Friday, September 19, 2014

Can Apple Pay be the Spark to Ignite Mobile Electronic Payments?

While most of the buzz surrounding Apple’s recent keynote was about the new iPhone 6 models and the Apple Watch, one of the announcements that may have flown under the radar was the introduction of Apple Pay. This new feature, which will be available next month, allows iPhone 6 users to complete a one touch payment transition using their phone (or Apple Watch). It utilizes the iPhone’s Passbook app to store credit card information.

While Apple Pay is a new feature for the iPhone, it is not a revolutionary product. Much like similar endeavors such as Google Wallet, Apple Pay uses Near Field Communication (NFC) technology in the device to complete the payment transaction.  So why does Apple Pay have a chance to succeed where others have lagged behind? Joe Reithmeier, Client CIO at Miles Technologies, believes the answer lies within the power of Apple’s brand and the timing of the release of Apple Pay.
Apple Pay
IMAGE: Apple

Reithmeier, who has been working with banking and financial technology for over 20 years, has seen the evolution of electronic banking grow from virtually nothing to what it is today. He explains that for a system like Apple Pay to succeed, Apple must win over three stake holders who are involved in the transaction process. The stakeholders are:
  1.  Payment Processors
  2. Consumers
  3. Merchants
Apple can already check the first one off the list. Major credit card companies Visa, MasterCard and American Express havealready signed on to work with Apple pay—ditto the major national banks that issue debit cards.

For the consumers, iPhone 6 and 6+ users will have the ability to use Apple Pay right out of the box. Reithmeier says that based on past history, users will jump on board quickly. “Let’s face it; Apple has raving fans all over the world,” he says. “They tend to get their technology out very quickly. [Apple Pay] will be in a lot of hands very shortly.”

The final potential stumbling block for Apple will be getting merchants on board with accepting Apple Pay as a form of payment in their stores. “The stake holder that normally derails the electronic payment movement is the merchant who needs to accept those payments,” Reithmeier says. “In the past, NFC technology has been expensive to implement and maintain.”
Joe Reithmeier, Client CIO Miles Technologies
Joe Reithmeier, Client CIO
So what is different now? According to Reithmeier, there are two main factors. This first—and more obvious one—is that Apple was never involved before.  “Apple is a big player in the market, and they may have a lot of their customers asking [merchants] about it,” he says.

Secondly, it’s getting closer and closer to October 2015. Why is this date so important? “In October of 2015 there will be a liability shift,” Reithmeier says. “What that means is that all the big payment processors like MasterCard, Visa and American Express will begin to require EMV technology—an embedded chip—in their cards to make them more secure and make fraud more difficult. Today, if data from a credit card transaction is stolen and used for fraud, the credit card company assumes liability. Come October of next year, if the merchant is not accepting cards with EMV or other enhanced security methodologies like the Apple Pay technologies, that liability shifts to the merchant.”

The immediate implication of this liability shift is that merchants who still want to accept credit and debit cards must upgrade their technology to accept EMV chip payments lest they put themselves at risk at being held liable for countless potential fraudulent charges.

Reithmeier says that this shift may be the impetus merchants need in order to upgrade their technology. Before, there was no incentive to do so. Now they must do so in order to protect themselves from potential liabilities. “[The liability shift] may be the onus for the merchants to begin to look at investing in new technologies and brining in something like Apple Pay.”
Apple Pay Screen Shot
IMAGE: Apple

According to Reithmeier, the winning over of the three stake holders, backed by Apples strong brand history, may be what allows these electronic payments to take off. “Apple has a track record of changing some of these industries that seemed to be unchangeable in the past. Just think of the music industry,” he says. “Apple also has some features that are already on the iPhone that people use today—namely the Passbook functionality.  That’s a trusted place that people already use to store important information, so storing a credit card there isn’t too big of a stretch for consumers.”

“It’s a bit of a perfect storm brewing,” Reithmeier adds. “You have a very popular technology company that has a lot of people who are looking forward to adopting the newest technology, merchants that need to do something anyway, and payment processors that want to stay in the game. It’s best for them to stay on the side of Apple.”

