Many business owners are concerned about online crime, but the world of cyber security can seem complicated. In most cases, investing time and money into safeguarding your company pays off, not only by offering real protection, but also peace of mind. Our guide on how to keep your franchise safe from a cyber attack should help you take steps to protect your business.
Cyber attacks can have a devastating impact on businesses - and, worryingly, they’re becoming more frequent. In March 2020, 46 percent of UK businesses and charities had reported a cyber attack in the past year. And this figure was even higher among larger companies, as three quarters of big firms had experienced online crime, despite 64 percent investing in cyber security.
Even more shockingly, 33 percent of businesses experienced a cyber breach at least once a week, up from 22 percent back in 2017 (GOV.UK). Overall, online crime costs the UK economy over £5 billion, which demonstrates just how important it is to invest in cyber security.
What is a cyber attack?
A cyber attack is essentially an assault on a computer, sent from another, and there are two main types. The first involves transmitting a virus to disable a target computer. With the second type, the objective is to gain access to the computer, and therefore, its stored data.
Cyber criminals use several techniques to perform cyber attacks, from using malicious software known as malware, to sending phishing emails designed to trick the recipient into disclosing sensitive information.
A data breach can cost a company dearly in recovering (or doing without) lost records, paying for legal defence and settlement... and providing credit-monitoring services for affected customers or employees. In addition, simply not having enough data security in place… can result in hefty liabilities [and] the public reputation cost can result in lost business.
—American Bar Association
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How to keep your franchise safe from a cyber attack
Although individual franchisees manage operations on a day-to-day basis, the onus is on the franchisor to make sure there are processes in place to avoid a cyber attack. Understanding cyber security is particularly important for franchisors, as a seemingly small misstep from a franchisee could result in reputational damage across the entire business network.
As a result, franchisors must stay up to date with the latest cyber security requirements and tools, and lead the way for franchisees when it comes to keeping the business secure.
Here’s how to keep your franchise safe from a cyber attack as a franchisor:
- Comply with the GDPR - Researching best practices for processing and storing personal information is vital as a franchisor, but you must also adhere to the General Data Protection Regulation. See our GDPR guide for more guidance.
- Conduct an audit - Evaluate your franchise and identify its weak points. Where could cyber criminals gain access to your systems? Also, review the processes you complete; how do you store information, is it encrypted and who has access to it?
- Consult a professional - There are plenty of people out there who understand how to keep your franchise safe from a cyber attack, and can help you do it. Legal professionals and specialised firms will review your data security and privacy policies, and guide you through the process of creating new ones and adapting them.
- Protect your data - Be sure to use encrypted software to transmit information and back up your systems regularly. Also, it’s worth checking to make sure former employees no longer have access to your franchise systems; change your work passwords regularly so they can’t get into them.
- Install a firewall - Firewalls act like a lock on your computer to prevent unauthorised access to your network. You can use hardware (external) and software (internal) firewalls, but if you’re uncertain about what protection your computers need, consult an IT expert.
- Use antivirus software - Working in unison with your firewall, antivirus software offers an additional layer of protection. While the firewall prevents hackers from gaining access to your computers, antivirus software stops viruses and malware damaging your business. Again, seek advice if you’re not sure what you need.
- Secure your Wi-Fi - If customers visit your franchise locations and use your Wi-Fi, you should make sure you use a separate router for your business operations. Open networks can be an easy entry point for hackers. Also, make sure your Wi-Fi is encrypted and password-protected.
- Keep passwords safe - Remembering multiple passwords can be tricky, which is why more than 80 percent of people over the age of 18 use the same one for different accounts (Keeper Security). Come up with a system or a trick to remember your passcodes in order to avoid becoming a victim of cyber attacks - and never include your name or birthday.
- Buy cyber insurance - This kind of cover is important for any business using the internet to process or store information. Do some research and make sure your franchisees know which types of insurance they need. Most policies offer legal advice and support in the event of a data breach, and compensation for loss of reputation or revenue if a hacker stops you doing business.
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- Educate franchisees - Treat cyber security as a vital part of your franchisee training scheme. Investors should understand how to run their businesses safely, without compromising sensitive or confidential data, or breaching the GDPR. Also, if franchisees and employees use personal devices to access business Wi-Fi, make sure they understand how to avoid data breaches.
- Create a plan - Unfortunately, while it pays to be proactive in your cyber security measures, you may still experience an online attack. But if you have a robust plan in place, you should be able to recover fairly quickly. Appoint an emergency response team and make sure they know what they’ll need to do to get things back on track.
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Alice Tuffery, Point Franchise ©