Restaurants and bars must routinely handle electronic data in order to do business in this digital age.  No matter the size of the establishment, handling sensitive information such as credit card numbers or employee personal data must be done responsibly and securely.  We often hear about cyber-attacks affecting large corporations, but the majority of cyber-attacks today target small and medium sized businesses.    

Data breaches and data loss can cost many thousands of dollars in fines and legal fees on top of the already significant restoration costs.  Damage to the reputation of a business can be irreparable.  Many small businesses don’t survive a significant data breach.  Fortunately, there are steps that restaurants and bars of any size can take to help shield against cyber-attacks.

  • Secure Wi-Fi Networks: It is common today for restaurants and bars to offer free wi-fi service to guests. Make sure that the free and open network used for patrons does not handle any sensitive business data. Have a separate private business wi-fi network in place and use separate passwords to secure each network. 
  • Use Encryption: Cyber-criminals are well-versed in intercepting and stealing sensitive information sent via email, text, or private messaging. Avoid sending sensitive data using unsecure message services and encrypt any emails that must be sent with data such as credit card numbers or social security numbers. Password protect any attached files. 
  • Beware of Suspicious Attachments: Don’t open emails that come from an unrecognized sender and be especially wary of attachments. So-called “phishing” scams using fraudulent emails are a common means for cyber-criminals to steal data. Spelling and grammar errors are a typical red flag, and unrecognized or unusual email addresses should always be treated with caution.
  • Educate Employees on Cyber Security: Ensure that employees are familiar with the cyber security policies in place and with best practices regarding handling secure data, spotting phishing scams, etc. Emphasize the importance of not sharing passwords, not using unsecured networks for business purposes, and updating passwords routinely.
  • Consider Cyber Liability Coverage: Cyber liability insurance protects establishments from data breaches and other cyber-crimes. Cyber insurance can help cover expenses related to data recovery and restoration, ransom and cyber-extortion, identity recovery, loss of income, legal fees, government fines or penalties, and liability settlements.

The increasing prevalence of cashless transactions including conventional credit and debit card payments as well as mobile app payments means that the need for cyber-security measures will only continue to grow.  As digital technology continues to evolve, cyber security must be a priority for establishments of all sizes.