Data Security Isn’t Just a Big Business Issue

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High profile data breaches at major corporations have largely eclipsed the fact that, according to a 2005 survey by the Small Business Technology Institute, 56 percent of small businesses have experienced one or more security incidents in the past 12 months.

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“Small businesses aren't quite in step with their larger industry counterparts in addressing data security,” Steve Cole, president and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus said in announcing Security & Privacy – Made Simple™, the BBB new national education initiative. “They often believe they're better protected than they really are, because they don't have in-house experts to advise them on what else they should be doing beyond locking up their storefronts. It's difficult for them to know where and how to access support. This makes us all vulnerable, as small businesses are a strong part of our economy. Business owners of all sizes need to be vigilant in protecting their customers, their employees and themselves.”

Security & Privacy – Made Simpler is a national program, developed, in partnership with Dr. Alan F. Westin, founder of Privacy & American Business, and consulting with Dr. Lance Hoffman, Distinguished Research Professor, George Washington University Department of Engineering and Applied Science, to help small business owners improve their security and privacy efforts, as well as to demystify the complexities of data security. The program includes free, easy-to-read security and privacy toolkits for protecting customer and employee data. Future plans include a downloadable webinar featuring key topic experts, as well as ongoing updates on new security and privacy developments affecting small businesses.

“Small business owners are focused on running their business, but all it takes is one data breach to damage customer relationships and impact their bottom line,” said Dr. Alan Westin. “Our initiative encourages small retailers to take ownership of their responsibilities, to develop a privacy and security policy, and implement an action plan that makes privacy and data protection an integral part of their everyday business operations. This will pay off for them across the board.”

The Security & Privacy – Made Simpler program was developed with the needs of small businesses, especially the 74 percent of small businesses, reported by the Small Business Technology Institute Survey, as not having information security plans. Since the survey estimates that at least 40 percent of even the smallest businesses utilize local networks and mobile computing tools, but that almost 20 percent of them do not scan e-mail for viruses and more than 60 percent do not utilize even the simplest form of encryption to protect their wireless networks, the program's tools and information are widely needed.

In addition to emphasizing the importance of having a comprehensive security and privacy plan and reminding businesses that taking simple online and offline steps to protect data is just as important as purchasing new security software, the program includes:

  • Illustrations of low-tech and high-tech data theft, from dumpster diving and employee theft, to phishing and hacking, as well as steps for prevention;
  • Checklists for everyday security practices, such as restricting access to sensitive records, keeping e-mails free of personal information, and training employees on new privacy and security policies;
  • Practical guidance on whom to notify in the event of a data breach, from law enforcement to potentially-exposed customers.

The Security & Privacy – Made Simpler Customer Data toolkit are currently available from

“The goal is to make the issue less intimidating, and point them in the right direction,” Cole said. “We have broken down complex and cumbersome concepts into manageable action steps.”

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