The recent hacking of the TalkTalk website should raise concerns for all internet users. While the initial headlines were too alarmist, they should be seen as a call to action.

TalkTalk are not the only company to have had their customers’ details compromised: Touchtone also emailed recently to advise me that they had been hacked.

Their email had an embedded link to “their website”, but as I am aware that there is always a risk of picking up a computer virus from this sort of link I searched to investigate what Touchnote were telling me. Sadly, when I checked out the story on BBC News the issue was all too real.

Fortunately their most sensitive customer data, passwords and bank/credit card details are encrypted. My name, address and email are visible and in the hands of these hackers, but of course these pieces of my personal data are already in the public domain.

What this incident did prompt me to do was to change my password on Touchtone, and all my other online accounts. I am a little embarrassed to say I had not changed my Facebook password since opening my account several years ago.

I have quite a number of online accounts and I have been using a small number of passwords to control access to them all. The TalkTalk and Touchnote hacking experiences have forced me to change this password strategy to a more random model of creating them, and changing them much more frequently.

Three essential steps to protect your business:

  1. Talk to your EPoS system provider about how to improve your data security.
  2. Ask all of the companies that your EPoS system links to like your key suppliers (wholesalers) and merchant services provider (credit/debit card transitions) about their data security management and how they protect your data.
  3. Install and regularly update virus protection software.

 One final thought: Companies House stopped publishing the full date of birth for new company directors on October 10 this year. While the provision in the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 only covers registrations from this date, Companies House has come up with a software solution that should block the date of birth for all directors. You can check your own date of birth details by applying for a free ‘current appointments’ report from Companies House.