EZShield, a company that cut its teeth fighting check fraud and identity theft, moves into the small business market with the launch of a suite of tools to help companies prevent and respond to data breaches.
The new offerings, released yesterday, are available under the SycurityMax Business Suite and will be sold through EZShield's network of partners throughout industries such as financial services, insurance and human resources. The suite consists of the Sycurity Assist product, which equips small businesses with tools to strengthen their defenses against a breach, and Sycurity Prepare, which helps them navigate the daunting challenges of notifying customers once a breach has occurred and other tasks associated with the response.
"As we all have seen in the news, breaches are definitely something that I think most people are learning about," said Carolyn Holliday, EZShield's senior director of product marketing. "There's a growing awareness across both business and consumers about the realities and dangers that exist out there."
Small businesses are popular targets for hackers, Holliday explained, citing an estimate that 63 percent all data breaches occur at companies with 100 or fewer employees.
Small businesses are in a tough position. They typically operate with scant resources and often without a dedicated security staff, yet the market for data-breach prevention and mitigation offerings primarily caters to larger enterprises, according to Holliday.
"They are in a uniquely vulnerable spot when it comes to breach threats," she said. "A lot of times these small companies don't have the bandwidth to really understand how best to protect them[selves]."
Moreover, many SMBs continue to take a lax attitude about security. When asked about their leading areas of concern, small business leaders commonly don't place security in the top three, Holliday said.
As a result, workers at small businesses often don't receive formal training about safe computing practices, while many SMB owners continue to believe that simply having antivirus software in place is a sufficient defense against corporate intrusion.
"Security becomes more of a checkbox," Holliday said, explaining that small business owners often express an attitude to the effect of: "'Oh yeah, security's important but my IT guy has it covered.' [That] seems to be a very common misconception."
But EZShield is quick to caution small businesses about the high costs of a breach, not to mention potential damage to a firm's reputation and the regulatory consequences. The Ponemon Institute has pegged the average organizational cost of a data breach at $7.2 million, or an average of $214 per compromised record.
EZShield offers its data breach prevention and response tools as individual products, or bundled together at a discount. Sycurity Assist, the product that focuses on prevention, includes an assessment in the form of a 15-minute questionnaire to evaluate a company's security posture compared with industry best practices.
The questions are designed to unearth potential security and compliance pitfalls, asking, for instance, if employees work from home offices or if the SMB handles health information that might entail HIPAA regulations.
Holliday said that the questionnaire is designed to be "thorough and yet digestible." Based on the answers the business provides, the Sycurity Assist product generates a customized action plan with guidance for conducting due diligence and bringing the business in line with industry best practices.
Sycurity Assist offers a menu of policy and process templates to help SMBs develop and promulgate security and privacy policies, which are increasingly becoming a target of regulatory oversight at the state level. The product also has a strong emphasis on employee training. EZShield provides SMBs with a ready-made PowerPoint presentation as a training tool for employees, along with a follow-up quiz and a quarterly security newsletter.
Responding to a Security Breach
But for all the training and best practices EZShield seeks to impart, data breaches are a sad reality of doing business. The Sycurity Prepare product is comprised of two core sets of tools for planning for a breach and then quickly responding once one has occurred.
Sycurity Prepare guides SMBs through the development of a data breach plan that lays out who in the organization has what role, and it offers a forensic checklist for the technical response and a notification guide to quickly alert customers who might have been affected.
The plan, said Holliday, is "basically a plethora of information at their fingertips so there's knowledge in the organization, and they're ready to act quickly."
Should a breach occur, EZShield will help SMB customers draft their notifications and devise an identity protection offering. The company will also help its customers comply with the relevant regulatory requirements, no small task given that, absent legislation at the federal level, businesses are subject to a patchwork of state laws mandating how they respond to data breaches.
"The real challenge on the response side is being able to navigate all the regulatory challenges," Holliday said. "Until a federal law goes through, so much of it is dictated at the state level."
At this stage, unlike the Sycurity Assist product, EZShield offers consultants from its staff to help a business with its data breach response.
"In the event that something does happen, they'll get a dedicated representative that will basically handhold them through the entire process," Holliday said.
EZShield, which targets the segment of small businesses with 50 or fewer employees, offers the suite of both data breach tools for around $30 per month. Sold individually, Sycurity Assist is available for $17 a month, and Sycurity Prepare sells for $20 a month.
Kenneth Corbin is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. He has written on politics, technology and other subjects for more than four years, most recently as the Washington correspondent for InternetNews.com, covering Congress, the White House, the FCC and other regulatory affairs. You can find Kenneth on LinkedIn.
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