Itâ€™s the notification no meeting professional wants to read: someone stole your data.Unfortunately, thatâ€™s the letter that Bobby Heard, MBA, CAE, Associate Executive Director, Membership & Education, American College of Emergency Physicians, received at his desk a few weeks ago. A telemarketing company that ACEP uses to contact its members regarding renewals was hacked, which means that their audienceâ€™s credit card data could be in the wrong hands. Thereâ€™s one piece of positive news in this nightmare scenario: ACEP carries cyber insurance.
As Heard and his team determine their next steps, the cyber coverage is key. From state to state, the requirements surrounding how to notify members whose data may be at risk are different. With such a wide range of regulations, Heard says the associationâ€™s cyber insurance allows them to obtain outside legal advice with minimal financial impact.
Data Breaches Will Be A Big Problem
â€śWeâ€™re going to see more and more of this type of situation,â€ť Heard told an audience of meeting professionals and suppliers at the PCMA Education Conference on Wednesday, June 29, as he reflected on the data breach.
Consider the fact that ACEPâ€™s challenge isnâ€™t due to a hacker infiltrating the organizationâ€™s system. Instead, itâ€™s due to one of its vendors. Now, think about wide range of vendors that handle confidential information of members and attendees: mobile app providers, registration systems, telemarketing companies, housing providers and more. As the list goes on, the reality is that data breaches arenâ€™t confined to big names like Target and Home Depot; organizations who bring attendees together face-to-face represent easy opportunities for identity thieves. With that in mind, Heard recommended that his peers in the business events industry take a closer look at all their partners. â€śWe need to understand our vendorsâ€™ data protection policies,â€ť Heard said. â€śAll data is very vulnerable.â€ť
As more hackers aim to steal credit card numbers, email addresses, passwords and other data, meeting professionals must recognize that they hold the keys to the kingdom of valuable information, and that means that meeting professionals may need to rethink the priorities on their list of responsibilities. â€śIn some ways, [meeting professionals] are almost becoming risk management specialists,â€ť Heard said.
How are you managing against the risks of cyber crime? What are you doing to live up to the title of â€śrisk management specialist? Click here to share your thoughts with the rest of the PCMA community on Catalyst.