Time will ultimately tell whether or not these payments catch on, but based on his vast experiences, Reithmeier thinks the likelihood is there thanks to Apple and October 2015.

Interested in learning more about this topic? Check out the latest Miles Technologies Podcast where Reithmeier discusses Apple Pay in further detail, and predicts the impact it will have in the financial world:

Need to find out more about Apple Pay, Information Security or How Changes in the Banking Industry will Affect your Business? Contact us to speak with our Finance Industry Experts.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Inbound Marketing: 7 Most Important Takeaways from HubSpot’s State of Inbound Report

HubSpot surveyed more than 3,500 marketing and sales professionals at virtually all levels, across all industries and around the world. Why? The 6th Annual Report on Inbound Marketing & Selling! HubSpot asked what they do, why they do it, how they do it – and if what they do works. Covering everything from inbound methodologies to inbound marketing ROI trends, HubSpot's report is comprehensive – and encouraging. Here are seven major takeaways:

Inbound Unlocks ROI: If you are running an inbound marketing program and not tracking ROI, you are doing your company – and your career – a great disservice. Inbound marketers who measure ROI are more than 12 times more likely to generate a greater as opposed to lower year-over-year return. Proving that you are increasing return is important for several reasons, most notably the positive impact it has on budget. No single factor had a greater impact on budget – positive or negative – than did “past success with inbound.” Improving ROI may even safeguard your budget against factors beyond your control, like the economy itself.

Priority #1? Getting Found & Getting Blogging: HubSpot zoomed in on the segment of inbound marketers generating positive ROI – high performers – to see if they prioritized different types of projects than low performers. High performers are emphasizing programs designed to get their content, and by extension their company, found. In order, blogging, organic search, and content amplification top the list. Blogging appears to have the most substantial impact on performance. In fact, HubSpot reports marketers who have prioritized blogging are 13x more likely to enjoy positive ROI

Data Alignment. Marketing Alignment: If inbound marketing were a sports team, its coach would be Coach Data, according to HubSpot. Data is objective. It’s immune to the feelings and instincts that drove the previous era of “arts and crafts” marketing. Data has also delivered a new marketing energy – with rebooted marketing priorities. HubSpot reports strong alignment exists between marketing practitioners and leaders, with a focus on reaching the relevant audience, proving the ROI of marketing activities, reducing the cost of contacts and leads and converting contacts to customers.

Guess What? Agencies Are Leading The Pack: Inbound marketing performance is up across the board. More companies are running inbound than ever before. More are measuring ROI and more are enjoying improved ROI. Inbound is expanding into other lines of business, and those departments are experiencing positive results. It’s even driving revenue globally. The group setting the standard? Marketing agencies, currently outpacing vendors by sourcing nearly half (47%) of all leads through inbound channels.

Welcome The Inbound Selling Era: The era of “inbound selling” has arrived. Inbound is no longer limited to “just” marketing. More than 25% of respondents reported that their organizations’ sales teams practice inbound, and it’s not just lip service. Contrast the two charts below, and you’ll see that sales professionals are far more “inbound” than are marketers who favor outbound practices.

Inbound Budgets Positively Correlate To SLAs: Service Level Agreements (SLA) between marketing and sales correlates to inbound marketing budgets considerably. Ratifying an SLA with sales demonstrates credibility. Example: if marketing commits to delivering a certain number of leads that meet a measurable quality score, and sales is accountable for following up on those leads in a documented amount of time, then the two groups are signaling to leadership that they are focused on driving business results, not just intradepartmental metrics. Establishing an SLA also requires marketers to measure consistently - a prerequisite to becoming a high performer.

Content Marketing Is Huge: When HubSpot coined the term “inbound marketing” back in 2006, the company had loosely defined it as meaning: “a methodology that focuses on creating quality content that pulls people toward your company and product.” In other words, inbound is the superset of quality content. Since that time, a similar methodology called “content marketing” has taken root.

