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Cyber Risks and Liabilities: Hiring Independent IT Contractors

When it comes to IT work, many small and mid-size companies don’t have the budget to employ a full-time IT staff. Often, these tasks are performed by the owner or current employees with limited knowledge of how the company’s computer system works. This creates potential cyber-security issues that can cause a breach, destruction of intellectual property, or identity theft. Luckily, businesses can hire independent contractors to assist them with all IT-related tasks. Businesses can reach out to contractors for short-term help, such as setting up a network or firewall, or opt for long-term contracts, such as developing cyber-security policies.

Reasons to Hire an IT Contractor

  • Unique skill set—IT tasks can be complicated to the average person. By hiring an IT contractor, businesses can complete projects in less time than if they had an employee with minimal IT experience do the job.
  • Cost savings—Business owners can save money over the long term by hiring a contractor to do work for a short period, eliminating the need to hire an expensive full-time employee for the job.
  • Politics—A contractor is there to focus on the job at hand. They are not likely to get involved in office politics that slow employees from performing the same job.
  • Minimal training—IT contractors are well-versed in the best IT practices and can perform work with little training, which costs businesses time and money.
  • Quality assuranceContractors can provide useful second opinions on work a company has done itself.

If You Hire an IT Contractor

  • Consider using an IT staffing agency. Using an IT staffing agency eliminates the headache of hiring a contractor yourself, as the agency will do all the legwork for you.
  • Do your homework. You usually get what you pay for when hiring an independent contractor. Good contractors may come with a hefty price tag, but when the reputation of your business is on the line, only the best contractors should do. Screen all potential contractors and perform a thorough interview to narrow down the best candidate for the task you need performed. Make sure to request references. There are several websites on the Internet where companies can hire IT contractors.
  • Retain knowledge. If you hire an independent contractor to perform tasks around the office, it is important to pay attention to what he or she is doing so that you won’t have to pay for the same services in the future. By learning the processes the contractor used to complete the job, you can use that knowledge in the future to keep costs down and increase security.
  • Develop a contractor-specific security policy. Intellectual property stored on your computer network is probably worth a lot of money. If you hire a contractor, make sure there is a policy in place to let him or her know your expectations for keeping your assets safe. The contractor should know that protecting sensitive information, such as lead lists, email addresses, medical records, and credit card numbers should be the top priority while performing the task. Make sure your employees are aware of any security policies as well.

Ultimately, it is in most companies’ best interest to employ a full-time IT staff, if possible. Full-time IT employees have the time to intimately learn your business’ network and are the best defence against cyber-attacks, whereas relying on independent contractors can be expensive. If your firm does not have the size or scope to require full-time IT personnel, it’s important to set expectations with your IT contractor to ensure your data and systems remain safe and your security expectations are upheld. Whichever option your business chooses, cyber-security should be taken very seriously.

This Cyber Risks & Liabilities document is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact a legal or insurance professional for appropriate advice. © 2013 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.

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