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How far do hackers have to take cyber crime before online shoppers refuse to hand over sensitive data to online businesses?
The custom of earning the trust of customers and building a foundation of loyal buyers is at the heart of every online company. Yet marketing endeavors can be swiftly untangled by the increasing threat of cyber criminals.
Jack Dorsey, chief executive of Twitter became the latest high-profile victim to be targeted by hackers. OurMine Security, the hacking group responsible for breaking into Dorsey’s Twitter and Vine accounts, has already compromised Facebook and Google by hacking into the accounts of respective CEOs, Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai.
Although high-profile cyber-attacks are intentionally designed for publicity, they underline that cyber crime is a very real threat to billions of online users.
A recent survey revealed that some companies are losing in excess of $5 million in stolen data. Others have suffered losses that exceed $100 million. Not to mention the millions of consumers that have their credit card and bank account details compromised.
It’s not only consumers that are affected by cyber crimes. Data breaches also have an impact on job losses. The activities of these perpetrators is estimated to harm the global economy to the tune of $2.1 trillion by 2019.
Cyber crime is a high stakes industry and profit margins are far greater than any legitimate business. And each time a company’s security lines are broken, the trust of online shoppers diminishes.
Trust and loyalty is a key area for digital marketers. To maintain the faith of customers, companies should be prioritizing data security.
Reservations about cyber crime is nothing new to online consumers, although most are prepared to take a leap of faith. Over the last decade or so, concerns have dissipated and more consumers have become comfortable making online purchases. According to Mintel, almost two-thirds of Americans shop online at least once a month.
We are now at a point when some consumers are relaxed about handing over personal data, and there is a wealth of information that companies and cyber-criminals can take advantage of. But is the tide beginning to turn?
The US Government recently announced that 45% of Americans have scaled back on their online activity due to fears of security and privacy. As more leading corporations are targeted and concern spreads, the ripple will filter down to small businesses that rely on their online income to survive.
And it is not only online where consumers are at risk. Even buyers of second-hand iPhones can be held to ransom by the previous owner that didn’t unlock their iCloud account. As a result, consumers are increasingly conscious that techno-crime can take place anywhere and are subsequently more cautious with which brands they choose to trust.
Apple is a case-in-point. In some quarters the company is being criticized for refusing to help the Criminal Justice Department to unlock the iPhone 5 that belonged to terrorist Syed Farook, one of the gunmen in the San Bernadino shootings last December.
Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, took a strong stance, claiming the company’s policies on privacy will be breached if they unlock the device. Apple takes privacy so seriously, the Cupertino-based tech giant has dedicated an entire page on their website that explains how they strive to protect the personal data of their customers because “trust means everything”.
But it is not only the risk of losing the trust of customers Cook is trying to protect. It is a portion of Apple’s entire brand marketing strategy that he feels he is being asked to compromise.
Most CEOs would not want to trade places with Apple’s chief. It seems no matter what he does he will be criticized over his actions. But taking a hard line against an official investigation into a terrorist attack, serves to underline how much the company values the privacy and security of its customers.
The Rise Of Cyber Crime Startups
The activities of publicity hackers are not without good reason. These firms want online businesses to protect their customers and they want companies to pay them to do it. Cyber crime startups are positioned to become one of the fastest growing industries of all time.
With the rise of IoT (Internet of Things), the growth of the connected eco-system provides even more weak links for cyber criminals to exploit. It is not a coincidence that brands have started attending security conventions – perhaps on the off chance of recruiting hackers.
Although companies understand the risks of cyber crime, few take sufficient measures to prevent it. The companies that do – like Apple – are transparent about their efforts to protect sensitive data of their customers.
Banks and credit card companies are most at risk of attacks and have been urged to do more to protect consumers that take advantage of the convenience of online bankers and shoppers.
But brands also have a responsibility to protect their customers. Failing to do so will not only destroy a brands’ reputation and shatter the trust of their customers, it could have a detrimental effect on the entire online shopping environment.
Protecting Against Cyberattacks
With the pronounced risks that comes with cyber crime, it’s easy to feel under attack from all sides, especially if you’re not sure how to stay safe from a threat you can’t see coming. A good approach to network security is a start, but for those facing fraud, these basics are only the tip of the iceberg. Binu Girija, Founder and CEO of Way.com explains, “This development — two-factor or multi-factor verification — is a good place to start, strengthening the ways in which individuals and companies can prove identity without hindering the registration or log-in process significantly.”
Another important step for most companies is awareness. If your team isn’t aware of the threat, they won’t be on the lookout for signs of a security breach. From phishing emails to phony logins, employees need to understand where most threats originate and how to recognize them. Ongoing monitoring, malware checks, and incident management strategies can also assist IT teams to detect malicious behavior before any breaches occur.
And protection seems to be starting early as Dr. William Agresti, a professor at Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, says managing cybersecurity in the office is something they make sure their students learn as part of their MBA program. “Business leaders today are responsible for security both online and off, and poor management of this can affect an otherwise great career. We want to make sure our students are prepared as future business leaders.”
In their report Cybersecurity and the Internet of Things, Ernst & Young lays out a five-step readiness plan to help organizations get ahead of cyber crime.
- Design and implement a cyber threat intelligence strategy to support strategic business decisions and leverage the value of security.
- Define and encompass the organizations extended cybersecurity ecosystem, including partners, suppliers, services and business networks.
- Take a cyber economic approach — understanding your vital assets and their value, and investing specifically in their protection.
- Use forensic data analytics and cyber threat intelligence to analyze and anticipate where the likely threats are coming from and when, increasing your readiness.
- Ensure that everyone in the organization understands the need for strong governance, user controls and accountability.
The bottom in all this is all companies – regardless if theirs is an online-only or brick & mortar and online – need to realize that cyber crime is very real and they need to be constantly vigilant in their defense of data – their customer’s data which is in essence the lifeblood of their company.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.