Turn Cyber-Shopping Tips into New IT Security Opportunities

One of the best ways to get the attention of prospective (and even current) customers is by providing them relevant information. Something to improve their business operations or a tip to protect their employees or their information systems. With the ever-increasing number of industry rules and regulatory compliance requirements around data security, the latter has become a key opportunity for solution providers to ingratiate themselves with the masses.

As we enter the height of the holiday season with many shopping online (at home and at work), it’s a great time to remind those in your company’s sphere of influence about the potential dangers the internet presents. Without the proper precautions and security measures in place, the seasonal practice could compromise their employees’ personal information as well as the business’ critical data systems.

Over the next two to three weeks, you can really increase your company’s awareness and value in the hearts and minds of customers. Alert them to the dangers and, even more importantly, the best practices they and their employees should be following to ensure their online experience. Get the message across in social media, email blasts, newsletters and in the local media. Be proactive, offer to share your insight in a newspaper contribution or by recording a clip for the television station to run as a PSA.

The focus should be on protecting shoppers and their employers, not on your business. Tone down the marketing message and keep it educational. For example, you could share the latest CompTIA infographic with your organization’s social media followers, or create a blog or email message with similar online security best practices. The five tips included in this visual have both a personal and business application, demonstrating the vulnerabilities to an employee and his or her employer if proper precautions are not taken. That includes:

1. Lock the lock: before providing personal information and credit card data online, make sure the website’s URL starts with https:// and included a small, locked padlock icon at the beginning. While that indicator won’t ensure 100% protection from identity and data theft, it will reduce the odds of compromising the company’s networks.      

#2. Check before you click: with so many “urgent” and “time sensitive” sales promotions this time of year, it’s very easy to click on illegitimate links or download malware. Check all offers to see if the message came from a legitimate source, scroll over every URL (refer back to #1) to verify its security certificate and review the language. Spelling and semantic issues are common in many phishing schemes, though hackers continue to get smarter…so clicker beware.

#3. Protect pins and passwords: both should be changed regularly. If not monthly, then at least quarterly. This applies to both consumer and business credit cards, as well as all applications that provide access to the network and, especially sensitive data.   

#4. Avoid shopping on open Wi-Fi networks: public access is convenient, but it is also an easy way for hackers to hijack personal (and business) devices. This is an area were many companies let their guard down, so your direction on policies and alternatives (such as carrier access) can be quite valuable. 

#5. Stay alert: everyone should have automated alerts on their bank and credit cards to track and authenticate purchases. Companies should follow the same standard with their corporate cards, and watch for trends or outliers that could indicate fraud or malfeasance.

Sharing information like this not only helps elevate your expertise level with clients and prospects, but could make them realize how insufficient their current policies and protection measures actually are. Can anyone say “sales opportunity?” Whether promoting tips to keep their systems and their employees safe during the holidays, or offering best practices for disaster recovery, your expertise is an underutilized and highly valuable resource. The good will you build by sharing your knowledge today could drive additional revenue in the near future, especially when the subject is related to IT security.  

Looking for more ideas to help improve your IT services business? Be sure to check out the discussions in our IT Security Community.