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How Social Media and Smartphones Can Ruin a Business

Just as an FYI lest you think this is another blog post written by a random guy stuck in the past and wearing a tin foil hat. I have active accounts on no less than 7 different social networks and I’m basically a smartphone connoisseur.

I’m not an IT professional or a Cybersecurity expert, so I thought I would be the perfect person to write this article... I am an entrepreneur that owns an event production company. I plan, promote, and host weddings, parties, and events for a wide range of clients. One such event I’m planning is for an IT company. I’ve been helping them to plan a Lunch & Learn seminar on Cybersecurity. I’ve never done an event around Cybersecurity before, so of course I began with a bit of research. That research led me to some startling findings that could, effectively destroy my business... and yours. Cybersecurity is not a particularly new term anymore, I’m sure most of you reading this post are quite familiar with the term, however, when you think about Cybersecurity your mind probably goes immediately to data breaches at some big faceless corporation or a newsworthy hack at a government agency. Rarely do we stop and think about how Cybersecurity affects our small businesses, which employ over 50% of our fellow Americans. I don’t know about you, but I expect the government and those big corporations to know all about Cybersecurity and to protect my data that I send them from attack. But while planning this event I had to stop and think, am I providing protection for myself? My employees? My clients? Small business owners need to realize a data breach or data loss could expose your business to lawsuits, loss of intellectual property or trade secrets, and wipe out consumer confidence in your brand. And in this day and age it's not a matter of if you will be attacked, it's when the hacked data will be exploited.

Ok so we’re talking about Cybersecurity, what does this have to do with social media and smartphones? Well, I’ll tell you. Smartphones and social media have gotten us into some pretty bad habits over the years that have exposed us to some very nasty cyber threats. Remember the term “never put all your eggs in one basket”? Well the majority of us have done just that, taken all our eggs and put it in a pocket sized basket made of metal, plastic, and glass. That basket, aka smartphone, connects us to a thing called the cloud that we have come to know little about, but trust implicitly. Don’t get me wrong, social media and smartphones can absolutely revolutionize the capability of a business and it’s employees to be more productive and provide first rate customer service. However, they can also be the door for a malicious actor to absolutely destroy your business. Because of social media, many of us unconsciously overshare information and have gotten comfortable with and accustomed to placing personal and business information into the cloud, and because of smartphones it’s as easy as reaching into your pocket to do so.

But what really is the cloud? Where is it? Is it really safe? Cloud service providers will say that your data is safe but what does that mean exactly? I know for example that Volvos are ‘safe’ but that doesn’t mean that people haven’t been hurt or worse in them. What I’ve found is that cloud service providers are similar to banks. They hold your valuable data and facilitate transactions known as services between you, themselves, and your customers. However, this bank is a little different from your local branch in that these banks are always surrounded by masked bandits firing machine guns 24/7 and while under attack, the bank has to stay open for it’s customers to make deposits and withdrawals as well as carry out their transactions, all while hoping none of the bad guys walk in. Your data is intermingled with that of countless others and in some cases isn’t even owned by you anymore. Continuing with the bank analogy, sometimes the cloud provider will invest your funds while it’s in their vault by mining your data for valuable insight about you and your clients and selling that information to third parties.

Even if the cloud operator found a way to implement a flawless security system (which is essentially impossible due to the rapid changes in tech), what about me? My clients data is in my network before it heads out to the cloud. If I live in Washington DC and my cloud provider is physically storing my data in Timbuktu, will it be safe on it’s way from my network to it’s end point? Will the bad guys check the return address and come looking for me at my home network? There’s a lot of risks to consider.

These are just some of the questions I started asking myself and they only relate to risks associated with the cloud. Cybersecurity risks encompass so much more. So what don’t I know and what should I know? Again I’m not an IT pro but I am enough of a tech geek to know that anti-virus tools and firewalls aren’t enough to protect my personal or business data anymore. I run devices through a MAC Filter on my home network, my desktops run my internet traffic through a VPN, and I host my own internal cloud storage solution for my business which is probably doing more to combat Cybersecurity threats than your average 7-person small business, but I know even with all that we’re still vulnerable. What about you? Are you taking the time to educate yourself on the best way to protect your company’s data and finding out about what you don’t know? Cybersecurity isn’t an app and it’s not necessarily as intuitive as posting on Facebook. I’ve resolved to not only plan an awesome Cybersecurity Lunch & Learn, but I’m also going to attend the session to see how I can be better. I invite you to attend with me, in person (yes there is such a thing as a free lunch) or via webinar on Thursday November 17th at 12PM at the Tower Club in Tyson’s Corner, VA. There will be presentations from Steve Levin President of Imagine Systems Support and an FBI Special Agent. Please register here, even if you can’t attend in person. Space is limited so register now!

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