Three Steps Can Limit Hacker Damage

<p><strong>Charlotte, N.C. &mdash; July 10</strong><br />Every small-business owner fears a late-night call from the police, saying someone has broken into his company.<br /><br />Today, there&#39;s another reason for sleepless nights: a call from the IT department, saying someone has hacked into the company&#39;s computer system.<br /><br />As a growing number of businesses keep sensitive personal information, it&#39;s no wonder that more owners find themselves on the receiving end of this bad news, wondering, &quot;What do I have to do now?&quot;<br /><br />Or, more accurately, &quot;Do I have to tell my customers about this?&quot; </p><p>From a legal perspective, the answer comes from a blend of federal action and inaction and an ever-changing array of state laws.<br /><br />To date, only companies in particularly sensitive industries (such as banks, hospitals and universities) are required by Congress to take specific actions following a potential network-security breach.<br /><br />Other industries aren&#39;t completely off the hook, however. As part of its mission to protect against unfair practices, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has filed complaints based on companies&#39; failures to follow advertised security policies and to employ reasonable measures protecting customer information. </p><p>Businesses that come under fire from the FTC can face millions of dollars in fines.<br /><br />Because the agency concentrates on large companies and high-profile cases, the typical business owner must find guidance from a batch of state laws enacted within the last five years.<br /><br />At least 32 states have laws regarding unauthorized access to computer data. All but two of those…


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