you will want to secure your investment in other ways to reduce the risk of greater casualty. Start by installing high-security deadbolts on all doors which are made of reinforced steel so even a battering ram would have trouble gaining access. You should also keep your most valuable merchandise in locked cabinets, and if possible, store those items out of sight during your closing hours, so the bad guys don’t get any ideas.
Keep in mind that not all physical destruction can occur by human means. If your business is in a state where dangerous storms or other weather phenomena exist, then you will want to take extra precautions. Managers should always keep their eyes on the news, and if there are reports of an incoming storm, they should immediately prepare for the worst.
In the case of rain or severe lightning and thunderstorms, you should secure all outdoor products and furniture, unplug all unnecessary devices, and be aware of the possibility of flooding. If you work in an area where frequent power outages and long-lasting storms are common, make sure to keep emergency items in the store, including a first-aid kit, flashlights, an emergency generator, and anything else that you need to resume your work once the storm passes.
Of course, you should also have up-to-date insurance coverage. Check your policy yearly to ensure that you are protected against the most common weather issues in your area.
Intellectual Property Theft
Next, you need to consider the intangible items that you can’t touch or feel but are instrumental to the success of your business. A common threat that many don’t take seriously is the potential for intellectual property theft of the brilliant ideas that separate your organization from your competitors. Intellectual property can be stolen in many ways, whether that is a computer hacker or an internal leak from an angry employee, so preventive strategies are necessary.
Whenever your organization creates a new idea that is instrumental to your success, you need to trademark that idea as soon as possible with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office so you have a paper trail that you can reference later in the case that you need to bring the situation to court. There are also other ways to protect your ideas, including with a copyright or a patent, but whatever it is, you must not dawdle because it only takes a moment for that information to be stolen.
If you do notice that your ideas are at risk by an outside entity, then you need to take immediate action by creating a list that details how the idea came about, who had access to the information, where it was stored, and ways it could have been stolen. Then, speak to a lawyer who may be able to either force the other party to cease and desist.
As mentioned, one of the reasons that your ideas could be stolen is because a cybercriminal was able to break into your system and take it. Unfortunately, in addition to your precious ideas, other private employee information and customer data can be easily taken by hackers, and if news of a data breach spreads, then your company could be in big trouble.
If you are hacked, you will need to spend a lot of time and money in an attempt to fix the mess, which could include rebuilding your reputation, fixing any existing vulnerabilities, and hiring a cybersecurity expert who can properly structure your systems and strengthen them for the future. In the end, the costs could reach millions of dollars, and for smaller companies, that price may be too much to pay.
The fact is that any piece of customer data can be used for malicious means. Credit card and social security numbers can be used to take out fraudulent loans, email addresses can be used to create phishing scams, and any information can be sold on the black market, so caution is of the absolute essence. All of your computer systems must be locked by complex passwords that include a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters. On top of that, antivirus software must be installed on all systems, and scans must be run weekly to catch any potential threats.
As our world becomes increasingly remote and employees do more of their work outside of the house, protecting company and customer data becomes even more important. Employees should be educated on common scams, including fake Wi-Fi networks in public places, and how to avoid phishing emails. Hackers are very clever when sending phishing emails to make them look like they were sent from a figure of authority, like the boss or a vendor, but if they are opened, and the link inside is clicked, it could mean instant malware, which could impact your entire corporate network. Employees should be advised never to open an email unless they recognize the sender.
Remote employees should be cautious when working in public. They should have passwords that are paired with a form of unique two-factor authentication, like a face or fingerprint scan. On top of that, all mobile devices should be equipped with a virtual private network (VPN) which will disguise their location and automatically encrypt the data so it cannot be read if stolen.
Other Data Considerations
Although hackers are a likely reason that your customer’s information could be compromised, it is not the only way that you could lose valuable data. If your systems fail or an internal error leads to data loss, you could have angry customers who could hold you responsible and lawsuits could be possible in addition to ding to your reputation. In the medical field, failure to secure data could also be a HIPAA violation.
Always be ethical about data collection. Get permission from customers before collecting their data and don’t collect anything that isn’t necessary to better serve your customers. The important data that you do have should be backed up on an external drive so it can be accessed if your main systems go down. Your company also needs to set up proper permissions for employees that restrict which data they have access to and whether those files can be modified.
If you keep physical records, have them filed and locked away in a cabinet, shred any paperwork that you no longer need and bring it to a secure facility so it can be disposed of properly.
Insurance Will Cover Other Potential Threats
These days, the threat of a lawsuit is more possible than ever before. If you are sued, the court costs, lawyer fees, and fines that could occur are capable of crippling your business, so you need to be proactive.
To protect against most lawsuits, you’ll want to get insured for all potential situations. For starters, you will need professional liability insurance, which safeguards your organization if a customer becomes unsatisfied with your product or service and decides to bring you to court. This coverage will cover your court costs and some of the money that you may be ordered to pay the claimant.
If you have a physical storefront, then you will also want to invest in general liability insurance, which helps you financially if a customer or client were to be injured while in your store or when using your product. This policy is essential because it will cover a portion of the legal fees and medical bills that the victim might claim in a lawsuit.
Many other forms of insurance could be essential when in a pinch, including worker’s compensation (which is often required), commercial auto insurance, and cyber liability insurance in the case that you do fall victim to a data breach.
While this list of issues can be frightening to many business owners, it is essential to understand the risks so you can be proactive and prevent catastrophic damage or lost revenue. Implement these steps today, so you can help your company thrive without fear.