Expert: All Iowa merchants need response plan for hacker attack

DES MOINES — Iowa business owners need to add one more thing to their list of New Year’s resolutions.

An expert suggests businesses of all sizes plan ahead for a digital data disaster should hackers ever break into your computer and access your customers’ files.

Consumer advocate Lara Sutherlin says if you store any client data electronically, it’s vital that you are prepared to respond quickly and efficiently.

Sutherlin says, “Have a plan in place if you do get exposed to a data breach, to notify your consumers, to notify regulators, to notify law enforcement.”

In perhaps the largest case in Iowa in the past year, the Hy-Vee grocery chain was hit by a data breach that was discovered this summer. Malware was blamed for exposing the payment information of an untold number of customers.

It’s unpleasant to ponder, but it’s reality, Sutherlin says, adding, the responsibly for handling a data breach requires two main parts.

“Make sure you’re doing everything you can to shut down further information from being released from your business,” she says, “and that the people that may have been exposed are quickly notified and can act on that information.”

Trying to hide a data breach will only work for a short time before someone notices, and then not only will there be a public relations fiasco, you could face penalties for concealing a loss of information.