You take typical safety precautions with your business, from locking the doors at night to trademarking your brand. Craig S. Horbus, Esq. attorney at Witschey, Witschey & Firestine Co. LPA, wonders why you aren’t doing the same to protect yourself online.
“For a company to have a successful online presence, they really have to start thinking about protecting their online reputation as much as they protect their real-world reputation,” says Horbus, who specializes in e-business law.
Because it’s a binding legal contract, drafting one without a law license is asking for trouble. Seek expert advice from an attorney.
“The problem I see is these companies try to wing it themselves,” he says. “It’s not created with any legal significance, review or guidance as it pertains to that company’s specific needs.”
Horbus starts with a Web site audit that assesses the overall look and feel of the site as well as target audience, purpose and content. He also looks behind the scenes, considering whether you use data-tracking tools like cookies and Google Analytics and what happens to data after it’s collected.
For example, you need to disclose Google Analytics because it collects information about your users’ traffic patterns. Your users should also know whether their data gets buried in a basement server or gets printed out for your daily review.
Online security also echoes how you protect your real-world image.
“If you take steps to protect the business by filing a copyright or trademark over a brand in the brick-and-mortar world, then you should also take those steps if you are in the online world,” Horbus says.
The Web offers additional tools for watching over your brand. You can’t have ears in every conversation to hear what everyone says about your company, but it’s easy to listen online. Monitoring tools, such as Google Alerts, let you know when your company name is mentioned for better or worse.
“By going online, businesses open their doors to the entire world, whether they like it or not,” Horbus says. “Sound security practices for business revolve around regular risk assessment … and then a prompt response to new developments within the technology world.”
Threats can range from the ever-present “digital gangsters,” as Horbus calls them hackers and spammers who may be more attracted to your business as your online reputation grows or internal threats like a disgruntled ex-employee.
“You’ve got to understand the threats when it comes to the world of security,” Horbus says.
The only way to stay on top of that is by reviewing your policy and any technology or legal changes that might impact it. Quarterly reviews may be three months late, so look at it as a constant endeavor that will be easier with proactive action now.
“By spending an amount upfront to make sure that systems are intact and security protocols are in place, [you] will save a tremendous amount of money down the road,” Horbus says. “Kind of the old saying: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Speak the same language
The first step to making your business tech-savvy seems simple. In fact, Craig S. Horbus can boil it down to one word: knowledge.
“From a practical business operation standpoint, understanding what technology your business already has in place is a vital step,” says Horbus, an attorney at Witschey, Witschey & Firestine Co. LPA. “If you don’t know what you already have in place, you’ll never utilize it and you’ll never be secure in that technology.”
Understanding what’s going on in your IT department can be like translating foreign tongues. On one side, you have IT gurus who understand technology. Across the table, you have executives who understand day-to-day business operations but aren’t typically tech-savvy.
“The technology gap is big in the business world today,” Horbus says. “Trying to bridge that gap is really trying to [find] the people that can speak both languages.”
Many companies are hiring chief information officers or chief information security officers who excel in both realms. Others bring in online consultants. Others look to young employees who have online talents to tap in an in-house tech group.
“Business leaders need to assimilate a group of individuals who are not only competent in the world of technology but who can understand these emerging issues, assess the risks and then be proactive in preparing or responding to this changing landscape,” he says.
How to reach: Witschey, Witschey & Firestine Co. LPA, (330) 665-5117 or http://www.witscheylaw.com/