Protecting Your Brand From Cyber Attacks

By Marie Hattar, CMO, Ixia

From Facebook hacks and social media exploits to company-wide data breaches, there is a strong connection between security and your organization’s brand reputation. As Warren Buffett once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”

Companies have embraced the digital era, with software being the new norm across almost every enterprise. Databases are full of customer information that can be easily transmitted and accessed 24 hours a day. This opens the door for potential breaches, and nothing can ruin your company’s reputation quicker than falling victim to a cyberattack.

Cyber security is one of today’s biggest marketing challenges. The role of the chief marketing officer (CMO) has shifted significantly, bringing on new responsibilities, which need to include balancing cyber security and an organization’s data. Today’s CMO must think about potential threats facing their company’s infrastructure, expanding their security footprint, and how to best engage with customers without sacrificing sensitive information - before it’s too late.

From healthcare to the retail sector, more organizations have become the target of malicious cyber breaches that completely deplete company brand and customer trust. As we saw when companies like Target and eBay fell victim to data hacks, in addition to a loss in data, both companies saw a loss in brand reputation and customer base. Historically, CMOs have not been involved with their security department, but the failure to do so today could lead to unprotected data.  In addition, the use of software - whether it is for marketing automation or analytics - could potentially open a company’s backdoor to hackers. More often than not, security is not part of the CMO’s role until it has become a problem.

One year after Target’s very public data breach, the retailer saw a 10 percent decrease in the number of U.S. households who shopped at the store on a regular basis. Similarly, following eBay’s data breach in May 2014, the company’s CEO John Donahoe confirmed that the breach did in fact have a negative impact on the company’s revenue and user activity. These data breaches negatively affected the reputation of both companies, and for this reason CMOs need to get more active in their organization’s security conversation.

A survey recently conducted by OnePoll revealed that 87 percent of respondents were “not at all likely” or “not very likely” to do business with an organization that has suffered a data breach involving credit or debit card numbers. How can the modern CMO act as a hub of collaboration to help advance a company’s risk mitigation efforts and take a strong, proactive security stance instead of a reactive one?

● CMOs and CISOs must coordinate a conversation between the IT and marketing teams to negotiate service-level agreements for security and availability. The conversation must occur on both sides, with the marketing team explaining what data is critical for successful operations and client relationships, and the IT team explaining what systems are critical to customers and the marketing team.

● Today, various platforms are being used to engage customers. Having the ability to check your bank account, chat with your healthcare provider, and engage on Facebook at all times is a great by-product of the digital age, but it comes with a risk, since cyber criminals count on these avenues as a way to exploit personal data. CMOs must ensure that their company has adequate security to span across the modern digital spectrum.

● Too often, companies stop security intrusions too late and respond inadequately. Your marketing team must undergo crisis training to understand how a cyber breach could affect customers and how to react - including preparing a strong response in the event that a breach should happen.

● CMOs across the enterprise must come together to work collaboratively and share learnings and best practices on the elephant in the room, cyber security in the age of the digital consumer. 

2015 was dubbed the year of the personal data breach, with almost 200 million personal records exposed though about 730 unique breaches. Preparation is the best protection, especially with the security stakes being higher than ever. Today’s CMO must constantly be aware that customer information, vital infrastructure and their brand image are always under attack. By prioritizing response tactics and data protection, a CMO can make sure their brand stands out while ensuring successful procedures that will thwart cyber attacks and continue to build customer trust throughout the organization.

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