With the rapid rise of data hacking in the Australian business sector in recent months, a new risk has immerged – cloning an entire business to steal intellectual property and ultimately income.
Data expert and Managing Director of EC Integrators, Emy Carr, says while many businesses were concerned about data being stolen, the new threat of ‘cloning’ took hacking to a new level.
“Cloning is on the rise in Australia and is relatively easy for criminals to do,” said Ms Carr.
“In fact, there are even step by step guides available on data cloning after a simple Google search.”
Jen Wells founder of Above Benchmark, a leading Mystery Shopping provider, was recently shocked to discover their website and intellectual property been cloned and reproduced with a different trading name.
“It’s absolutely gut wrenching to see your hard work and design being copied,” Mrs Wells said.
“I thought our website was protected. I had no idea people could scrape an entire website, change a few words and pass it off as their own.
“The cloned site was paid for with Bitcoin, so it’s very difficult to find who did this. We reported them and were relieved when the site was shut down, but a few days later they were up and running again. We’re now in the process of shutting them down a second time, but they’re getting more difficult to track down.
“I think the message is for the public to be very careful with the personal information they are providing on websites and job applications. You can’t assume that just because a website looks professional that you’re dealing with a legitimate business. The crooks are getting tech savvy and more advanced.”
While the business identity theft did not cost the business financially, and no customer data was compromised, other businesses may not be as fortunate.
The cost of cyber-crime to Australian business continues to rise, currently costing over $1 billion each year. 61 per cent of all data breaches in the last year occurred in businesses with fewer than 1,000 employees.
Ms Carr said Australian small business is often the most vulnerable to online scams and hacking, given a lack of resources and knowledge to protect themselves adequately against the threat.
“Australian business simply aren’t taking the required steps needed to properly protect its customers,” said Ms Carr.
“The rise of small and home businesses meant data breaches and issues like cloning were also increasing.
“Many small businesses feel they do not have the necessary budget for a sophisticated data management and cyber security plan, but the reality is that most hacks are easily defendable.”
Ms Carr said businesses could protect themselves from cloning and other data breaches by doing the following:
- Understand that most hacks start from a poor system password: More than 80 per cent of hacking related breaches coming from a weak or guessable password.
- Phishing emails continue to catch small business owners out: Hackers try to get owners to open emails that install malware or convince you to give them your password. Warning signs can include incorrect spelling, email addresses and links that look different from a regular URL.
- Use Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS), the secure version of HTTP for websites. HTTPS means all communications between your browser and the website are encrypted, protecting highly confidential online transactions like online banking and online shopping order forms.
- Use a robust cloud service providers: By storing information offsite on a robust cloud server it not only secures data but also have access to data backup in case of a disaster event.
“All businesses need to be more data aware and have proper management processes in place,” said Ms Carr.
“This includes identifying the sensitive data that they collect and store, such as any customer or employee personal information, credit card details, financial records, medical records, educational records, employment information.
“Ensure you understand where the data is captured and stored – is it digitally or in hard copies, and then who has access to it at every step of your business processes.
“Businesses should be encrypting data, the copies, backups so even if it’s stolen, the data is not easily jeopardised.”
EC Integrators is a leading information management consultancy with specialised expertise in Data Governance, Enterprise Data Management, Data Virtualisation and Business Intelligence.
For more information relating to managing data in business visit www.ecintegrators.com.au