Not to be alarmist, but the headline is completely true. According to a report by the International Association of Privacy Professionals, small businesses “have more gray areas and less direction” when it comes to government regulations, whereas “large enterprises face fines, reputation loss and brand-tarnishing when personally identifiable information is poorly managed” and are therefore more susceptible to hacker attacks.
Well, that’s a lot of words that probably scared a lot of people. What it basically means is that if you are running a small business, you’re more likely to get stung by hackers because there are far fewer penalties for slacking on Internet security when it comes to the aforementioned PII.
“The typical nonprofessional service business has no training or education on laws governing the collection of personally identifiable information or other sensitive customer data,” Avivah Litan, Gartner Research's lead consumer privacy analyst, said in the report.
What you decide to do with this has more to do with where you are at as an entrepreneur. Internal systems -- things that are a closed loop -- like the full range of Google Apps are completely safe because the only people who can gain access are those who you want to gain access. An external system is where the problems can potentially start to enter the fray. So, stuff like ecommerce services, where anyone can come and interact with the guts of a website, is a potential open door for people who are trying to break in with malice.
So, if you are a smaller entrepreneur or company, one possibility is to use an intermediary service to handle your ecommerce needs -- stuff like Kickstarter or Dwolla. These won’t scale well as you grow, but it’s a good start, at the very least. And also, read this list of five best practices for online cross-selling.
David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a comedy-writing instructor for Second City. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.