There is all manner of risks that can affect your business, from the financial to the legal and the interpersonal. One type of risk you should never overlook, however, is the criminal kind. Criminals are getting smarter every year, from cyber crimes like phishing to crimes in physical locations such as robbery and shootings. Are your protection efforts keeping pace to ensure you and your customers are safe everywhere you have a presence from your website to your databases to your physical store? If not, you could lose the reputation it took you decades to build over a single event perpetrated by a bad actor. Today, learn some tips to protect yourself and your customers from loss.
Criminals are getting smarter every year
Cybercrime gets a lot of attention in the news because attacks are becoming more frequent, the costs are going through the roof, and criminals are getting smarter so they’re better able to evade your efforts to thwart their attacks. The pandemic seems to have brought cybercriminals and terrorists out of the woodwork through a combination of enhanced opportunities as more companies moved their operations from a centralized location to a large distributed network of employees who worked from their living rooms and layoffs among skilled workers who needed to replace their income.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies reports the significant cyber incidents as far back as 2006 and you can read about every significant incident on their website through August of 2021. Many of these attacks are politically motivated such as the attack in August 2021. A group seeking to overthrow the President of Belarus hacked into government infrastructure, including interior ministries and police, or the group that hacked an Iranian prison to demonstrate the poor treatment of political prisoners. August also recorded a major hack on T-Mobile’s database that uncovered the personal information of up to 50 million customers; while an attack on a scheduling system distributing the Covid-19 vaccine may have resulted in unnecessary infections as people couldn’t get the vaccine during the multi-day shutdown.
Some cybercriminals are state actors such as the ones in Russia, named Darkside, that shut down the oil pipeline that served much of the American East Coast with gasoline resulting in long lines and high costs for motorists in that region until Colonial, which owned the pipeline, paid the $4.4 million fee demanded by the group in exchange for releasing control of their equipment. Russia denies sponsoring the hackers but failed to aid in arresting or extraditing them.
Mass casualty events
Of course, not all criminals went high-tech during the pandemic. Some decided a great stress reliever was to shoot innocent bystanders at restaurants, grocery stores, concerts, or any event that attracted a crowd. Data shows the increase in mass casualty incidents over the last decade and researchers expect the increase to extend into the future. And, the casualty numbers are also getting bigger as gunmen bring multiple, high-magazine guns to an event to increase the number of casualties. Mother Jones data shows that 42% of shootings happen in retail areas, 33% happen at work, 15% occurred on school grounds, and 5% of casualties happened in a place of worship.
Guns aren’t the only weapon of choice, as explosives potentially cause a higher number of casualties and can allow the perpetrator to escape unharmed. For instance, recent incidents include the Boston Bombing that killed 2 and injured 80, many seriously.
Protecting your business from criminals
Obviously, in addition to the physical damage caused by criminals, including ransoms paid, repairs, and increased costs, your business reputation may suffer, especially when customers are affected by the criminals. While the hit to your reputation might last only a few weeks, depending on the nature of the damage, but has the potential to damage your reputation far into the future.
So, how do you protect yourself as these criminals are getting smarter? Read on.
Identify where you are most vulnerable
First of all, take a look at various aspects of your business, where it operates, and what assets it controls. Perform a risk analysis to see where criminals might break in to steal products, what vulnerabilities they might capitalize on, and determine the extent of your vulnerability. Once you identify your vulnerabilities, the potential for loss from each vulnerability, and the ease with which criminals might capitalize on that vulnerability, you can form a plan to plug those holes representing the easiest and most costly vulnerabilities.
Having CCTV cameras in your stores and training your staff to look out for theft can help you prevent loss. However, it’s not just would-be customers (or people pretending to be customers) who are responsible for the theft. It is often staff that steals from you. Rather than inherently mistrusting your staff, you should make sure that your stock rooms are protected by inventory systems, as well as access blocks, such as locks that employees can only access via barcode, recording every person who accesses the stockroom and when. This is especially important for high-value inventory as well as drugs. Ensure your return policies help evade employees working in conjunction with customers to defraud your business.
Note that employees who feel valued and well-compensated are much less likely to steal.
Securing your environment
You must also protect the workplace environment to protect customers and employees from threats to their person. A lack of lighting in areas where your employees and customers visit could put them at risk of interpersonal crime, such as mugging or assault. Work with a commercial security service to find the set-up that best secures your environment; be it CCTV, alarm systems, lighting, or some combination of the above. Recognize special vulnerabilities for women, the elderly, children, and differently-abled individuals to provide enhanced protections for this group and set up a system that feeds information about threats to the appropriate reporting person within the organization.
For instance, a bar posts signs in the women’s bathroom (see below) to allow women to discretely notify the bartenders of their needs.
Watch the net
We should all know crimes no longer only take place physically in the 21st century and we must take appropriate actions to protect ourselves and our customers. The digital world is a new hotbed of potential risk. Thankfully, there are several cybersecurity services available to help you combat them, from buying commercial quality anti-malware software to working with an IT team that can look at the potential areas of your business where cybercriminals can penetrate and making sure that those holes are plugged up.
Mind your paper waste
Information isn’t just stored on your computers, however. It’s also written down, posted to your business, and printed out regularly. As such, you must ensure you destroy paper waste. In most cases, investing in a decent shredder is going to do the job just fine. Whatever you do, don’t let any paper waste out of the business whole.
Criminals are getting smarter. If you don’t have a strategy for dealing with criminals, it leaves you at their mercy. Ensure that’s not the case with the tips above.
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