Over the last few years, franchise businesses have become a favorite target of cyber criminals. Hackers have stolen password credentials, company records and customer credit card data from thousands of well-known establishments.

Most franchise businesses do not consider themselves at high risk for hackers, but the consequences of a cyber attack are serious. Data breaches cost small businesses $105,000 on average, and the damage to brand reputation may linger for years. Awareness of the importance of cybersecurity is improving, but many franchise businesses still aren’t sure what next steps to take.

Since hackers often use a business’s own employees as a stepping stone to get into computer systems and do damage, it makes sense to focus your efforts on training. By training employees on cybersecurity, you can help minimize your risk of a cyber attack.

Here is what you need to know about franchise cybersecurity risks plus three quick tips for training employees on cybersecurity.

Why Franchise Businesses Are Particularly Vulnerable to Cyber Crime

With the possibility of attacking banks, ecommerce giants, tech titans and more, some may wonder why cybercriminals would bother targeting a small franchise business like yours.

It is true that cyber attacks target all sorts of businesses, and many recent high-profile hacks include big names outside the industry. However, some cybercriminals prefer franchises because they’re easier targets.

  • Franchises have less robust defenses than do banks and other prime targets.
  • General awareness of cyber threats and hacking techniques is lower.
  • Employees tend to have less training on how to protect the business from cybercrime.

Franchises are also a desirable target because of the higher sales volume. Though the dollar amount of each sale may be small, your business likely processes more than a thousand transactions a day.

Most sales will be tendered through your POS system using a credit card reader, which like any piece of technology, can be hacked. If cybercriminals gain access to your POS computer system, they could collect customer payment data for days, weeks or months until the hack is discovered and shut down. In the end, such a haul could rival a bank heist.

Why Training Employees on Cybersecurity is Important

In today’s connected world, all businesses use advanced technology to help protect computer systems and safeguard sensitive data. Many of the pieces of technology your franchise relies on come out of the box with cybersecurity protection. However, technical solutions often aren’t enough to ward off persistent cybercriminals, meaning you have to involve managers and employees in your cybersecurity efforts.

The weakness of most pieces of technology is the human being who uses them.

  • Passwords protect systems and data from hackers, but employees can be tricked into revealing them.
  • Firewalls and antivirus software protect systems from malicious code, but employees can be tricked into helping a hacker bypass these defenses, too.

Cybercriminals are smart. The requests they make of a franchise employee can seem small and ordinary. This is why it is important that employees, especially managers, know what to look out for and what to do.

Why It’s Important to Include Managers in Training

All employees should be educated about the importance of cybersecurity. Safeguarding systems and data is a team effort and unusual activity and problems are most likely to be discovered and reported up the chain of command when everyone is on the same page. However, the best cybersecurity starts with the leaders of your team.

Within franchise businesses, managers are in control of POS systems, office computers, customer Wi-Fi and other systems. All of these systems are vulnerable to attack, so it’s important management understand the risks. After all, if managers don’t know what to look for, they will have difficulty preventing and responding to a cyber attack.

3 Tips for Training Employees on Cybersecurity

The best place to start with training is by addressing three key pieces of your cybersecurity protection:

1. Identify Threats

Make sure franchise managers understand what cyber threats exist. The main threats include:

  • Phishing Scams: Emails, messages and phone calls that try to trick an employee into revealing passwords or downloading malicious software, both of which give access to systems and data.
  • Malware Scams: Malicious software that infects your computer systems, including office computers, Wi-Fi networks and POS systems, stealing customer credit card data and more.
  • Wi-Fi Hacks: Targeting of the free public Wi-Fi you may offer to guests that infiltrates or impersonates your Wi-Fi network to steal your customers’ sensitive online data for profit.
  • Covid-19 Scams: Phishing email scams related to pandemic measures, such as health department downloads, stimulus info requests, vendor sales offers, delivery driver scams and more.

2. Prevent Attacks

The best practice when it comes to cybersecurity is to prevent attacks before they even happen. Your best defensive options are to:

  • Protect Your Computer Systems. Hire an IT security professional to help you evaluate your POS system, add antivirus and firewall protection, and monitor for network safety.
  • Practice Good Password Safety. Protect against the vast majority of data hacks simply by upgrading security and choosing strong, unique passwords for each system and user.
  • Perform Maintenance and Updates. Plan for routine software and hardware updates as legacy systems age and make sure critical security patches get installed right away.
  • Schedule Regular System Backups. Perform and store regular encrypted data backups to prevent malware, ransomware and viruses from causing a business interruption.
  • Hold Cyber Risk Awareness Training. Train managers and employees on common threats and how to stay safe with new employee onboarding and ongoing refreshers.

3. Respond to a Hack

It’s important to respond appropriately if a hack is discovered. Make sure you’re ready by taking two key steps:

  • Create a Cyber Response Plan. Create a formal cyber response plan to make it easier to identify attacks and hacks and act quickly through the chain of command to minimize damage.
  • Add Cyber Liability Insurance Coverage. Add adequate insurance coverage to help minimize your exposure risk, cover costs, and recover more quickly in the event of a hack.

Franchise businesses have unique vulnerabilities that make them a favorite target of cyber criminals. But it’s within your control to make your 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.