Accounting firm Lyndon Group has created a privacy leadership services practice area tailored to servicing local small and midsized businesses.

The Newport Beach, Calif.-based firm said the new service would help businesses reduce the risk of customer identity theft and data misuse and mismanagement. Elements of the practice will include helping businesses develop an inventory of privacy-related assets; identifying state, federal and international privacy requirements; and assessing existing system controls to identify and document internal and third-party information safety risks.

The service will also help businesses classify their privacy-related information; develop recommendations for preventing and responding to data breach incidents; and finalize their privacy best practices to align with the business’ culture and maintain customer trust.

The Federal Trade Commission recently delayed the deadline for compliance with its so-called “Red Flags Rule,” which requires certain types of businesses to develop a written program to identify and respond to the warning signs of identity theft. The rule was supposed to take effect August 1, but the FTC has set a new deadline of November 1 to give small businesses more time to prepare. The FTC has announced an expanded business education campaign about the rule.

Identity theft and data breaches have become an increasing problem at many businesses. “The Identity Theft Resource Center reported a 47 percent increase in data breaches in 2008 vs. 2007, but the surprising fact is that the majority of these breaches are not attributable to hackers, but through mismanagement and misuse of personal information relating to people, processes and policies,” said Eric Nelson, practice leader - privacy and information security, at Lyndon Group. “Individuals expect their privacy to be respected and their personal information to be protected. With almost daily reports of identity theft, they are no longer willing to overlook a company’s failure to protect their privacy and personal information.”

Lyndon Group’s other practice areas include accounting, finance, IT, governance, risk and compliance.

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