Perhaps because content marketing was not championed by a single organization, it tends to have a less ratified definition. Nevertheless, it’s become a popular term. In fact, Google Trends data shows search volume is considerably higher for “content marketing(orange line) than for “inbound marketing” (blue line). In fact, the marketers concluded that content marketing is a subset of inbound at nearly twice the rate (59% to 33%) as all other options combined. While the data showed less variance for sales and services professionals, “content marketing is a subset of inbound” was still clearly the most popular answer even for groups newer to inbound.

One fact is clear: Inbound marketing is just now experiencing a glimpse of its full potential.

Miles Technologies is a HubSpot Certified Partner 

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Friday, September 5, 2014

5 Creative Marketing & Social Media Lessons Pouring from the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. In a word: BRILLIANT! The ALS Association is incredibly grateful for the outpouring of support from people all over the world in participating in the Ice Bucket Challenge and for making donations to support the associations fight against Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as Lou Gehrig's Disease - a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.

Let’s be clear. The mission, motivation and enthusiasm behind the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is commendable. From a social media engagement standpoint, it may even be viewed as historic. So far, the Ice Bucket Challenge, as of September 5, has fueled more than $109.1 million in donations as the cause stormed social media with a viral energy not witnessed previously in campaigns of its nature.

The frenzy to jump aboard the ice bucket pouring endeavor hit global proportions – highlighted by political leaders, celebrities, entire community groups, academic institutions, not to mention grandmothers, toddlers and just about everyone in between, even that cousin of yours that rarely talks at family parties.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is social media engagement gold – pure and simple. It is a captivating marketing campaign and brand strategy that may go down as one of the best marketing campaigns ever! In short, it's a winner! What can we learn about social media engagement from it – speaking objectively?

Being Crazy Pays Off! When you want to engage your social media audience, think creatively. Think wacky! Ponder the ‘what if’ concepts and deliberate them seriously. If the ALS Association decided to go conservative, and harness the concept of its Ice Bucket Challenge, what a loss that would have been to the cause of raising funds to find a cure for ALS. Kudos for creativity, ALS Association!

People Will Do Anything! Of course, this statement is broad – and false. People will not do anything! However, when friends and families are happily pouring buckets of ice water over their heads and doing it with big enthusiasm, supporting a great cause…well, that becomes infectious. Don’t underestimate the power of community engagement – or participation. If the cause is noble enough, and the request is within reason, people will do anything to support something great.

It Helps When Former Presidents Get Involved! One of the best ALS Ice Bucket Challenge videos came from none other than former President George W. Bush – who even called out former President Bill Clinton to take the plunge. At the start of his video, the former president shares his thoughts that the Ice Bucket Challenge is not very presidential, but then within seconds former First Lady Laura Bush soaks him with a massive bucket. Funny! If you can create a cause that gets the attention, much less participation and endorsement, of a man that once was the most powerful man in the free world, you are doing something very right.

The Internet Really Is Awesome! The Internet was the platform that gave life to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg dumped a bucket of ice on his own head. So did Microsoft’s Bill Gates. Just about everyone got into the act – and shared their ice bucket dousings all over the Internet, thanks to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and more. When developing a social media campaign to recruit mass participation, think visually and rest assured the Internet will help carry your vision to millions. After all, isn’t it entertaining to watch famous people and regular folks dumping buckets of ice water over their heads? Of course it is!

One Clever Idea Can Create A Big Splash! While a bit unconventional a mechanism for increasing awareness and raising donations, the brilliance of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is not in its flare for splashing water, but in its devotion to its cause. Millions of people donated. Millions of people learned a little bit more about ALS. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a social media engagement winner, not because we got to view countless funny videos, but because we – as a collective – got to laugh together, participate together and give together to a tremendously important cause. As a global community, we became unified – under one massively cold bucket of water.

