Understanding Cybersecurity in Your Modern Dealership

2021 is here, and like many dealerships, you may be looking forward to a fresh start and a return to normalcy after a tumultuous year. While 2020 did throw a lot of curveballs your way—furloughs, lockdowns, new technologies and digital processes—most of the changes your dealership implemented are probably here to stay. Sentiment from Cox Auto Surveys shows that consumers are happy with new options to buy, pay, and shop remotely. Up to 95% of customers surveyed were happy with service pick-up and delivery options in this report. So, simply having the options available to your consumers sets you up for success.

But, with so many changes to how your dealership operates, you may have overlooked an extremely important element, your cybersecurity management. We spoke with Brad Holton, CEO and founder of Proton Dealership IT, to discuss why this critical component of your business is being overlooked—and what you can do to manage it.

Why is Cybersecurity Important in 2021?

According to Holton, the need for improved cybersecurity optimization is more important now than ever, But the reason may surprise you. While nearly 75% of franchise dealers in 2020 made the switch to digital retailing, according to Cox Auto Sentiment Reporting, “The fact that so many dealerships added new digital storefronts and technologies last year isn’t putting them at greater risk for cyber-security threats,” Holton explains. “These new technologies aren’t really what are referred to as ‘breech points’ or ‘hack points.’ Adding them to your dealership won’t expose you to more hackers, exactly.” The good news, then, is that a cloud-based DMS, an integrated CRM, or service experience platform won’t put dealers at higher risk. So what puts dealers at greater risk? “Take a look at your workforce—they’re now distributed all over,” explains Holton. When call centers, accounting teams, sales personnel, and more were sent home to conduct business remotely, they likely took parts of your dealership’s data with them. They may be logging in with their own personal devices, mobile phones and tablets, or laptops that other family members use for personal reasons. This exposes all of your software to various key-loggers, phishing, and ransomware attacks.

“In less than an hour, (hackers) can gain full access to passwords and data. For most dealerships, their networks are easily penetrated and fully compromised.”

Understanding New Trends in Cybersecurity

Bad actors, hackers, and criminals are finding new ways to infiltrate your dealership every minute. And, according to Holton, “In less than an hour, (hackers) can gain full access to passwords and data. For most dealerships, their networks are easily penetrated and fully compromised.” Holton explains that most attacks are known as ransomware attacks. “Ransomware refers to targeted attacks, with live workers doing full recon on your business. They get in, put a dollar amount on your data, destroy all back-ups, and then stop your business completely. Then,” explains Holton, “that’s when they hold it hostage.”


The Real Cost of Ignoring Risk

Holton explains that no dealership is exactly at low-risk for these types of attacks. Anyone can become victimized. The larger the target, the larger the mark, however. If you’re doing business across multiple rooftops, with a large staff and a lot to lose—watch out! Dealerships have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees to attempt to undo the damage to their data by hiring his team. “Dealerships also suffer losses due to downtime, reputation management, and the costs associated with replacing or restoring hardware and data across the business,” Holton explains.

What You Can Do Now

While many of the recent changes to your dealership aren’t going away anytime soon, neither is the growing trend supporting increased flexibility and remote work. That’s according to the research from Human Resource experts at Hireology. A recent study reports 80% of U.S. workers would turn down a job offer that didn’t include some amount of flexibility. More work is being done on mobile devices and on flexible schedules. But, there are ways you and your entire staff can stay vigilant against the growing threat of cyber attacks. According to Holton, dealers can start with the following steps:

  • Educate your team—start with education, training, and ongoing discussion to keep IT security top-of-mind for all team members.
  • Issue corporate devices—ensure that all logins to the DMS, CRM, and other tools are done on company hardware.
  • Encourage employees to come forward—make sure your team knows to come forward as soon as possible after they’ve clicked on a suspicious email, or responded to a request online that felt “off” or “suspicious.” “The longer they wait, the more damage is being done,” explains Horton.
  • Assign a managed network services provider—cybersecurity is a critical role at your dealership. It needs to be managed by an experienced professional who can take ownership of your network needs. If you need 24/7 managed network service support, consider outsourcing it to a fully integrated provider.

Finally, don’t wait for something bad to happen to your dealership. You’ve worked so hard to build a successful business against great challenges. “This is your problem. It is happening to everyone,” Holton shares. “Wake up and pay atte

ntion. Do not be a victim in 2021. If you don’t do anything, you will be.”

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