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Garden Variety Data Theft

While the nation’s attention is firmly fixed on the PRISM disclosure, it’s good not to forget that more mundane data loss continues unabated. As the federal government grapples with the implications of Edward Snowden’s act, individuals and companies grapple with the implications of the loss of their valuable documents and intellectual property.

This point was made in an article in the Economist last month. The sub-head of the piece stated, with a touch of dry humor, that “Cyber-spying grows bigger and more boring.”

I suppose “boring” is a relative term. Compared to the scope of and outrage generated by the NSA’s domestic surveillance program? Sure. But if you are the target of garden variety data theft, I doubt you’d say you were bored by it. To the contrary; a data theft incident means your dance card is probably going to be full for the next mixer or two. And, in the immortal words of Desi Arnaz, “you got some ‘splainin’ to do!”

Depending on the nature of the theft and the kind of information you collect, create, and manage, you’ll be contacting: customers, investors, legal counsel, business partners, financial institutions, computer forensic specialists, crisis management consultants, law enforcement authorities (possibly including local and state police, state attorney general, the FBI, Secret Service, Postal Service), your employees and, (perhaps the most intimidating of them all), your spouse.

Have you been overcome by the fear of God yet? Good.

As bad as all that seems (and it is bad), you can make it worse by taking no preventative measures in advance of your theft incident. Remember, there are two kinds of companies… and the law looks dimly on those who fail to invest in security, so if you pretend to be in a third category that is immune to the scourge of data loss, the pilfering of your valuable data may be the least of your problems.

Whether it is trusted insiders, careless employees, foreign actors, domestic agents, or cyber criminals without borders, you are at constant risk of a data breach. It doesn’t matter how large or small you are.

An ounce of prevention can equal a pound of cure. But a failure to take that ounce will equal a pounding headache.

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