On December 2, a week from today, millions of Americans will flock to online retail sites to take advantage of the Cyber Monday deals that have become an integral part of the holiday shopping season. From the perspective of IT business owners, freelancers, and independent contractors in technology fields, this means increased opportunities for website crashes, shopping cart failures, and data breaches. (For more on preventing a data breach, read the post “Online Data Protection.”)
And if any of those things happens to one of your clients, you could be held liable. Here’s why:
- Site crashes: If increased retail traffic causes a client’s website to crash on Cyber Monday, that client will lose out on sales and revenue. To recover that revenue, they might attempt to sue whoever was responsible for the site crash – and if you had any role in building, maintaining, hosting, or adapting the site, you’ll be on the list of responsible parties.
- Shopping cart failures: Maybe the new “checkout” button isn’t displaying properly. Maybe there’s a broken link somewhere. Or maybe it’s a more complicated problem that takes hours to sort through. Whatever the cause, problems with online checkout systems can mean major losses for online retailers, whose customers can easily navigate to a competitor’s site to spend their money. If the retailer’s losses are significant enough, they might seek compensation from whoever failed to identify and address the problem (spoiler alert: that’s you).
- Data breaches: Even if your clients aren’t selling anything online on Cyber Monday, they may take advantage of online many deals by shopping online during the workday. According to research of more than 1 million computers, more than half of the machines used for online shopping last year were at risk for security breaches, mostly from outdated versions of browsers and plug-ins that hadn’t been updated with security patches. Unsuspecting shoppers could accidentally expose the company network to viruses and malware that could put customer data at risk. If that exposure leads to a financial loss, your client could sue you for failing to keep the network secure.
How to Avoid Cyber Monday Snafus: 3 Essential Steps
Luckily, IT professionals who take a little time this week to prepare can avoid the majority of potential Cyber Monday disasters. Preparation should consist of three basic steps:
- Stress-test websites for retail clients. Any clients who plan to run promotions on Cyber Monday may receive more traffic than usual. Stress-testing sites ahead of time will help ensure they can handle the extra load and give you a chance to proactively make changes if they can’t.
- Review all checkout-critical tools. Shopping cart icons, links on products pages, and even links to the site from social media pages and blogs will play a key role in bringing in revenue on Cyber Monday. Verify their functionality beforehand so you can identify and fix potential issues.
- Remind clients how they can protect their machine from malicious viruses and attacks. A simple email reminding your clients to update their browsers and plug-ins may take only a few minutes to write, but can save you hours of headaches if it prevents a single virus or data breach. Consider also reminding clients to update their passwords, ensure they have antivirus software installed, and know the warning signs of phishing emails and links to malicious sites.
Manage the Damage: Cyber Protection in Your E&O Insurance
One piece of good news for IT professionals: if you’re unable to prevent a client disaster related to Cyber Monday, rest assured that your Errors & Omissions Insurance probably has you covered. Most E&O policies sold to tech professionals include coverage for third-party cyber liability – in other words, the legal responsibility you have to keep your clients’ web properties secure.
So if one of your clients does suffer financial losses related to their online retail operations (or their employees’ workday shopping) and opts to sue you for your role in allowing or failing to prevent the loss, the coverage provided by your Errors and Omissions policy should pay for your legal costs, as well as any damages you’re assigned.
Want more information about how you could be exposed to risk from your business operations? Download our newest eBook, “Protection for Tech Pros: Insurance to Help Your IT Business Thrive.”