It seems that today the world has gone to the zombies. Insecurity is becoming commonplace in one form or another. If it isn’t the FBI telling you that there is a robbery every 15 seconds, it is the cyber security people telling you that there have been over 400 data breaches in the medical industry alone this year. But business has to go on, right?
If you are like me, closing a deal gives you a certain rush; you live for that moment. So it would be more than just a “bummer” to find out that your deal has been compromised in one way or another: data was leaked to your competitor, money was stolen, or there was some sabotage that scuttled the deal altogether. Taking security seriously is no longer a problem for the big boys, small businesses present better targets: they are not well protected and present less risk to attack. In order to protect the negotiation process, here are a few tips that will put you ahead of the curve.
Cyber threats have increased exponentially over the past few years. For those with networking experience, your data is arguably most vulnerable while in transit i.e. while communicating. Whether you are sending an email with sensitive business information, or a text with bank details for a deposit, you need to be cautious. Is your email communication secure? Are you browsing on a secure Wi-Fi connection while discussing important information? It is possible for hackers to remotely enable the microphone and camera on your PC or smartphone and listen in on your conversation. Ensure that you have protected your devices with updated anti-malware and anti-virus protection. Keep your email communication secure by using SSL standard communication channels, especially for sensitive information. If you need to do a virtual meeting, consider using a VPN to do so.
If physical letters need to be exchanged, use a secure courier service or do self-delivery.
Store data safely
Another keen point of vulnerability is data storage. When selling a house, for example, you will possibly keep your client’s bank details, social security numbers, deeds, and other sensitive data within your reach. Ensure that whether the data is physical or virtual, it is safe. If it is a deed, ensure that you lock it up in a safe unless you need to use it. If you have to keep a soft copy, ensure that wherever it is kept, it is far away from the reach of hackers and thieves. Of the data breaches in the medical industry, a disturbing 60% were because of physical theft1. Misplacing a hard drive, losing a flash, or having your laptop stolen can lead to identity theft, and law suit coming for you afterward. Encrypting stored data is a very good way of keeping it safe. Password protect your devices and files with a strong password.
Limit access to sensitive levels of data
There is an African proverb that says, “What eats you is in your clothes”. While this is very true about bed bugs, it also holds true about your employees. Your biggest security hole isn’t the thief outside, or the hacker in cyberspace, but the employee in your office. A surprising one-third of business bankruptcies are brought about by employee theft! And in this day when information is more and more of a commodity, theft from within your ranks is a very real threat.
Limiting access to sensitive data to only the core personnel who need to handle it will greatly reduce this risk. Having only one employee (or better still, only you) handling bank and sensitive client info in a small business is best. In negotiations where there is sensitive information, this should only be available to essential staff, who are tied down to air tight disclosure agreements. Keeping information, as well as details of meetings on a need to know basis reduces the chances of leaks.
Secure your meeting spaces
Negotiations are mostly done face to face. For sensitive negotiations, get a secure location to meet in. Ensure that there are no snoops listening in by even sweeping for bugs. Even if you are not very concerned about snoops, make sure that where you meet your physical security is ensured. Make sure your physical security is also well cared for.
Destroy sensitive data after use
Why are you keeping sensitive details about past transactions lying around? Destroy them! Unless absolutely necessary, do not have sensitive data that is not useful lying around. Invest in a good paper shredder or incinerator if you must. If in soft copy, ensure that when you delete, you also empty the recycle bin. You will be surprised at how much information you can collect from there!