The ALS Association reports funds will be used to fund cutting-edge research as well as care and support to people living with the disease. Now and in the coming weeks, the ALS Association plans to enhance its strategic plan, reformulating and recasting strategies with input from stakeholders, including donors, chapters, and most importantly, people living with ALS, as well as input from ALS families. What an awe-inspiring outcome, from one very bold and strategic marketing concept that grew to be one unforgettable social media engagement story.

Now, what ideas do you have for your social engagement?

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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

IT Support for your Business: A Job Best Left to the Experts

When businesses are looking for ways to cut costs, paying for an IT Support plan with a managed services provider may not always be the first measure that comes to mind. In fact, some businesses may be tempted to try to save money on IT by attempting to maintain their IT systems completely on their own or just having an “IT guy” whom they can reach out to when a problem or issue arises. While this may seem like the lesser expensive strategy, it may end up costing a business big time in the long run.

“One of the biggest advantages of having an IT Support plan is that it’s typically done at a fixed cost,” says Ryan Armstrong, Director of IT Support at Miles Technologies. “So you can set your budget and you don’t have to worry about hourly rates. The budget should be the same every moth or year or however often you’re paying.”
A complete IT plan should cover both support and proactive services
Given the sometimes random nature of issues, future IT costs are not always easy to project, so having a fixed-cost support plan can greatly help when trying to balance a budget. A solid support plan will also usually come with a customizable price where adjustments can be made based on needs such as the addition or removal of users and equipment.

Another benefit of an IT support plan with a managed services provider is that a business will be receiving support from a team rather than just one or two individuals. “You’re going to have a team of experts—and if your team needs assistance, there will be other individuals within their organization that are aware of other topics that might come up along the way,” says Armstrong. Instead of having the resources of just one individual, working with an organization gives you access to all the resources your team members have at their disposal.

Not to be overlooked is the advantage that comes along with a team or support organization’s familiarity with your IT systems. If you have a dedicated group managing your system, the IT support should be faster and more efficient. “By using someone who is aware of and responsible for your IT environment, they should know what is going on and be able to jump in there and get things done right away,” says Armstrong.

Being on a thorough IT support plan also provides a massive advantage to any business in the form of proactive services. If a company is just relying on an individual who can provide IT assistance on an “as-needed” basis, then they will only be reacting to problems after they occur instead of trying to catch them ahead of time to keep the business running smoothly. “Proactive services help plan for the future,” reports Armstrong. “They typically include things like updates, making sure your back-ups work and ensuring your hardware is not going to fail tomorrow. If these areas aren’t being monitored, then that means eventually you’re probably going have a problem that is a bigger problem than it needs to be because nothing was done along the way.”

Ryan Armstrong Director of IT Support
Keeping the system running and ensuring that back-ups are functioning properly are essential for businesses in any industry to keep running smoothly. For example, an error that causes a loss of data on a primary system should be able to be quickly resolved as long as a proper back-up is maintained, but, according to Armstrong, maintaining a complete backup is not as easy as some people think. “We see this all the time with new customers who come on board and tell us their previous ‘IT guy’ was doing back-ups for them,” he says. “We would look at the back-ups, and see that they haven’t worked correctly in months. The customer had no idea.”

These proactive monitoring services will also increase your bottom line as they are interned to help you plan for the future and hopefully avoid any high un-planned costs. “The thing you see most commonly with non-plan customers is they get surprised by expenses,” reports Armstrong. “A managed service provider should be giving you an estimate—for example, ‘that server has two years in its lifetime left, so we should start thinking about we’re going to do when that comes up, what the cost will be.’ If you don’t have a support plan service, you find out that your server needs to be replaced when it’s broken. There was no time to budget for it, and suddenly you’re spending thousands of dollars that you had no idea that was coming. The same thing can happen with software licenses.”

When it comes to deciding on whom to trust with your IT needs, going with the experts is the best way to for your business. The full support plan from a Managed Services Provider—which typically comes with the aforementioned proactive services—“is where you can really get some added value for your IT dollars in terms of planning and avoiding pitfalls,” says Armstrong. 

