Business

A hard lesson in business security

When Jackie Jones came to work at her store, Fastsigns, on Aug. 23, she stepped into the biggest business nightmare of her life.

The store had been burgled the night before, and the central processing unit (CPU) from Jones’ computer had been stolen.

With it, the thief — Jones suspects an ex-employee, since a key was used to gain access to the building — took six years worth of customer information used for marketing, work orders and custom-designed logos.

Although the cash box was less than three feet away from the computer, it was left behind. So was a costly vinyl cutter used to make sign lettering. These clues lead Jones to believe it was a crime of revenge.

“They didn’t take anything except what hurt most — my database,” Jones said.

All the safety precautions Jones had taken to protect her business failed her, making the following weeks at Fastsigns chaotic. Previously, employees could fill repeat job orders by pulling up a customer’s file and making the necessary changes. But the burglary forced Jones and her two employees to start from scratch on every project.

“I had a lot of people really mad at me,” Jones said. “Just because my life was a wreck doesn’t mean anything stopped. People still had to have their stuff.”

Jones had backed up her CPU on disc. But the copies — in the door of the CD drive and in a fire proof safe — both were stolen. And locks were useless against someone with a key.

“I always figured fire and viruses were what I had to protect myself against. I never dreamed it would be anybody I knew,” Jones said.

Efforts to find who was responsible were foiled when police were unable to obtain even a single fingerprint, and they didn’t find sufficient evidence to follow up on the suspects Jones named, she said.

She tried calling area pawn shops looking for the processor, with no luck.

The incident cost Fastsigns $11,000- $12,000 in tangible property but “there is no way to put a value on the data lost,” Jones said. Fastsigns’ insurance company covered the loss, but Jones said her rates probably will go up.

It would have cost just $11 to prevent the worst damage, Jones sadly noted — $10 for a zip disk and $1 for a CD that she would store off the premises.

The incident will change the way Jones views security.

From now on, Jones will designate one door as an employee entrance, and she will change the lock whenever an employee leaves.

In addition, she has switched to numbered locksmith-issue keys, which are difficult to duplicate.

Jones worries the repercussions from the burglary will haunt her forever, and she wants to warn businesses to protect themselves and to avoid the same mistakes she made.

“Somebody hated me and wanted to do damage — hate comes in many shapes and sizes,” Jones said.

She encouraged businesses to consult their insurance agents and follow the safety tips they provide — at the very least, back up data, store it off site and change locks.

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