As recent events have demonstrated, when businesses do not have comprehensive IT security measures in place to protect their online assets, the consequences can be far-reaching in several ways. Such businesses are much more vulnerable to the activities of both professional cyber criminals and amateur hackers seeking the ‘thrill of the hunt’. These criminal activities can pose as a very dangerous threat to the sustainability of a company.
This is the situation facing social media networking site LinkedIn, which is now facing a class action lawsuit seeking $5 million in damages. At issue is LinkedIn's decision not to use stronger encryption on its user passwords, which led to 6 million LinkedIn passwords being stolen. Furthermore, on Friday they announced that Twitter would no longer be partnering with the business-networking site to sync updates between the two sites.
Lawsuits such as this one are a financial threat to the health of any business in several ways. Of course, the possibility of a large judgment is part of that threat, but the problem actually reaches much deeper. Unlike a security breach that is announced on the news one day and then drops off the public's radar screen, a lawsuit is a long-lasting process that may be in the local or even national news multiple times. Each time the news reports on a new development such as a major deposition, a motion, or a delay, the story will detail yet again the information related to the brief. Thus, companies will see their reputation repeatedly suffer as the lawsuit drags on, a process that can easily take years.
Now that Twitter has ended its partnership with LinkedIn, which they’ve had since 2009, LinkedIn’s reputation is at stake. According to Mashable, “It’s possible, though doubtful, that Twitter wants to separate itself from the business networking company after the recent password breach…Another possible reason is that Twitter and LinkedIn couldn’t come to an agreement over potential advertising revenue.” Although it looks like it was a long time coming, it is apparent that Twitter took this opportunity to end its partnership with LinkedIn at a very delicate time.
There are several risks that come with being in a class action lawsuit along with reputation. Small and medium-sized businesses in particular must think about the cost of defense. As anyone who has been involved in a major court case knows all too well, attorney fees can add up very quickly and add hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to the cost of any eventual judgment. Even if no judgment is ever issued, these fees still need to be paid.
While it is impossible to prevent all lawsuits from being filed, organizations can greatly protect themselves against the possibility of one by giving their customers no cause for concern about the online safety of their information. By contracting with an IT company specializing in managed security, organizations can ensure that basic security measures are fully implemented.