How concerned are you about your firm’s reputation? Do you stay up at night worrying about the potential fallout from a digital security incident, public lawsuit, or offensive social media post?

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If so, you’re not alone. And you’re not wrong to worry, however paranoid you might feel. Potential threats to your reputation lurk everywhere you look.

Let’s take a look at six of the most common — and the most potentially destructive. Chances are, your organization is more vulnerable than you realize.

1. Unauthorized Data Releases

The Pandora Papers release in late 2021 was just the latest in a long series of unauthorized data incidents that resulted in public disclosure of private personal and corporate records. This particular release affected Asiaciti Trust and about a dozen other legal and fiduciary services organizations and drew international media coverage.

It was a big deal, and a big threat to the reputations of those named.

Is your organization vulnerable to such an incident? In a word, yes. The sophistication of those responsible for the Pandora Papers and the numerous vectors by which they and their ilk could gain access to sensitive information suggest that if your organization is targeted, there may be little it can do to prevent it.

2. Ransomware Attacks

Ransomware is another significant and all-too-common threat for businesses in sensitive industries. In a classic ransomware attack, the perpetrator gains access to the victim’s computer network, runs special malware that locks the rightful user out and encrypts their data, and then demands a ransom in cryptocurrency.

Even if paid, there’s no guarantee that the data will be recoverable, although high-profile recent incidents like the JBS attack were successfully resolved with ransom payments. The best defense against ransomware is to regularly duplicate data so that there’s never an issue.

3. Improper Insider Disclosures

You can require your employees to sign nondisclosure agreements and maintain a strict “no tolerance” policy for discussing corporate affairs with the media. But make no mistake: You can’t really control what your employees — happy, disgruntled, or otherwise — will do.

Combine this sobering reality with the fact that insiders very often have unrestricted access to sensitive company information and systems, and you have a real problem on your hands. Manage your risk by limiting permissions and monitoring your networks for signs of unauthorized activity.

4. Misplaced Hardware or Storage Media

Do you know what to do if an employee misplaces a company laptop or phone? If you haven’t prepared for this possibility, you could find yourself trying to catch a train that’s quickly speeding away from the station.

You can minimize your risk by instituting device control policies that wipe data from lost or stolen devices. These policies won’t prevent a quick-thinking thief from copying data before it’s gone, but they do lower the statistical risk.

5. Legal Action in the Public Record

There’s not much you can do to prevent a public lawsuit from making waves. If journalists (and competitors) are interested enough in your private affairs, they’ll find out. 

A crisis communications plan is far from foolproof, but it’ll at least put you back on offense amid a lawsuit. Don’t wait to map yours out — by the time you’re in the news, you’re already playing catch-up.

6. Ill-Advised Social Media Activity

This is another one of those “you can’t really control what your employees do” situations. Sure, you can have a strict social media policy, but let’s be honest — that’s just words on a page. And it only takes one slip-up that catches the right person’s attention to do real damage to your brand’s reputation. The incident could take on a life of its own before you know it.

Your Reputation Is Your Value. Protect It If You Can.

Your organization’s reputation might not be its most valuable asset. But that’s only because it’s not an asset; its value is intangible.

Intangible, yes, but very, very real. Lose it, and you’ve lost more than you know.

You must do whatever you can to protect your organization’s reputation, even against events beyond your control. If organizations like Asiaciti Trust and Il Shin can successfully manage the fallout from sustained negative media coverage in dozens of countries around the world, your firm should be able to deal with the temporary hit from whatever crisis it faces in the months or years to come.

It’s important to be prepared, though. From ransomware attacks to unauthorized data releases to embarrassing behavior by your employees, threats abound in the digital age. Hoping for the best is no strategy at all.

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