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Data Breach: Not “If,” But “When”

Have you heard about the “Internet of Things?” It’s the cutting-edge concept of connecting just about any device to the Internet, allowing these devices to send and retrieve data. Imagine everything from cell phones, coffee makers and washing machines to automobiles, buildings, bridges and military weapons having network connectivity. The analytical firm Gartner predicts by 2020, there will be over 26 billion connected.

Now imagine the disastrous consequences of a cyber attack to the businesses and organizations that form the “Internet of Things.” It’s yet another reason we at Fallston Group say that data breach is perhaps the single most important point of risk facing organizations today. And the question isn’t “if,” but “when” that data breach will occur. And when it occurs, does your company know what it’s going to say, who it’s going to say it to, in what sequence and on what platforms?

Businesses – in all forms – are becoming increasingly reliant on the digital economy. This, of course, ratchets up the risk of cyber attacks, including the spread of viruses, corporate espionage and identity theft. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, cybercrime costs the global economy over $400 billion. “For an individual company, a cyber attack can disrupt business operations, create confusion and disable services,” says a recent report by financial services giant Morgan Stanley. “Yet the immediate signs of a cyber attack are often not the full extent of the damage – it can also lead to a loss of competitive advantage and brand reputation as a result of stolen intellectual property, customer data or information on (mergers and acquisitions) deals.”

As you might expect, the number of cyber threats is increasing at an alarming rate. PricewaterhouseCoopers, the multinational professional services network, reports that the number of security breach incidents rose 48 percent last year to 42.8 million, the equivalent of 117,339 attacks per day. And the rate of detected security incidents has increased by 66 percent year over year since 2009.

High-profile companies such as Target (2013), eBay, J.P. Morgan and Sony Pictures Entertainment (all in 2014) and Anthem, Ashley Madison and Experian (2015) are among the thousands of businesses in recent years that have fallen victim to sophisticated hackers who managed to secure sensitive information and wreak havoc with customer bases.

What can be done to help companies meet the growing threat of data breaches? According to the Morgan Stanley report: “Forward-leaning businesses…are developing a holistic approach, putting in place a framework to protect and identify critical assets and sensitive information. “The most effective companies have fully committed boards, with Chief Information Security Officers (CISO) reporting directly to the board on matters of information security. New technologies are being employed, such as cloud-based security services and data analytics, which are being used to monitor data within a company, helping to identify anomalous activity.” Having a management team that’s fully committed to identifying key security issues – and a competent team in place to deal with a data breach both before and after the fact – is paramount.

Fallston Group’s mantra is: “If you don’t tell your story, someone else will. And when someone else tells your story, it won’t be the story you want told.” Nowhere is this more important than in the immediate aftermath of a data breach crisis. Even as the security leak is plugged and legal issues are being addressed, company executives must effectively communicate details surrounding the breach to their key stakeholders – and often to the media, too. Only by executing a proactive crisis communications approach, will an affected company be able to turn adversity into advantage.

If you have any questions regarding data breach, do not hesitate to contact Fallston Group at 410.420.2001 or by email at info@fallstongroup.com.

 

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