Over the last few years, fast food restaurants have become a favorite target of cyber criminals. Hackers have stolen password credentials, franchise business records and customer credit card data from some of the biggest names in the industry.

The consequences of a hack are serious. Claims and legal fees routinely cost businesses more than $1 million and the damage to brand reputation can linger for years.

The risks of a hack are something you can’t afford to ignore. Luckily, managing cyber security for fast food restaurants is not only possible, it’s easy to do. Most attacks are the result of a restaurant being unprepared or underprepared to handle common threats. By taking proper action, you will significantly minimize your risk.

7 Cyber Security Tips for Fast Food Restaurants

1. Protect Your Computer Systems

A fast food restaurant offers several targets for hackers. They could target the computer with all your business records or harvest valuable personal info from loyalty programs and online order systems. But the main risk is point-of-sale systems where hackers can steal your customers’ credit card information.

Protecting your computer systems from these threats requires the right combination of tools. A firewall is essential to keep cyber criminals from accessing multiple systems through a single vulnerability. Antivirus software is needed to stop intrusions and sound the alarm if an attack is successful.

2. Practice Good Password Security

Password security is another easy fix with big ROI. As many as four out of five business data breaches are due to weak password security. When hackers can guess your password, use a compromised login or use the same password to access multiple systems, they can do a lot of damage.

Always choose strong passwords, use different passwords for each system and update passwords that are old or compromised.

3. Perform Maintenance and Updates

Computer systems need to be properly maintained and updated to protect you from cyber criminals. In past point-of-sale hacks, restaurants were running old legacy software with unpatched vulnerabilities on their card readers. This allowed hackers to gain access and collect card data for months undetected. Updating to newer software or installing critical updates would’ve stopped the hackers much more quickly.

Plan for software updates as systems age and make sure critical security update patches get installed right away.

4. Schedule Regular System Backups

Ransomware, a criminal activity where files are encrypted and online payments are demanded to return access, became one of the top cyber threats in 2020. Ransomware typically leads to business interruption, especially if you don’t have backups of the software you use to run your business.

Perform regular backups for any important data and systems.

5. Hold Cyber Risk Awareness Training

Employees know they should avoid a suspicious email, but spotting today’s most common phishing tactics is getting more difficult. Phishing scams cost businesses $2.7 billion in 2018 according to the FBI, often with messages that looked authentic, such as vendor invoices, password resets, messages impersonating a boss or VIP, links to compromised sites and links hidden in document attachments.

Train employees on what to look out for and how to stay safe.

6. Create a Cyber Response Plan

Like a general risk management plan, a formal cyber response plan can greatly impact how much damage a cyber event does to your fast food restaurant. In 2018, a formal plan helped Caribou Coffee catch unusual activity on their network affecting 265 stores in a matter of weeks, while the average restaurant breach remains undetected for about a year and a half.

Having a plan makes it easier to identify when there’s been a breach and gives you the tools to act quickly to minimize the damage.

7. Add Cyber Liability Insurance Coverage

A cyber security incident can have a far-reaching impact on your fast food restaurant, and the risk is always there, even with all the right protections in place. It’s important to make sure you’re prepared to handle a hack and all its related costs, such as loss of income, legal defense costs, privacy breach notifications, regulatory fines and penalties and other related expenses.

Cyber liability insurance coverage can help minimize your exposure, cover costs, and recover more quickly.

Cyber Security Tips for Fast Food Restaurants like Yours 

Because of their unique vulnerabilities, fast food restaurants will likely continue to be a favorite target of cyber criminals. But it’s within your control to make your restaurant’s systems more secure and minimize your own risk. Contact your insurance representative to learn more about cyber liability insurance and cyber security resources that can help protect your business.