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

What Are You Reading? Security Breaches, Tweeting Your PR & Panasonic's Social Engagement Strategy

Sharing content is a driving force in staying market sharp and trend aware! Miles Technologies actively shares expertise, observations and best practices with a variety of leading journalistic and market savvy platforms! Here’s a few of our recent shares! Tweet us @milestech and let us know what you are reading!

P.F. Chang's, Russian Gang Data Breaches:
Lessons To Learn

Platform: Philadelphia Business Journal

P.F. Chang’s, the popular bistro, shared new details about a security breach discovered in June, reporting that customer data may have been stolen from no less than 33 restaurants in 16 states, including eight locations in California. The restaurant chain reported that credit card numbers, expiration dates and, in some cases, cardholder names were stolen over an eight-month period. P.F. Chang’s first reported the data breach on June 13, noting the breach occurred between October 2013 and June 11. P.F. Chang's has about 211 locations in the U.S. and abroad. The company also operates Pei Wei Asian Diner, a more casual Asian restaurant chain with more than 190 U.S. locations, none of which were compromised. Data breaches happen – all the time. What’s the lesson? Cyber attackers are everywhere! What does this mean? IT support management and information technology services company expertise is critical. Protect your data!

3 Cores of New Age PR:
Is Tweeting Public Relations?

Platform: Small Business Trends

Abandon preconceived notions about public relations (PR). Today, public relations is a cross-platform communications action reliant upon traditional and digital PR strategies, as well as social engagement, content marketing, brand publishing, media relations, inbound content, SEO strategies and limitless creativity. Today, PR includes social media, blogging, online reputation management, brand journalism, content strategies, thought leadership and more. PR is now an extremely broad and diversified field – it is no longer anchored to crisis communications, press releases and media alerts. We’re talking PR...evolved. There exists today a churning, swirling mix of initiatives that all, at their respective cores, are inherently linked to the actions of a corporation, enterprise, organization or individual to promote activities – public relations.

Using QuickBooks To Improve Your Collections Process
Platform: Intuit Accountants News Central

One major challenge that any new startup, small business or growing business faces is the management of cash flow within their company. Limitations in cash flow can have a number of adverse effects, including delays in services or products provided, the inability to pay employees or vendors on time, and unnecessary incursions of interest on loans that may need to be taken out. Don’t we all wish that our customers would pay us in a timely manner and obey those payment terms we arbitrarily select when we send out our invoices? In a perfect world, that would be great, but as anybody who owns a business or works in the Accounts Receivables department can attest to, we know that is just not the case. So, what can we do to make this process more efficient and keep the cash rolling in, and how can QuickBooks help with that? Chris Guido of Miles Technologies digs into this topic!

Customer Engagement Case Study: Panasonic’s Social Campaign to Light 100,000 Lives
Platform: AllBusiness

Imagine giving light to people living in darkness. Panasonic imaged such a formidable task. Then, Panasonic took action. In 2013, the company launched its 100 Thousand Solar Lanterns Project. The goal was clear: Provide 100,000 solar lanterns to off-grid communities by 2018 – the year of the company’s 100th anniversary. The project – dubbed Cut Out The Darkness – is a shining example of what a global company can do to recruit large-scale community engagement by sharing powerful stories, captivating videos, and a unique call for social media participation.What’s so special about Cut Out The Darkness? It’s the personal touch, empowered by Panasonic, that allows people to empathize with the plight of others, endorse the opportunity to create positive change, and advocate – even praise – the endeavor on social media.

6 Social Media Lessons You Can Learn from YouTube Star PewDiePie
Platform: Philadelphia Business Journal

He is the King of YouTube. Felix Kjellberg, better known by his online alias, PewDiePie, is an extremely likeable Swedish guy who loves to comment on video games on YouTube. PewDiePie specializes in Let's Play videos of the horror and action video game genres – as well as commentaries to his fans, his Bros! Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported that PewDiePie, an unlikely megastar with an endearing modesty and zany energy, at the age of 24 earns $4 million a year, most of it pure profit. And no wonder, he has almost 30 million subscribers to his YouTube channel. He has over three million Twitter followers and 3.9 million Facebook Likes. On Google+ he has more than 750,000 followers and over 343 million views thanks to his hysterically entertaining approach to playing video and mobile games. Who is this guy?

