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Consumer Reports: Small business data breach danger

Posted at 8:59 AM, Mar 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-13 11:59:25-04

TUCSON, Ariz. - Allyson Meyers has an enviable job.

"I love my job… I mean I work at a chocolate factory. What's not to like," says Meyers.

But in September of 2017, the head of sales of Lake Champlain Chocolates never imagined the news that was about to be dropped on her desk. Just days after one of the world's largest data brokers, Equifax, suffered a major data breach, the family-owned Burlington, Vermont chocolate shop suffered a data loss of its own.

"I was personally affected by the Equifax breach so then when we had incidents of our own, we knew to take it seriously," says Meyers.

Hackers stole names, addresses, email addresses, and credit card information from customers who had purchased chocolates online. And the numbers between the Equifax and Lake Champlain Chocolates couldn't be more different: About 148 million to a mere 90 customers, but a Consumer Reports investigation finds that in breaches both big and small, the consequences may not be so different.

"Your credit card information is your credit card information," says Consumer Reports Privacy Expert, Bobby Richter. "It doesn't matter if it came from the hardware store down the street or if it came from a really big data broker operation, the information is still the same. "

Lake Champlain Chocolates reacted quickly and reported the incident to Vermont's attorney general. But other small businesses might not be that vigilant. So how can you protect yourself from breaches big or small?

"You've got to be stingy with your personal information," says Richter. "The less data you put out there, the less there is to steal. If you have any accounts you use maybe less often, or not at all any more that are pretty old, you might want to go back and check those, or monitor them on some sort of routine basis."

After putting new protocols in place to protect its customers, for Allyson Meyers and Lake Champlain Chocolates, it's business as usual: Making delicious chocolates.

Another way to protect yourself from data breaches: Consumer Reports says using a password manager will help . Apps like 1Password, LastPass, and Dashlane will keep track of all your passwords, and can generate new ones designed to confuse hackers.