4 Industries Most at Risk Without Secure Messaging

Unsecured data can bring a company into financial problems if data and private information are not protected.

However, some industries are more vulnerable to unsecured information than others. These industries may have large amounts of private information, such as a credit company that monitors the Social Security numbers of millions of customers, or sensitive information such as health records. Not only will information leaks destroy a company’s trust, but they could also result in steep fines by regulatory agencies. Explore the following four industries that need to have secure messaging or face the risk of harming their business operations.

HEALTH CARE

Health care is one of the top industries that needs end-to-end encryption in its messaging and secure communication plans, especially as the telemedicine field continues to grow. Doctors have started to communicate with patients through video calls, email messaging, and digital chats, making simple messages about treatment plans sensitive and vulnerable.

Not only is this information sensitive, but much of it exists. Millions of patients pay into American public and private health systems, which means violations and exposure could leave almost all citizens vulnerable. This combination of size and sensitivity has given rise to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which was passed to ensure patient information is protected at all interaction points.

To understand exactly how much is at stake for health care vendors and their contractors, the American Medical Association created a chart that outlines fines for HIPAA violations based on severity. A few highlights of this fine structure include the following:

  • Unknowingly exposing patient data to unsecure parties leads to a minimum $100 fine for the violation and a maximum fine of $50,000.
  • Organizations that have a reasonable cause for violating HIPAA risk facing a minimum $1,000 fine and maximum $50,000 fine per incident.
  • Willful neglect of violations and failing to repair the problem within a reasonable time period levies a $50,000 fine per violation.

Unlike the other industries on this list, patient lives are at risk when health care organizations and their contractors do not exercise proper handling of sensitive information. Medical identify theft can lead to improper treatment and inaccurate information that could prevent the correct diagnoses and care.

BANKING AND FINANCE

The financial services industry has strict guidelines and compliance regulations for a variety of communication, information, and customer data options. Not only are these restrictions carefully enforced, but they’re also the source of many fines for organizations. Along with the SEC (U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission), various banks and other financial institutions follow regulations related to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and others.

In the case of the banking and the finance services industries, the data itself is incredibly sensitive. Customers who have their personal financial information stolen may find several unpaid loans in their names or find their Social Security numbers shared across the internet. This risk has increased with the rise of digital messaging, where customers can make banking and investment changes by simply texting their financial advisors.

Financial identity theft can take years for recovery. CSID reports that the average cost of identity theft is around $1,343 per person, which aggregates into more than $15 billion annually in America.

Even individuals who get back their stolen funds still have to contend with months of legal meetings, calls from collections firms, and loan denials because of damaged credit. Governing bodies such as the SEC and FINRA want to prevent these situations, which is why the financial services industry has such strict messaging guidelines. The damage for individuals is too great to risk.

LAWYERS AND LEGAL PRACTITIONERS

Legal services is another example of information that has high levels of sensitivity. From major law firms in New York to legal representatives working in small communities, practicing lawyers need to invest in secure messaging to protect client information.

The American Bar Association (ABA) clearly states that lawyers have legal and ethical obligations to keep client information protected, from their forms of payment and case data down to communication. Protection of information has been a priority for the ABA since 2010 and will continue to be a focus for the next several years. Any forms of insecure messaging that are exposed can embarrass and create damages for clients who want to keep their legal needs private or could be used by opposing sides of the courtroom to sway a judge’s decision.

This industry proves that no business is too small to escape the consequences of poor messaging management. Hackers and opportunists are eager to seize information of all sizes and types to use them to their advantage.

RETAIL AND E-COMMERCE

In most cases, the retail and e-commerce industries lack some degree of sensitivity of information that banking firms, lawyers, and health insurers handle. However, they handle as much personal information (if not more) than most other industries. In 2016, almost 80 percent of Americansbought something online, and many people have credit cards that they use frequently. In the wrong hands, this information can expose customers to identity theft and leave people without money and facing bad credit.

“A top priority for retailers is to protect customer relationships,” the team at the National Retail Federation writes. “To build and maintain that trust is a real challenge and one that retailers tackle head on, investing significantly in technology that not only provides value to customers but also protects them from fraud and data theft.”

In the short term, retailers without secure messaging apps risk drops in sales as customers remain wary of security when shopping at their businesses. Some retailers may suffer permanent damage  if they’re unable to prove their reliability. While Target has managed to recover from the 2013 data breach that affected 41 million customers, the retailer is still a primary example of a retailer that mishandled customer information.

The need for secure messaging systems is growing across industries that handle sensitive customer information. Even though your industry isn’t on top of this list, you could be at risk of exposing data through unsecured communication channels. Consult with Forsta today to learn about your messaging options and how you can proactively strengthen secure messaging systems within your organization.

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