As the 87 million Facebook users affected by the Cambridge Analytica data breach are being notified, it is crucial that we continue to discuss the importance of securing our information. The device in your pocket has more computing power than the technology involved with the first lunar landing, and at the touch of a button, your can instantly share a photo, speak with someone halfway around the world or adjust the temperature in your home. Today the world is at our fingertips, but this access comes at a risk to not just ourselves but also to our businesses.
There is no denying the valuable role that technology plays in our workplaces, and as an owner of a small hospital in Great Bend, Kan., I saw first-hand its value in our logging and filing processes. For many businesses, advances in technology increase productivity, streamline procedures, and make it easier to reach new markets and more customers.
Almost weekly we hear of another cyberattack or digital security breach. Delta Airlines announced in March that their online support services had been involved in a cyber incident, possibly exposing sensitive payment information for many of their customers. Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor also recently announced payment system breaches, and Under Armour disclosed at the end of March that data from their MyFitnessPal app had been compromised. These data breaches result in not only the loss of sensitive consumer data, but also the loss of the public trust. What is left out of the headlines is that nearly two-thirds of the breaches target small to medium-sized businesses.
Since coming to Congress I have participated in multiple hearings discussing the importance of data security in an increasingly online world. Whether speaking with government agencies or private sector executives, it’s clear that there is more that can and should be done to safeguard sensitive information. This doesn’t just go for big, name-brand companies. Verizon recently released their annual data breach investigations report showing about 58 percent of data breach victims are small businesses.
For a small business, the effects of a cyberattack can be devastating. Operating with less capital and fewer resources than their larger counterparts, most small businesses are not equipped to deal with the fallout if a breach occurs. In fact, the National Small Business Association estimated that, on average, a cyberattack costs a small business about $32,000.
Many small business owners incorrectly think that their companies are not targets. According to a recent Harvard Business Review survey, 86 percent of smaller organizations feel unprepared for a cyberattack or breach. There are steps that businesses can take to help safeguard a company against cyber hacks and data breaches. For instance, Kansas Small Business Development Centers recently launched a number of online tools for entrepreneurs and business owners, including cybersecurity assessments and training. These centers have counselors available to review assessment results with owners and are able to help develop cybersecurity plans. Federal agencies, such as the Department of Defense and the National Institute for Standards and Technology, have resources to help educate small companies.
Even if a small business chooses not to take advantage of these federal resources, owners can and should still create best practices in order to protect sensitive information. Actions such as keeping software up to date, backing up company data, using secure e-mail accounts and maintaining strong passwords can greatly reduce the chance of a breach from occurring. By protecting business assets, we can help our local communities better compete domestically and abroad.
Small businesses are a vital component of American economic and national security infrastructure. It is important that startups, entrepreneurs, and main street businesses have access to the tools and resources that help safeguard against cyberattacks. Good cyber practices are no longer optional as we move deeper into the digital age, and are critical for a healthy 21st-century economy.
Republican Roger Marshall represents Kansas' 1st District in the U.S. House.