Cyber crime is a monstrous threat to a franchise operation. A successful attack not only costs an entrepreneur money but it also exposes the brand, your customers, and your business and personal networks to unimaginable risks. Consider these startling statistics assembled by cyber security experts:
- 43 percent of cyber attacks target small businesses
- Only 14 percent of small businesses rate their ability to mitigate cyber risks as highly effective
- 60 percent of small businesses go out of business within six months of a cyber attack
If you’re running your own franchise, you have taken the time to learn about many different aspects of running a business, from accounting to marketing to negotiating service contracts. Cyber security is just another aspect of running a franchise that demands your time and attention to detail. All modern franchises depend on technology, even if it’s only a computer and a phone, let alone a fully networked point-of-sale system or a security system. Running a franchise is hard enough on its own—you can’t afford to get sidetracked by a hacker or scammer.
Unfortunately, cyber security encompasses a wide variety of risks and solutions, so finding a comprehensive resource may take some work. In the meantime, use these common-sense ideas to help you get started.
Make a Data Security Plan
The first step in securing your franchise’s data, assets, and resources is to take the time to make a data security plan. You can’t understand where your risks and vulnerabilities lie if you don’t take stock of your operations, network, and potential hazards to your franchise. This includes performing a survey of your personal and company information and resources, as well as paring down assets to include only what you need for your business. You will also need to make a plan to protect the information that you keep, properly disposing of what you no longer need, and creating a plan to respond to security incidents.
Keep Safe from Data Breaches
Even the largest of American franchises have learned the cost of a data breach, with big names like Target, Home Depot, UPS, and Wendy’s all reporting massive, costly data breaches in the past few years. Because they have a large consumer base and potentially decentralized IT operations, franchises become prime targets for hackers. Because a franchise is so fundamentally connected to its brand, the reputational cost of a data breach can be just as devastating as the actual intrusion.
While there is no foolproof way to prevent an incursion, there are several actions that franchisees might consider to minimize the chances of an illegal intrusion. Taking these steps also enables a franchise owner to credibly say that they “did everything they could” to prevent the loss of personal information.
These actions can include:
- Centralizing credit card processing and payroll functions via a single server located at corporate headquarters
- Considering outsourcing credit card processing and payroll functions to a vetted and trusted security agency
- Using data and privacy audits to guarantee that all franchisees are in compliance with a franchise’s data security requirements
- Instituting and regularly testing a Security Incident Response Plan to help reduce the fallout after a data breach occurs
Transparency is Key
When it comes to cyber security, transparency is a concept that offers a lot to franchise operators. When non-technical managers and employees understand the impact of good data protection practices, security in cyberspace is easier to achieve. As the franchise operator, it’s your responsibility to analyze your operations and take action to secure your business’s digital assets. If you don’t, you’re putting yourself, your business, and your customers at risk.