By Scott McAfee.
Any responsible business owner must constantly consider the security of his or her business, compensating for any gaps, learning new threats, and creating measures to protect against those threats. While it may not be pleasant to think of things that could threaten your cemetery, it is a necessary part of running the business.
There are three main types of security threats you need to consider: threats to your data, human threats, and cyber threats. Do you feel confident that you are protected from all of these types of threats? Read on to test your knowledge.
Threats to Your Data
Your cemetery houses loads of sensitive, historical, and genealogical data that does not exist elsewhere. Some of the records in your cemetery may be the only existing accounts of the lives of certain individuals or even entire families. Any threat to these records can have disastrous consequences for the integrity of your business. While many cemeterians have never had an issue with data loss, it is important to consider how catastrophic these instances are when they occur.
1) Natural Disasters
Depending on the location of your cemetery, this threat can be something you come into contact with often or only in rare instances. However, regardless of where your cemetery is located, natural disasters such as floods and fires are a threat for everyone.
2) Employee Attrition
Do you have an employee at your cemetery who knows everything about everything? A lot of cemeteries do, but what happens to this information when that employee leaves? Don’t allow this type of data to go unrecorded and become lost forever.
3) Disgruntled Employees
This threat is often overlooked but can be hugely detrimental to your cemetery. If an unhappy employee decides to act aggressively, what could that mean for your data? Actions such as deleting or manipulating records can have serious consequences and be extremely difficult to detect.
Preparing for physical threats against your cemetery is only half the battle when it comes to overall cemetery security. Nowadays, you also have to be fully prepared for the very real threat of cyberattacks on your information. While these are not the only types of cyber threats out there, below are the main ones you need to safeguard against.
If you own any type of business in 2021, it’s time to become familiar with the term “ransomware.” According to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), “ransomware is an ever-evolving form of malware designed to encrypt files on a device, rendering any files and the systems that rely on them unusable. Malicious actors then demand ransom in exchange for decryption.”
Imagine the impact of suddenly not having access to your cemetery’s critical data—or any data at all. On top of that, the attacker demands monetary compensation. These types of attacks are extremely difficult to recover from, and they are on the rise. In fact, 68.5% of organizations worldwide have been victimized by ransomware attacks, according to Statista.com. See also the cover story by Poul Lemasters in the October 2021 issue, “Ransomware in Deathcare.”
So what do these cyberattacks look like? The most popular way for these attacks to be initiated is through email phishing, or the practice of sending a fraudulent email attempting to gain access to personal information or credentials. This can be done over the phone, but it is less common.
Arguably, the worst threats your cemetery has to face are those posed by humans. These can be subdivided into three main categories: embezzlement, theft and fraud, and vandalism. Due to its pervasiveness among cemeteries, embezzlement will be dealt with separately from theft.
You may be more familiar with embezzlement as a common threat to your business. Often embezzlement is done over a long period of time, usually by employees. Whether the attack is carried out by one employee or several, all of these attacks have one thing in common: they are incredibly detrimental to your business. On average, the loss from these types of attacks amounts to a whopping $357,650, according to a 2018 study from Hiscox.
2) Theft and Fraud
Embezzlement isn’t the only concern when it comes to potential employee threats. According to comparecamp.com, 95% of all businesses have experienced some form of employee theft. Whether you are aware of it or not, there is a good chance that your cemetery has experienced it already or will in the future.
Unfortunately, cemeteries can be a hotbed of activity when it comes to vandalism. Anything from simple acts, such as loitering and littering, up to and including hate crimes and grave robbing can be experienced at cemeteries on a regular basis. What can you do to keep your cemetery safe? Seeing all of these threats listed back to back in black and white can be intimidating. It can be overwhelming to figure out where to begin. However, you’re far from being the only cemeterian who feels this way. It’s not too late to take the necessary steps to implement a multifaceted and pragmatic solution.
Digitize Your Data
Many cemeteries are still keeping their records on paper, even in 2021. While it may be easier to continue to do things the way you’ve always done, what you may not realize is that those paper records are a major security hazard, vulnerable to everything from natural disasters to human carelessness. Safeguard your cemetery by making digital copies of your records and storing them in a cloud storage system. With a cloud system, your data is backed up multiple times a day to secure data centers staffed by armed guards. The “Cloud” is always up to date and protects your data from potential threats, as well as giving you the ability to access your records anytime, anywhere.
Capture Institutionalized Knowledge
When importing data into your new computer system, be sure you don’t forget the important information in the minds of your long-time employees. Get started early on putting all of your staff’s knowledge into a system everyone can access and benefit from.
Back It Up … Online, Offline, Often
Once your records are in the Cloud, they will be continuously backed up, but only online. If you want to keep everything as secure as possible, you need to do periodic offline backups. Remember: back up online, offline, and often!
Educate Your Employees
Don’t forget that information is often the first line of defense against any type of threat. Lack of employee awareness is one of the largest threats to cyber security, second only to spam and phishing emails, according to Statista.com.
Luckily, there are a lot of resources available online that can be used to help train your employees, and some of them are free. A good first step is to give your employees a phishing risk test, like this one available through Google: https://phishingquiz.withgoogle.com/.
Once you’ve assessed where your employees stand in terms of cybersecurity knowledge, you can begin training them in any areas that are lacking. A good resource for this is the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE), which is a part of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). NICE is a cybersecurity education and training resource provided by the United States government. Check it out at https://www.nist.gov/itl/applied-cybersecurity/nice/resources/ online-learning-content.
Combat Employee Theft
When you have your data fully digitized and in the Cloud, it becomes easier to monitor your employees’ interactions with it. Many modern software solutions have built-in system activity reports that log what is going on in your system, listing the activity, username, and timestamp. This makes it easy to go back and see who did a certain task, which can be a lifesaver in an employee theft situation.
Surveillance Is Your Friend
With the increase in cemetery vandalism, it’s important to consider surveillance options, such as cameras and alarm systems. Newer versions of outdoor, wireless cameras are generally inexpensive. These cameras can link directly to your smartphone and provide surveillance of a large area, that way you can keep an eye on your cemetery even when you aren’t able to physically be there. This type of constant monitoring allows you the opportunity to outwit offenders before they have the chance to get away or cause significant property damage, not to mention the emotional toll these types of attacks can have on the loved ones of the deceased. This type of constant monitoring allows you the opportunity to outwit offenders before they have the chance to get away or cause significant property damage, not to mention the emotional toll these types of attacks can have on the loved ones of the deceased.
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