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September 2019

At Risk for a Data Breach?

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By Ronnie Miles
Director of Advocacy
NGCOA

Today’s golf courses rely more than ever on technology. The advancement of technology has enabled the smallest of operators to enjoy the same market exposure as the big boys. This access does not come without risk.

Operators today have access to more information on their customers than ever before. Multiple system integrations allow owners to monitor their business performance from any place in the world. With this open access to your system, you become vulnerable to system breaches. How would you manage your pro shop or restaurant if your point-of-sale system goes down? How would you respond if your customers’ personal data was hacked by an unauthorized third-party?

According to the Small Business Association, this category of business owners is the most vulnerable to cyber attacks – 43 percent of cyber attacks target small business. With 48 percent of data security breaches caused by acts of malicious intent, the remaining 52 percent is due to human error or just system failures. The most frequent data breaches are from web-based attack, followed by Phishing and general malware. However, while currently being reported as the least frequent, small businesses are seeing an increase in the number of ransomware attacks. While these attacks are low, they are considered the most damaging for businesses, large or small.

Are you currently storing your data locally? If so, how are you backing up your system? Many courses are using third-party providers to deliver full system program and equipment integration solutions which manage all their critical data storage. Others who maintain their own systems use off-site cloud-based backup services. If you are not using one of these two systems your risk of data loss from breaches has exponentially increased. While these backup services require an ongoing financial commitment, should you ever find yourself having to recover your system, the expense will be well worth it.

So what can you do to protect yourself from a data breach or ransomware attack? As with any security system, there is no single solution. First and foremost, the single most effective step is education and training for all staff members who use or have access to your network. Next, if you are offering your guest Wi-Fi access, make sure this is on a separate network from the one being used for all your business applications.

Here is a list of other best practices that you should implement in your IT security plan:

 Install, patch and update software
 Install and monitor a firewall
 Update user passwords at least every quarter
 Update and maintain anti-virus software
 Encrypt your data
 Limit or minimize user access to only what is necessary.

Protecting your IT system requires a financial investment, however, failing to protect it could cost you your business.

If you have questions or concerns about protecting your network, contact NGCOA Director of Information Technology Thomas Smith, tsmith@ngcoa.org or by phone at 843-471-2738.

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