The arrival of broadband Internet has driven computer take-up as far as consumers are concerned. And it’s over the last decade – and the last five years in particular – that computers have truly entered the consumer’s consciousness. Google now doubles up as both a noun and verb – not bad for a company that was only founded 13 years ago.
But along with the pervasiveness of computers and IT has come a new understanding that information represents power, and that non-public data now needs defending. People are - whether we like it or not - getting a lot more possessive about their personal data.
Recent research carried out by our colleagues at Unisys revealed that more than half of US consumers would sue a firm if it lost their personal information. As a result, it is now clear that businesses on both sides of the Atlantic - and their IT departments in particular - now need to sharpen their ideas on the management of data.
A notable finding from the survey of 1,000 US citizens is that 53 per cent would turn to their lawyers to solve their own data being compromised. Some effects of the pervasiveness of technology in everyday life were shown quite clearly, with a hefty 87 per cent saying they would change their passwords if a company lost their data, while 76 per cent said they would close their accounts with the offending institution.
Lawsuits are bad enough. While business insurance can usually soak up the initial financial effects, the prospect of losing more than three-quarters of its customers would have a crippling effect on any company's business.
The stark reality that faces any firm that handles data on their customers - and that translates into pretty well all businesses - is that they now need to take extra care when handling that information as, if they lose that data, they could go out of business.
So what is the solution, apart from setting up multiple businesses and insuring them through different insurance policies (and companies)? Here at Avecto, our business is about helping client companies better protect their digital assets. By combining the usual array of anti-virus, firewall and anti-spam with a move towards a least-risk Windows desktop where unnecessary admin rights are removed, a whole host of potential exploits and attacks can be avoided, such as rootkits, keyloggers and spyware.
By white-listing applications and giving people access to only the tools they need, desktops and systems can be protected without giving away admin rights. In most cases, complete access is never required. Put simply, this means that there can be a small number of admin accounts on an IT system which control who has access to what.
Using this form of security technology means that IT professionals can rest easy in the knowledge that their data - and that of their customers - is secure against both cybercriminals and rogue employees. And as this survey clearly illustrates, it actually doesn't matter how a customer's data is lost - they will still sue and they will walk.
That's a stark business reality that you really could do without.