Security breaches and privacy leaks from cyber attacks by hackers are becoming a bigger and bigger concern for customers and users of apps and big companies. We’re signing up for much more than we’re bargaining for when we sign ourselves up for a simple app or a service that is meant to make our lives easier or just a little bit more fun. It certainly seems like electronically stored information will never be safe again.

Just in case you haven’t been able to keep up lately, we’ve been following these big stories to share with you.

Snapchat – Snapchat users are particularly fond of its special feature which makes pictures sent through the app automatically disappear seconds after the recipient views it. However, thanks to the “Snappening,” about 98,000 user photos haven’t actually disappeared and have been leaked. This isn’t because of a security breach of Snapchat’s servers, it’s because of third party apps that allow recipients to save pictures and videos (a clear violation of Snapchat’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy). Snapchat vows to focus on its user policy, but at the same time, posts a disclaimer on its website that they “cannot and do not represent or warrant that services will always be secure or error-free…”

So what does this really mean? It means that you should use caution sending pictures you don’t want saved via Snapchat because there really is no guarantee that it will be deleted. As long as there are third party apps and hackers out there, your pictures can be leaked.

JP Morgan – Russian hackers led a cyber attack on JP Morgan Chase and about 5 other U.S. national banks in June 2014, which has affected up to 76 million customers and 7 million small businesses. Unlike the “Snappening” where the hack did not originate from Snapchat’s own servers, rumor has it that the JP Morgan hack stemmed from an employee’s personal computer that contained malware. This made way for a VPN tunnel into the bank’s system. Although JP Morgan spends millions of dollars on cyber security and has 1000 employees running a highly advanced infrastructure, the hackers were still able to infiltrate the system.

Small businesses should be wary, hackers are after you too. Spend some money on insurance coverage, hire a highly knowledgeable IT team whose main focus is to manage your cyber security, and reconsider whether you want to use a third party to bill customers.

Dropbox – Dropbox users, specifically those with email addresses that start with the letter “b”, have become the newest victims of cyber hacking. This anonymous hacker leaked hundreds of passwords and usernames and Dropbox vehemently claims that it was not due to a breach in their security system. Dropbox wrote on its blog that usernames and passwords were stolen from other services and that the hacker used this stolen information to login to other sites on the Internet, including Dropbox.

What’s the lesson here? You’ve heard it before, but customers should not keep reusing the same login credentials on multiple websites. There are talks of stricter authentication standards being implemented, but until then, your best bet is to just diversify your passwords.

Kmart – It’s still too early to know all of the details, but Kmart just became the next big retailer hit by a security breach. It joins the ranks alongside Home Depot and Target (which were also hit within the past 12 months). The Kmart hackers were able to steal credit and debit card information of customers who had shopped at the store for the past month. The retailer is now working with banks, federal law enforcement, and security firms to investigate the breach.

It may be hard to avoid fraud but it seems that hackers are finding more and more ways to infiltrate the systems of many companies. As customers of these companies and apps, we should all practice internet safety by changing passwords, installing firewalls, and just being more careful about what we decide to share with the world.

What does all this mean for small businesses?

This should be a lesson to businesses of all sizes. If hackers can infiltrate through the systems of some of the world’s biggest and most popular companies, you can bet that a small business is at risk as well. Smaller businesses may not be equipped with millions of dollars to spend on cyber security, but there are a few steps they can take to improve their systems:

1) Get rid of stored sensitive data that they no longer need,

2) Train their staff appropriately on how to lock passwords and what to do if a breach occurs, and

3) Review and update their Privacy Policy and Terms of Use to include stricter standards on what exactly is protected and how it will be protected.

If you are a small business owner, it may be in your best interest to speak with an experienced Privacy Attorney who can help you look over your Privacy Policy and Terms of Use to make sure they are properly drafted to provide you with the utmost protection. You can find a number of qualified privacy attorneys here on UpCounsel who will be able to help you today.

About the author

Zoya Afshar

Zoya Afshar is a Licensed Attorney and Head of Content at UpCounsel. Prior to joining UpCounsel, Zoya worked in a variety of fields of law including Bankruptcy, Criminal Defense, and Employment Law. Her love for all things media and marketing related began in her undergraduate years when she worked for CNN's Larry King Live.

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