You’ve probably seen enough headlines about data breaches and cyberattacks in recent years to recognize the importance of protecting your dealership’s data, but do you go far enough?
Like the cars on your lot, your data is an asset. Sales and service figures, marketing data, loan and finance information and even Social Security numbers are all valuable to hackers or competitors.
You certainly have your own business-critical data to protect, but you also have a responsibility to your customers to protect their financial and private information. More and more states are passing legislation that holds organizations legally responsible if their customer data is breached. Plus, a recent study revealed that more than 80 percent of car buyers would not return to a dealership if their data had been compromised.
It’s important for you to take the necessary steps to protect all your dealership’s data. Here are some things you can do to make sure your data remains secure and accessible.
Establish Good Cybersecurity Practices
Given the high employee turnover in the automotive sales industry, I understand it can be difficult to set consistent policies and procedures. However, training your employees on good cybersecurity practices and getting them to buy in to a security-minded culture is just as important as any sales training they receive.
Your employees need to know what to expect when it comes to preventing cyber threats such as phishing attacks — where a hacker impersonates a company or person in order to gain information or account access — or unsecure websites that install malware on a user’s computer. Set up a training program that addresses potential threats and helps employees stay aware of new potential attacks. For additional protection, make sure your IT department or vendor keeps your anti-virus programs up to date.
Keep in mind that employees, whether they were fired, quit by choice or are still actively employed, are a potential threat to your data as well. Be sure to revoke former employees’ system access privileges as soon as possible to limit the chances of data theft. Your active employees should also have their access limited to only the information they need to perform their jobs.
Back up Your Systems
Whether your data is held hostage by ransomware, inadvertently deleted by an employee or simply lost because somebody carelessly spilled a drink on a computer server, your operations could grind to a halt if you lose access to your data.
Losing data could prevent financial paperwork from being completed, delay service jobs and hold up new car sales. That’s why it’s important to regularly back up your systems, giving you a way to quickly recover from disaster.
I recommend using a cloud service that automatically backs up your dealership’s data. With the data being stored and secured off-site on a different network from your primary servers, you have an added layer of protection against ransomware spreading to on-site backups. Automatic backups to the cloud can also help prevent corrupted or outdated backups, which can be just as costly as not having a backup at all.
Protect Physical Data and Hardware
Protecting your data isn’t just about smart digital practices. Hard copies of potentially sensitive paperwork and physical hardware such as computers or tablets are still attractive targets for thieves. If you protect the cars on your lot, why not take similar steps to protect all other valuable assets in your building?
Make sure any physical paperwork with personally identifiable information is secured in locked file cabinets or storage rooms. If it’s possible, digitize this information by scanning it and destroying the original. Paperwork with sensitive information should never be left out in the open on a desk where outside parties might see or access it.
Employees should lock their computer stations any time they leave their desks and secure mobile devices or tablets when not in use. Small devices like laptops, smartphones and tablets are easily stolen and can represent a major data breach if they’re connected to your network and data.
Protecting your dealership’s data is a large project that takes continued investment and buy-in from employees. However, it’s critical if you hope to continue doing business in our increasingly digital world where almost everything can find its way to the public via the internet.