Cyber security issues represent some of the greatest threats to the United States' economy in the 21st century. Massive data breaches, website hacks and stolen information have become regular occurrences ever since December 2013, when high-tech thieves stole credit and debit information from 40 million Target customers.
President Barack Obama signed an executive order at the White House Summit on Cyber Security and Consumer Protection that outlines cooperation between private sector companies and government agencies with respect to protecting America from cyber threats. Obama implored companies, industry groups and businesses to share information with the U.S. government to avert cyber attacks. The executive order calls for the creation of Information Sharing and Analysis Organizations among industries, sectors and regions. These nonprofit and for-profit groups will coordinate their efforts through the Department of Homeland Security's National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center.
Obama's order strongly encourages, but does not require, the private sector to collaborate on cyber security threats. The president notes that when corporations band together, more can be done to stop breaches. The summit, held at Stanford University, addressed concerns to major tech companies in Silicon Valley. Executives from Apple, American Express, Kaiser Permanente and Bank of America attended.
The need for privacy and protection against identity theft presents a dilemma for American consumers since companies engage in millions of electronic transactions as a part of everyday economic activity. The balance between expenses for safeguarding customers and revenue associated with higher costs becomes a challenge for companies recovering from the recession. A cyber security breach may turn away customers, but higher prices to ensure privacy could have the same effect. Obama's executive order does nothing to provide infrastructure funding to help corporations defend themselves against cyber threats.
Firms must take steps to shore up defenses and eliminate cyber security risks. Companies must have data encryption methods that address cloud computing, desktop computers, personal information and credit/debit card numbers. When invoices get transmitted from a laptop, through the Internet, and into cloud storage, security protocols should shield that data from unwanted threats.
Outdated hardware and software make for easy targets for cyber thieves. Third-party servers must also have top-notch encryption and security measures. Companies should always check to see if an Internet provider works with current software and operating systems. A firm may have to upgrade to prevent greater expenses or larger losses later.
Firms can use protective measures as good marketing ploys. Businesses can inform consumers of measures taken to ensure privacy, both within companies and at the point of sale. Press releases, signage and notes on receipts can inform consumers of security and privacy innovations.
American consumers routinely use computers, mobile devices and debit/credit cards without thinking of consequences associated with these technological marvels. When cyber security becomes a real problem thanks to data breaches, angry consumers notice. Companies should be proactive sentinels against invisible threats, lest customers take their hard-earned dollars elsewhere.
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