When we hear about data breaches, it seems like they are all big ones. The biggest breaches in 2019 were in the hundreds of millions of records that were hacked.

According to CNBC, the biggest data breach of 2019 happened to Zynga, which produces mobile games, including the wildly popular “Words with Friends.” More than 218 million records were hacked in that breach. Capital One announced a massive data breach in July 2019 and revealed more than 100 million accounts were breached.

If you’re a small business owner and don’t think a data breach can happen to you, you’d better think again. The last thing you want is to have your company’s data breached, exposing your clients’ information for all to see.

The 2019 MidYear QuickView Data Breach Report found that more than 3,800 publicly disclosed data breaches were reported in the first six months of 2019. Those breaches exposed 4.1 billion compromised records. The report found 3.2 billion of those records were exposed in the eight biggest breaches.

Most breaches reported in 2019 exposed 10,000 or fewer records.

Data breaches make the news when they involve a major company, but businesses of all sizes are at risk of having their data compromised and their customers’ identity potentially stolen. Protecting customers’ data needs to be a priority even for small businesses.

What can you do to protect your business and your clients? BBB suggests these tips:

• Create strong passwords. Be original and use more than one word, swap out letters for numbers or other characters (such as 3 for E or ! for i) and vary capitalization.

• Watch out for phishing scams. Fake emails can look real, always be cautious when something doesn’t seem right. If you’re not sure of the validity — email the requester directly and confirm before sending files or clicking links.

• Avoid oversharing online. Social media isn’t private. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have all had massive data breaches in recent years — be mindful of what to share and keep your privacy settings secure.

• Use IT best practices at home. Although everyone hates getting a forced update, make sure to stay current with your operating system and security patches and be sure to have an active anti-virus software running in the background.

• Store and transfer data cautiously. Encrypt flash drives or files — think about what would happen if they were left on a plane or fell into the wrong hands.

• Eliminate the paper trail. Shred any papers with account information, Social Security numbers and other identifying information, along with credit card offers, bank courtesy checks and documents with your signature.

• Monitor your accounts. Keep a close eye on your accounts, look for suspicious activity and stay vigilant.

Stephanie Garland is the region director for the Better Business Bureau in Springfield. The Better Business Bureau office in Springfield is at 2754 S. Campbell Ave. Among those counties served by BBB Springfield are Jasper, Newton, McDonald, Lawrence and Barton counties. Emails may be sent to sgarland@springfieldbbb.org. You can find a retailer’s BBB rating or read a BBB Business Profile by going online to www.bbb.org or by calling 888-996-3887.

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