Maintaining a secure organization is an uphill battle, no matter what type of business you’re in. For franchise organizations, though, CISOs are forced to truly earn their stripes. The sheer complexity of a franchise model makes the task of cybersecurity and data protection more overwhelming than most businesses. 

Add in the fact that you have constant turnover, which introduces a myriad of new risks, and your uphill battle is now on a sheer cliff.

To understand how to protect your franchise business, it’s important to assess the greatest risks that franchises face. Let’s take a look at five of the biggest security risks to franchise organizations (in no particular order).

Related: The Best Tool for PCI-DSS Compliance Management for Franchise Corporations

Your Biggest Security Risk: Your Employees

The reality is, human beings make mistakes — and you will never eliminate the risks of the human factor from your business. Whether it’s by simple forgetfulness, being too trusting, or disregarding policies, your employees are the greatest security liability to your organization.

I’ve done on-site visits for multi-location franchise businesses, where someone had accidentally left the safe unlocked or accidentally went home without setting the alarm or lock in the doors appropriately (or at all). I’ve seen passwords written down on sticky notes, and even printed spreadsheets with customer credit card numbers on them.

At the end of the day, people are going to do things they shouldn’t — even well meaning employees.

You will never eliminate human error altogether, but you can greatly minimize its frequency and impact through frequent training and accountability.

Inadequate Security and Compliance Training

You can’t reduce security risks to your franchise organization without recurring security awareness training for all of your employees. And not just your front line employees, but your executive leadership as well. 

One of the major challenges in a franchise business is the volume of turnover.  The corporate level of the organization has a certain level of turnover, but typically at the franchise level, there’s a continual churn of employees. That means you have new people constantly cycling in who need to be trained at hire on their security and compliance responsibilities. 

Provide security awareness training reminders frequently, and retrain them on a regular basis. People need continual reminders and reinforcement. Keep franchise owners and their employees accountable for security best practices and reward those who show exceptional diligence.

Related: How to Train Your Compliance Personnel for Greater Security Success

Too often, a revolving door of employees means security training gets truncated in the name of efficiency. Why spend valuable time training employees on security when they’re going to leave in a few months anyway? Isn’t it more important to get as much work out of them as you can?

While your employees may not stick around for long, the damage they may do could far outlast their stay with the organization. Your franchises are prime targets for bad actors, and an untrained workforce makes a breach that much easier. 

Whatever training program you implement, it will be important for your organization as a whole to keep a good handle on all the comings and goings related to training. Use a centralized system to track the training of all your employees, from the executive level to the front liners.

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Downplaying the Importance of Security and Compliance

Often, security and compliance are seen as cost centers that merely drain money from the organization and pull personnel away from valuable and productive work. It isn’t unusual for companies to do little more than bare minimum in order to say that they’re compliant with a particular security standard. 

They take a check-the-box approach to compliance so they can get back to “the real work” as quickly as possible.

If you’re looking solely at the bottom line, security and compliance might appear to be nothing more than a cost center. But what these franchise businesses don’t realize is that your company is continually being assailed by malicious attackers. 

If you look at your network logs, you’ll see bot activity all day long. Your people are receiving phishing emails throughout the week. Bad actors are now using AI to find new ways to get into your sensitive data. 

At some point, the dam will breach, unless your organization is committed to a culture of compliance.

Your executive leadership should establish a robust culture of compliance — one that legitimately cares about security. If your executive leadership doesn’t make security best practices a priority, you’ll find risky human error to be a continual issue at every level of the organization.

Some keys to developing a culture of compliance at your franchise organization:

  1. Get top-down prioritization
  2. Integrate compliance into everything
  3. Train your people
  4. Keep your employees accountable
  5. Create ownership and recognition
  6. Use the right technology

Drill down into forming a culture of compliance.

Lack of Visibility and Accountability

In a franchise system, you have individual store owners with a degree of freedom, but they still need to coordinate activities with corporate headquarters. Corporate needs to keep track of all the various stores and ensure they’re doing their due diligence for security. 

It’s a gigantic task to make sure the protective measures for your company are performed at the corporate level and at the franchisee level. And often, what goes on at the franchisee level stays at the franchisee level, unless the organization has a way of monitoring and keeping each location accountable. 

In the end, it’s easy not to know for sure if your individual stores are secure enough. One neglectful franchisee could give an attacker the keys to the whole kingdom.

Every franchise organization needs a rock-solid way to manage their security and compliance engagements. You need to know what’s done and what remains to be accomplished. Has the compliance evidence been validated? Are all of the protective measures being executed across the board? It’s imperative to be able to track it all the way down to each individual franchise location. 

A strong compliance management system will make it immediately and fully clear what each person’s responsibilities are, and whether they’re being done properly. With a tool like TCT Portal, you have your finger on the pulse of corporate compliance activities, you have complete visibility into every single franchise location, with the ability to keep franchisees accountable. 

And you can review each store at a glance, without spending hours wasting time tracking activities while attempting to decipher their current status.

Physical Security Failures

Every time I do an on-site visit for a franchise organization, I find physical security failures. Cameras don’t work, or a door doesn’t latch properly. Employees’ sensitive information is in an unlocked filing cabinet, or the safe in the manager’s office isn’t functioning properly.

None of those examples is trivial, and any one of them is enough to put a brand in the national headlines for all the wrong reasons. Major franchise corporations have suffered millions of dollars in losses because their HVAC vendor had access to the manager’s office.

Physical security is hugely important. Make sure you have responsibilities appropriately lined up. If the franchise locations have partial oversight from corporate, then ensure that you have appropriate reporting and oversight of physical security measures — including validation of physical security measures on a regular basis across the board.

Make sure you have a mechanism for reporting for physical security deficiencies. For example, if the badge access system to get into the franchise manager’s office stops working and isn’t appropriately controlling access, that needs to be addressed. Establish a way to centrally control and monitor your franchise locations. 

Trust Your Franchisees, But Verify

When you’re responsible for the security and compliance of your franchise organization, you don’t have the luxury of assuming anything. If you can’t monitor and track it, you don’t know it — and if you don’t know it, you can’t assume all is well. Trust, but verify.

A compliance management tool like TCT Portal helps create complete visibility so that you know exactly what your franchisees are doing and where they need to step up their game. This creates the freedom for franchisees to operate with a degree of independence, while still maintaining accountability to protect the entire organization.

TCT Portal was designed to help make compliance management suck less for everyone involved, from corporate through to the franchisees. Find out how we can help make that a reality in your franchise business. Request a demo today!

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