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Software Development Company Service Level Agreements: Do You Need One?

When a business has a custom software solution designed for it—whether it is a completely new system or an integrated design—the implementation of the system is usually not the final step of the software development lifecycle.

After the solution is implemented, most software development companies offer monthly service plan agreements to ensure the software continues to perform and function optimally to meet the needs of the business. You made a large investment in custom software for your business so the question you must ask yourself is, “Do I really need to invest more money on a monthly software support plan?”

Benefits of a Software Support Plan 

As part of their software development services, a company’s plan or agreement will usually cover the following areas: ongoing maintenance and help desk support, proactive maintenance, and analysis of the system. Each one of these areas is valuable to ensure a business is running efficiently and help it stay ahead of its competitors.

So what can these different areas of service do for your business? Put simply, they can help you save time and money and stay competitive. “A company service level agreement gives a business a fixed budget,” says JP Lessard, President of Business Software Solutions at Miles Technologies. “They know they can keep their system up and running, and have proactive advice and consultation. It also keeps them more on the cutting edge of technology.” 

Having a software help desk team available as a support resource will not only help ensure that the system is functioning properly, but can assist with answering any questions and help users navigate their way through the software. “One key value of a service level agreement is that for a business, there is someone to back you up,” says Erik Grobelny, Lead Software Support Specialist at Miles Technologies. “If there is some sort of issue or a user needs help using the system, help is available under a software support plan. This decreases turnaround time.” 

Ongoing maintenance and monitoring of the software system is another invaluable resource a software development company can provide via its service plan. Take the example of an e-commerce site. If you are not on any kind of service plan, and there is an error with your site, it will not likely get noticed until it is reported by a customer if no one is monitoring the system. “If you are not on a plan and your site goes down, you have to wait for your customers or yourself to notice that,” says Lessard. 

“You could lose two or three days’ worth of sales by that time. If you are on a support plan, and we’re monitoring your site for you, we’ll know within five minutes of the site being down. Most times, we’ll have it solved even before the customer knows there’s an issue.” 

Having a service level agreement with a software development company is also valuable because there is an individual or team in the software development services that is familiar with the system designed specifically for your business. This makes troubleshooting faster, as support specialists know best where to look for common errors in the software. 

Optimal Function amidst Technological Advances 

Proactive maintenance and monitoring is key to make sure the solution continues to function amid the changing landscape of technology. Many custom software solutions—especially those designed for businesses—will integrate with some kind of third party software system. All web-based applications will need to work in web browsers such as Chrome, Firefox and Internet explorer. As part of a service level agreement, there can be a regular analysis to test whether all pieces of the system will continue to function with the changes in the browser or a third party system. “A plan will proactively monitor any third parties you do integrate with,” says Grobelny. “For example, if you integrate with FedEx to determine shipping charges for your e-commerce system, we’ll keep an eye on FedEx’s web service to see if it is going to update. We can proactively analyze what it would take keep your system working.” 

A regular systems analysis as part of software development services is also vital in ensuring a system’s optimal performance. As part of this analysis, the development company should keep logs of various aspects of the systems functionality from any processes slowing down the software to common issues that come into the helpdesk. This information is then analyzed and used to recommend changes to the system going forward. “We’ll try to figure out what parts of the system maybe should be changed to make it easier to use or make it more intuitive,” says Lessard. “We could even add some features because people are asking about it a lot on the helpdesk.” 

Much like the purchase of a car or a home, a custom software solution is an important investment for a company, so having it maintained and monitored by a team of experts is the best way to protect that investment. “Over time, you want to make sure you get the most out of that investment,” says Lessard. “So continuing to put a small investment—relative to your initial investment—in to make sure that things are running smooth is really important for a company.” 

