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Security In Context

Bringing you news and commentary on solutions and strategies for protecting your critical IT infrastructure.

The Cost of a Data Breach Just Went Up

Post by Peter McCalister May 13, 2011

Today, enterprises are hopefully well aware of the high price they could pay if they experience a breach in the confidential data of their customers. But now, in addition to applicable remediation expenses and a whole lot of bad publicity, companies may also have to fear the financial wrath of the government, as lawmakers have begun to institute fines for businesses that fail to secure their customers’ personal information.

In March, Massachusetts levied its first data security data breach fine against the ownership group of several Boston area taverns in a settlement that forces the organization to pay $110,000 for failing to secure its patrons’ personal information. According to the lawsuit, the company experienced a data breach last year when malware was discovered on their computer systems, which allowed hackers access to customers’ credit and debit card information, including names and account numbers. The malware then remained on the systems for eight months before being removed. In addition to paying the fine, the company was also ordered to beef up it’s network security system.

The relevant Massachusetts law mandates that businesses set a minimum standard of data security to protect the personal information of the state’s residents, although it isn’t yet clear what factors will determine whether the attorney general’s office will enforce the law and how subsequent fines will be tabulated.

If this new reality is scaring some businesses, it should. In the technological age with all of the personal information floating around, it’s mind-boggling that companies still don’t take even the most basic steps to protect the data of their customers. In the pre-computer database days when you had a handwritten record of all your customers and their credit card numbers, you wouldn’t leave the file box sitting unguarded in the middle of the street, would you? Nor would you afford each and every employee the opportunity to access that file whenever he or she to or to take that file home. So why aren’t businesses taking the equivalent precautions with their digital assets? It’s unfortunate when legislation and government has to get involved, but hopefully in this instance it will serve as a wake-up call for any of those companies out there that are still on the fence about adding security to their infrastructure.

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