Consumer Reports: Small business data breach dangers

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Tuesday, March 12, 2019
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Consumer Reports: Small business data breach dangers - Nydia Han reports during Action News at 4:30pm on March 12, 2019.

Big company data breaches make the headlines, but your local mom and pop shop isn't immune to hackers. In the past 14 years, nearly 50-million consumers have been caught up in smaller incidents.

A Consumer Reports investigation reveals incidents that small businesses should worry consumers just as much as data breaches at big companies. In fact, due to fewer defenses, mom and pops can be more prone to hacks.

Allyson Myers is the head of sales for a family owned chocolate business.

"I was personally affected by the Equifax breach so then when we had incidents of our own, we knew to take it seriously," she said.

In September of 2017, hackers stole names, addresses, email addresses, and credit card information from customers who had purchased chocolates online. And Consumer Reports warned that in breaches both big and small the consequences may not be so different.

"Your credit card information is your credit card information. It doesn't matter if it came from the hardware store down the street or if it came from a really big data broker operation, the information is still the same," said Bobby Richter, a privacy expert at Consumer Reports.

Lake Champlain Chocolates reacted quickly reporting the incident to the state attorney general and putting protocols in place to protect customers in the future. But other small businesses might not be that vigilant.

So how can you protect yourself?

"You've got to be stingy with your personal information. The less data you put out there, the less there is to steal. If you have any accounts you use maybe less often, or not at all any more that are pretty old, you might want to go back and check those, or monitor them on some sort of routine basis," Richter said.

Also consider freezing your credit and maintain strong, unique, different passwords for each of your online accounts. Using a password manager will help. Apps like 1Password, LastPass, and Dashlane will keep track of all your passwords, and can generate new ones designed to confuse hackers.

To read the full story: Consumer Reports: The Data Breach Next Door