Building your dealership takes time, energy, and consistency. You deliver a top-notch customer experience and quality products that keeps people coming back for service appointments long after they leave the lot. Bottom line? Your reputation matters. But, that reputation can take a huge hit the minute you fall prey to a huge issue troubling auto groups: ransomware attacks. Brad Holton, CEO and founder of Proton IT, explains, when a dealership is hit with ransomware attacks or phishing, “It can be extremely expensive to clean up the carnage that takes place when your dealership gets locked down from a ransomware attack. And, it happens more often that you’d think because dealers really don’t like the news to get out.” A study by Total Dealer Compliance found that nearly 84% of consumers wouldn’t buy again from a dealership if they knew their data had been compromised. With so much at stake, dealers need to take action now. We’ve compiled six simple steps you can take, today, to make your dealership more secure.
Step 1 – Educate your team
A simple, yet critical, step, to keeping your dealership safe from cyberattacks, is to educate your team. “Employee education is the biggest thing you can do for your business,” explains Holton. “Mayhem is gonna happen. Be prepared for when it does.” (If you’re just getting started, or need a refresher, check out these basic building blocks of cybersecurity from Holton’s webinar.)
Step 2 – Encourage Communication
It sounds simple, but if your dealership’s culture is fear-based, your team is likely to hide mistakes. Make sure that your team knows they can come to you—or your IT management—at the very first sign of trouble. According to Holton, “the longer they wait, the more time criminals are spending inside your devices stealing your information.” If a team member sounds the alarms at the first sign of trouble (a clicked link or a suspicious email for example), you have a better chance of fighting back.
Step 3 – Issue Company Devices
Does your dealership issue company tablets, mobile devices, and laptops? It might not have been an issue when most of the work was done on-premises. But, recently, more work is taking place on remote devices. That means your team is likely logging into your tools, database, and systems from personal computers, mobile devices, and borrowed wifi.
Step 4 – Assign the Role
The role of system administrator or IT Operations at your dealership should belong to someone who is trained and dedicated to the position. However, in Holton’s experience, many mid-sized auto groups still share these functions across other roles within the HR or back office. Sourcing this role to a third-party is often an easy way to ensure your dealership can manage uptime, keep things running, or connect new tools after implementation.
Step 5 – Perform Monthly and Quarterly Audits
Now that you have network services running at your business to guard against ransomware attacks and increase security, don’t sit back and rest. “Perform a quarterly audit of your systems. Or, make it monthly. You’d be shocked at what you find in the most robust systems,” syas Holton. Consider this: for a cyber criminal, it may be their full time job to figure out how to get into your system.
Step 6 – Partner with Professionals
You rely on your third-party vendors to keep your CRM and DMS updated, running smooth, and connected so that your dealership delivers the most optimal experience. If your partners can’t deliver, their competition is sure to. If you’re looking to discover managed network services that deliver best-in-class, proactive network monitoring and customer service, consider shopping for it.
Although this list is not all encompassing, it can get you and your dealership off on the right foot this year. Understanding cybersecurity starts with education and we can help. Your data, your business, and your customers are counting on you.