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Data Breach: P.F. Chang’s & U.S. Security Contractor Infiltrated – What’s The Lesson?

A company that performs background checks for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security reported on Wednesday, Aug. 6, it was the victim of a cyber attack, adding in a statement that it has all the markings of a state-sponsored attack.

According to published reports, including Reuters and the Washington Post, the computer breach at Falls Church, Virginia-based US Investigations Services (USIS) probably involved the theft of personal information about DHS employees.

USIS reports it is the biggest commercial provider of background investigations to the federal government, has over 5,700 employees and provides services in all U.S. states and territories, as well as abroad. DHS said it had suspended all work with the company amid an investigation by the FBI.

USIS issued the following statement: 

Our internal IT security team recently identified an apparent external cyber attack on the USIS corporate network. We immediately informed federal law enforcement, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and other relevant federal agencies. 

We are working closely with federal law enforcement authorities and have retained an independent computer forensics investigations firm to determine the precise nature and extent of any unlawful entry into our network. Experts who have reviewed the facts gathered to-date believe it has all the markings of a state-sponsored attack. 

Cybercrime and attacks of this nature have become an epidemic that impacts businesses, government agencies, and financial and educational institutions alike. The protection and safeguarding of our networks, our data and the data of our customers is always of the utmost importance, and we have invested heavily in security measures.

Earlier this week, P.F. Chang’s, the popular bistro, shared new details about a security breach discovered in June, reporting that customer data may have been stolen from no less than 33 restaurants in 16 states, including eight locations in California. The restaurant chain reported that credit card numbers, expiration dates and, in some cases, cardholder names were stolen over an eight-month period.

P.F. Chang’s first reported the data breach on June 13, noting the breach occurred between October 2013 and June 11. P.F. Chang's has about 211 locations in the U.S. and abroad. The company also operates Pei Wei Asian Diner, a more casual Asian restaurant chain with more than 190 U.S. locations, none of which were compromised.

Data breaches happen – all the time. 

It was recently reported by Forbes that Delaware Restaurant Association and Jimmy John’s sandwich chain were also the latest victims of reported massive data breaches. Earlier this week, news broke that a Russian gang hacked into more than 420,000 web and FTP sites, amassing 1.2 billion usernames, passwords and over 500 million email addresses – making the theft of 110 million people’s data during the Target hack seem trivial.

Let’s not forget the 150 million breached data from the hack of Adobe last year – a cyber attack that involved a reported 38 million active users. While we're at it, let’s throw in a reminder of eBay’s data breach in May, resulting in eBay’s entire user database being compromised – impacting usernames, contact information and even encrypted passwords.

What’s the lesson? 

Cyber Attackers Are Everywhere: Hackers do not target only large companies – or companies in any particular market or industry. All businesses must institute security awareness training to help educate workforces and eliminate mistakes that could easily lead to security breaches. Don’t think just because the data breach headlines are impacting P.F. Chang’s and eBay means that your business is not a target.

Encryption Policy Mandate: Businesses must institute an encryption policy, particularly in the age of the mobile workforce. To eliminate redundancy and reduce costs, many companies today have implemented a bring your own device (BYOD) policy for their employees. However, most IT consultant firms will attest that, without proper encryption strategies in place, security challenges – and threats – arise. Encryption measures, working in tandem with a strongly enforced network security policy, can help protect data.

Take All Measures: It’s not enough to protect data with one or two strategies in play. Firewalls, encryption software, content filters, passwords and virus protection are all mandates. If a business has a network connection to the Internet, a firewall may mean the difference between data breach and data security.

Revisit Your Security Strategy: Revisit your network monitoring and breach detection systems and procedures to make sure you are ready in case your business ends up a target. Any information technology services company will advise that complacency results in risk to your data. Keep current with the latest, and emerging, technologies and trends to protect your company’s data – and that of your clients, vendors and employees.

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