Most of us have read about large data breaches, like the recent Yahoo breach of 500 million accounts — reportedly the largest such incident in history. Businesses are ramping up security, training, response, and insurance tactics to respond to this ever-increasing threat. Although this continues to be a significant area of focus, many businesses fail to realize that many of their employees have been “hacked” through these data breaches and are struggling to regain their identity, repair their credit, or repair their health records. This scenario is becoming almost commonplace, causing presenteeism (coming to work despite illness, injury or anxiety but resulting in reduced productivity), missed work and undue stress. Unfortunately, businesses need not only a strategy to protect the business itself but also a strategy to help employees impacted by breaches. A solid plan can actually become an employee benefit.
Recently, an employee of a local business experienced a cyber breach of his medical records, which resulted in over $500,000 in medical expenses being “charged” to his health insurance account. This created a record-clearing nightmare for this individual. He had to work to repair his medical records, have financial records changed and charges reversed, and consider credit monitoring. To make matters worse, the insurance company was uncooperative and unresponsive. As you can imagine, this breach that impacted one individual has created significant effort, strife and poor feelings about a “benefit” being provided to him by his employer.
Employees can experience cyber breaches at home or work. These breaches can have a significant negative impact on both the employee and the company, regardless of the source. Much has been written about the big breaches like Target and Yahoo, but many are impacted by all types and sizes of breaches. The likelihood of your business associates or you personally being “hacked” is growing every day. Most businesses would benefit from providing employees with training, tools, resources and insurance advice to reduce the impact on employees and, ultimately, their company.
Some basic computer protection is always in order. This applies to business, personal and mobile devices. IT professionals can assist with installing firewalls, anti-virus programs and security software. Updating software programs with upgrades provided regularly by software manufacturers is critical in keeping all programs up to date with security provisions. Regular backup of all devices is paramount.
Passwords are my personal nemesis. Making sure they are changed regularly, making them “strong and secure” and storing them in a safe and secure place are key security practices. Many hackers use password-cracking software, and weak passwords are especially vulnerable. Some basics password-creation tips: Make them at least 10 characters in length (including at least one uppercase letter), include one or two special characters, and include one to four numbers. Passwords should be changed regularly (at least annually) and should be different for most accounts.
Most businesses develop training programs for staff. Many, however, do not provide effective training on business and personal computer security. Protecting online accounts from phishing is an example of a tactic used to “trick” a user into providing information or clicking on a link that installs malware. Training programs that address the strategies hackers use, such as social media security, mobile devices and wireless networks, can prove invaluable for both business and personal users.
In addition to training, businesses can help employees by offering group discounts or access to credit monitoring/fraud prevention services. Services such as Identity Guard, Lifelock and All Clear ID are just a few of the offerings that provide help monitoring credit reports, website surveillance and restoration of identity, finances and health information.
Individual insurance coverage can be added to or included in an employee’s personal insurance program such as a homeowners policy. This coverage is normally limited for items such as lost wages, costs associated with restoration and legal fees.
Businesses can and should be an advocate for their employees, and computer security is no exception. This area is particularly important for both the business and its employees. Training, services and insurance advice can be part of an overall strategy to reduce risk and create an additional employee benefit.
Richard Ollis is CEO of Ollis/Akers/Arney, an employee-owned business consulting and insurance advisory firm.
This article appeared in the December 24th, 2016 edition of the News-Leader and can be accessed online here.