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Q: What is “data extortion” and how can it affect my dealership?

A: Consider the following scenario: An equipment dealership offers a machinery maintenance tracking program to customers, allowing them to directly manage and schedule service. Suddenly, customers can’t access their accounts. The dealership discovers that a ransomware attack has encrypted the data and a hacker is holding the data hostage, demanding a ransom to release the files.

A data extortion event like this can paralyze your operations and send customers running for the door. Fortunately, there are actionable steps you can take to lower your risk. Front-end data security can make it harder for a hacker to gain access to your files, and security and data backup enhancements can limit the damages. In addition, data extortion insurance can provide extra peace of mind.

The threat to your data is real, but there’s good news: You can protect your dealership and your customers’ valuable information. Take a look at the following suggestions to see where your dealership can make data security improvements.

▶ Identify sensitive data: Look for Social Security and driver’s license numbers, as well as any health and financial information.

▶ Note where it’s located: Identify whether the sensitive data is electronic or paper, how it’s used, and whether you need it for business. If not, delete it.

▶ Back up data: Ensure any data critical to your dealership’s existence is secured and copied to a separate storage site.

▶ Ask an expert: Have a software/hardware security expert check your system for strong encryption and authorization protocols.

▶ Immunize your system: Make sure your antivirus software is current and effective.

▶ Educate employees: Train workers to recognize and delete phishing emails.

▶ Beef up passwords: Require strong user passwords and regular resets to toughen security.

▶ Avoid future problems: If you encounter an extortion demand, scan your database to make sure other malware hasn’t been attached that could lead to future attacks.

You can take action to protect your data and safeguard against data extortion. Evaluating and fortifying your data now can prevent damaging hacks, keep your dealership running smoothly, and preserve your customer reputation.

 

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