People are understandably worried about the sensitive information they type into fields on websites or send in email attachments being stolen, but it is almost impossible to avoid transmitting your identifying data online in today’s world. At some point, you have probably typed your bank account number into a form on a website when you paid for a purchase by electronic check or signed up to receive paychecks by direct deposit. You might even have uploaded a copy of your driver’s license or passport when you filled out an online application. Does this mean that we are all just sitting ducks, waiting to become victims of identity theft? Not if companies and website administrators are diligent about cybersecurity. Most businesses these days, even the smallest ones, conduct some of their business online, if it is only to collect electronic payments or issue payments electronically. Therefore, your company cannot afford to cut corners on cybersecurity, or you risk suffering a data breach that could be financially disastrous for you, your customers, and your employees. The Houston data breach lawyers at HKM Employees, LLP, can help you protect your companies from the legal liabilities that arise from data breaches.
What is a Data Breach?
A data breach is when hackers or scammers manage to access data on a company’s computer network that is only supposed to be accessible to employees within the organization. At every moment, someone somewhere is trying to hack into the computer systems of a business or government office. These are some of the valuable treasures they are looking for:
- Employees’ Social Security numbers stored as part of payroll records
- The bank account numbers of employees who receive direct deposit or customers who pay by automatic debit
- Customers’ credit card numbers
- The birth dates of employees, as scammers can use these to impersonate victims online more effectively
- Employees’ email passwords
It is possible for hackers to steal this confidential information from hundreds, or even thousands, of victims if they can guess even one employee’s password or persuade one employee to provide it in a response to a phishing email. Once the hackers have stolen the information, they can sell it to identity thieves, who can make fraudulent purchases on victims’ credit cards or even open new accounts in the victims’ names without the victims’ knowledge.
Why is a Data Breach So Damaging to Your Business?
Identity theft causes plenty of financial harm to victims, but that is not the only reason that data breaches in the workplace are so dangerous. Banks and credit card companies have gotten better at detecting transactions that appear fraudulent, and they often notify the victim immediately and do not complete the transaction until the victim consents to it. Even if the credit card company does not immediately catch onto the fact that the transaction is fraudulent, they will usually refund the purchase amount quickly if the customer alerts them of it shortly after it is completed.
A bigger problem is when fraudsters use consumers’ stolen data to take out loans in the victims’ names. Sometimes the victims do not even find out about this until they apply for loans or housing and find out that their credit scores are much lower than they expected. In this case, if the scammers get convicted of identity theft, the court may order them to pay restitution to the victims, which would enable the victims to break even after their financial losses. In practice, prosecuting identity theft and collecting court-ordered restitution is harder than it sounds. Only a fraction of identity theft victims receive compensation in the form of court-ordered restitution.
From a business perspective, the biggest danger with data breaches is that you, as a business owner, are legally responsible for the financial harm caused to customers who suffer identity theft as a result of a data breach, just as a business is liable according to premises liability laws when a customer gets injured in a preventable accident at the place of business. A customer or employee who suffers financial losses because of a company data breach can sue the company and request compensation in the amount of the money that the scammers stole. If the data breach affected numerous victims, they can file a class action lawsuit against the company for failing to prevent the data breach.
How to Protect Your Company From Data Breaches
Yes, you have commercial liability insurance to pay claims related to a data breach, and you can hire a lawyer if customers whose data was stolen file a lawsuit against you, but the best protection against data breach liability is to prevent the data breach from happening in the first place. If your company does not have a cybersecurity strategy, you need to implement one now. If you have not reviewed and updated your cybersecurity strategy in a few years, you should. Not every business is big enough to have cybersecurity personnel on staff, but you should at least engage the services of cybersecurity firms every year to make sure that your company’s digital infrastructure is not vulnerable to data breaches. Cybersecurity experts can identify and repair vulnerabilities in your computer systems and software.
Your diligence with cybersecurity can determine the outcome of a data breach lawsuit. Some of the biggest data breach class action settlements have been paid by companies that suffered computer virus attacks after they failed to implement patches that would protect against these viruses, even though such patches were available. Smaller things you can do are ensuring that your employees use strong passwords that are hard to guess and setting up two-factor authentication for access to your company’s devices.
Contact HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP About Data Breach Litigation
The Houston employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP, can help you protect your company from data breaches and from the class action lawsuits that can result from a breach of your company’s network. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in Houston, Texas, to set up a consultation.