The Ashley Madison scandal will serve as an object lesson for app designers, internet daters, and online companies for years to come. As well, several implications of this scandal also apply to business owners – especially when it comes to data security!
If you didn’t hear about what happened with the Ashley Madison attack, here’s a quick summary to get you up to speed:
Ashley Madison is a dating app and website that is designed to help individuals cheat on their significant other. For this reason, the app’s designers have always advertised the security of their data so that users would not be concerned about giving the app their data (including their names, billing information, and credit card numbers).
Earlier this month, hackers breached the security measures that Ashley Madison had put in place, and threatened to release customer databases, risque photos, source codes, and user e-mails if Ashley Madison and Established Men (a similar dating site owned by the same parent company) was not shut down.
Since the breach, Ashley Madison has made permanent removal of personal information from their database free and easily accessible, and are attempting to prosecute the hackers. However, this damage control may be too late to save their company’s reputation (whatever kind of reputation that may be) and may foil their business model and future IPO plans.
It’s easy to think that you only need to keep your data safe “enough”, but in reality, your data is some of the most valuable possessions your company has, and losing your control over your data can influence your business more than you may think.
When you don’t make the effort to protect your data thoroughly, you are assuming a lot of risk. If your data is not secure and some sort of security breach occurs, customers may not choose to work with your business anymore, data may be permanently lost, your personal and professional information could be stolen, long-term business plans can be halted, and the reputation of your business could be permanently tarnished.
The best thing for you to do is to assess the security needs of your data. If you are in a position where your company is storing sensitive information for customers (such as medical or financial information), taking steps to secure your information as best as possible is of the utmost importance. However, even seemingly innocent pieces of information like customers’ mailing addresses can be misused by others — there are very few businesses who truly do not need to worry about information security!
Work with your IT professional to come up with a plan for keeping your business’ information safe, and for maintaining its security as time passes (new software, upgrades, and technology can completely change the game when it comes to security!). Be honest with clients about the extent of security that you are able to offer, and know how to identify potential risks to your information security.
As well, use common sense when it comes to internet security – only hire people you trust, be careful with the physical locations of information, and use passwords and encryption in every situation where it makes logical sense to do so.
As much as Ashley Madison is a company that is perhaps more likely to make headlines than most due to its clientele and relative success, small businesses are commonly targeted in similar schemes because lax security methods are commonly employed. Be aware of the risks that may be prominent in your industry, and take every step possible to prevent something like this from happening to you and your business!
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