Every small business knows its reputation is important. For many, online presence and technology have become the principle way with which to serve their customer base and build an affiliation with quality.
It’s very easy to lose your reputation with a few clicks of a mouse.
I want to look at the vulnerabilities of small businesses, prompted by a small but unpleasant reminder of just how easy it can be to lose your reputation online.
This reminder involved a rather nasty email hack that illustrated how easy it can be to lose the confidence of the contacts you’ve spent years cultivating. It’s where small businesses – especially sole traders and one-man bands – are particularly vulnerable, especially if your business is growing, but your online infrastructure has yet to catch up.
And it’s with email that my example starts.
One morning ‘x’ received an email and opened it up without thinking. Soon after, received a message in his inbox informing him that an email which had been sent to a customer services inbox could not be delivered. Odd. Then received another. After checking the sent mail folder, it seemed email after email was flying out to all sorts of addresses, each with the same link inside.
Unfortunately, the damage was done, the virus had forwarded itself to any address he had ever interacted with, including personal and business contacts. How he was perceived by these contacts was now completely out of his control.
Now, imagine this was your business. Perhaps you’re a freelancer or a small business owner and you (or one of your staff) had clicked on this link. Imagine you then had to notify your contacts and clients that you’d suffered a cyber breach. How would you do this? How would it affect your reputation? You can already see how the cost could build up.
The reality is that it isn’t even just the general threats that companies need to protect themselves against. Small businesses represent a sweet spot for hackers in that they may be growing rapidly, accumulating customer data and cash, with security that hasn’t quite had chance to catch up.
If you have a cyber insurance policy, it may cover these costs as well as forensic IT investigations into what went wrong and what data has been put at risk, but these only help clear up after the event. It’s obviously best to put in place preventative measures. The government’s recent Cyber Streetwise Initiative – aimed at SMEs – has some excellent resources for protecting your business online.
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