FCC launches new online service to help small businesses beef up their information assurance.
In an effort to improve the security of digital systems owned and operated by America’s small businesses, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is launching a new Web service designed to help non-technical business owners better secure their important data.
Called the Small Biz Cyber Planner, the interactive online tool will query a business owner to determine how simple or complex his or her IT resources may be. The system will then customize an information assurance solution that will provide the right balance of ease of implementation and digital security. The analysis and advice pales in comparison to services offered by professional cybersecurity consultants, but the FCC is hoping the new tool will give those businesses who can’t afford an in-house IT staff some measure of protection.
Businesses with as little as one computer and/or a single credit card machine can benefit from the Cyber Planner, according to the FCC. The program is designed to start from the very basic level. New users will be asked such questions as “Does your business have a public website?” and “Does your business use credit cards?” Depending on the answers, questions will get more detailed and complex until a unique security plan can be suggested that should match the user’s needs and skill level.
It will still be up to the business owner to implement the FCC’s suggestions, but the agency is hoping the system will create a sense of urgency among users to take at least some action and become more actively involved in the security of their digital assets and, more importantly, the integrity of customer data.
FCC officials say hackers are increasingly turning their sites on small and medium-size businesses because security is often so lax in these sectors. Plus, the number of small businesses, and therefore potential targets, in the United States is huge compared to the number of large corporations, and new technologies have given small businesses the ability to capture and store much more private customer data than ever before. That data can become low-hanging fruit for a hacker if an organization’s IT sophistication fails to match the size and significance of its customer database.
The Cyber Planner’s primary goal is to protect businesses from a security breach through their own publicly accessible website and ensure its credit card handling infrastructure is up to par. Advanced internal network security and proper system architecture will still be the purview of the professional, and the FCC handholding may encourage more small businesses to explore the next level of information assurance as well.