Over the last few years, businesses have faced dramatic technological challenges, thus impacting their marketing and strategic decisions. The pandemic put digital transformation on to the forefront, making it a mad scramble for 68% of global businesses to keep up with consumers. The latter shifted shopping habits to online transacting in a massive way.
The two most significant drivers in the emerging change were convenience on the one hand and cybersecurity risk on the other. As a result, brand image and customer retention walked a tightrope unless businesses could adjust and align themselves with these new opposing dynamics. One of the first things management had to deal with was multiple technology integrations and an almost overwhelming multiplication of remote working employees logging in from here, there, and everywhere.
While in 2019 in-store shopping and browsing malls were an American tradition, 2021 ushered in the mobile device as the most popular consumer tool. With over 5.7 million apps on the App Store (Apple) and Google Play (Android) Play and 230 billion app downloads in 2021, the pace of commercial internet activity is spreading like wildfire. Unfortunately, it brings an ill wind – global ransomware attacks escalated by 62% in one year from 2019 to 2020.
How bad are ransomware attacks?
Most of us are under the impression that ransomware encrypts all one’s data, effectively cutting off its access. While true, t It goes much further because cyber-criminals double-dip. They cripple the information banks and simultaneously sell the data to the highest bidder. The symptoms of these nefarious activities are identity theft, account disruptions, severe costs to rectify matters, and legal complications for customers and the company. When it happens, it exposes brands to all kinds of volatility that ultimately threaten a company’s:
- Customer base
For example, in a ClearSale survey (2021), most online shoppers (84%) underlined that they’d be unlikely to re-engage with any website reputed to include fraudsters in their user lineup.
Given a scenario of endemic cyberattacks, there’s an opportunity
The primary focus of professional marketers is to address customer pain points. In customer experience terminology, cyber insecurity is a prominent one – the cost of deriving online advantages. Companies, it seems, on balance, believe it’s worth taking the risk of hackers penetrating touchpoints, thus turning the customer journey into a nightmare. So, the opportunity exists to enhance brand image and stature by improving cybersecurity, currently a significant threat to CX.
Businesses that prioritize upgrading protections around their systems will discount the odds of CX glitches. The primary steps in a cybersecurity process with a CX-centric flavor are as follows:
Refine your data-collection strategies and practices
Data is arguably a company’s most valuable asset. Hackers know it, and that’s why their single-minded mission is to steal it for sale on the dark web. So, everything starts with the data, and the first big focus is its collection. Therefore, review the customer data you collect to protect your customers from identity exposures and protect your business from liability:
- Ask for the minimum information required for customer authentication.
- Ask yourself what else you need to know to create an excellent customer experience.
- What data fields can you dispense with without compromising (a) or (b) above?
Going through the steps above should result in a tightly defined data guideline. Then, ensure you have:
- The permission of all relevant parties.
- Use and storage policies.
- Met protection regulations to the letter.
- Water-tight compliance from every angle.
The measures above result in a double benefit:
- Avoidance of fines and penalties.
- Underwriting significant peace of mind for your customers.
Reevaluate your encryption practices
Encrypt customer data the instant it enters the cloud, apps, or your system. Pay particular attention to data traveling to spots like payment gateways or partnership sites – the favorites inside the system’s footprint that hackers digitally stalk, looking for weaknesses.
Also, cloud storage security is not all it should be. No matter what cloud providers promise, any breakdown in cloud protections is your baby. It’s true; Amazon and others are spending billions to fortify their cloud infrastructures and fend off attacks. Still, it isn’t their responsibility to resolve or compensate for criminal incursions if they occur.
So, encrypt all cloud-based data and mandate that it:
- Is never stored in plaintext.
- Avoids misconfigured servers.
- Stifles exfiltration by monitoring traffic in and out of the servers.
- Remains under constant security team vigilance.
The above may seem obvious, but severe data breaches at Wells Fargo, Facebook, Accenture, Verizon, and many others indicate otherwise. Unexpected data movement should raise flashing alerts with a policy of measures for every circumstance.
Keep your company software patched and updated
A patch is an improvement that strengthens software resilience to cyber attacks. Did you know that in 2019 unpatched software was the root cause of 60% of security breaches? Nothing stays the same, especially in a world where cunning bad actors innovate new ways to penetrate your system. It emphasizes that upgrades are essential in maintaining and sustaining software and app functionality.
Every IT department should have patching high on the priority list. But, unfortunately, it’s not the case:
- It was sub-par before the pandemic, and it’s not much improved today.
- Perhaps the reason is that patching is pretty time-consuming (i.e., an average of 16 days per patch, according to a Ponemon Institute survey).
So, it boils down to developing a tightly controlled cybersecurity environment by allocating the IT hours to get the job done. Indeed, automatic patches on a pre-scheduled timetable are realistically achievable with machine learning apps readily available. Alternatively, smaller businesses that can’t afford these elaborate measures can deal with software vendors that deliver periodic updates as part of their service.
Strengthen your malware protection
This is one of the essential precautions you can’t afford to neglect. There’s a well-proven process to follow under this heading:
- Ensure your firewalls are up and working.
- Don’t hesitate to rely on continuous site scanning to weed out the malicious viruses that may have penetrated the system (despite your best efforts).
- Data skimming attacks are prevalent in 2022 as it enters the checkout forms. Watch that aspect extra carefully.
- Email protection is a specialty overview all in itself.
- Employees, untrained in the protocols of opening emails, inadvertently assist devious hackers to implant malware in the system.
- The criminals deploy cleverly disguised online messages to lure in the unsuspecting.
- Intensive training to create awareness is the best weapon in this arena.
Review your data breach response plan
Breaches and responses to them go hand in hand. Your brand and reputation depend on the sincerity you express and your reaction speed. The moment a crack in the protections emerges, the following considerations come into play:
- Damage to customer relations.
- Your brand visualization and image.
- Possible financial liability.
All three rely on your competence to get things remedied with as little hassle as possible. A policy should outline in detail with full staff transparency:
- High liability items with protocols to:
- Prevent them from occurring
- Stem the damage if they do.
- Updates to stay current with the latest laws and regulations.
- Reporting procedures and timelines vital to every possible breach.
- Employee participation in training programs online to maintain internal peace of mind.
In the event of a breach, customer communication is crucial to present the problem, your resolution, and if necessary, company assistance or subsidy to make up for the real or potential loss. This will pay dividends because customers readily admit they’ll “forgive a business for errors, as long as CX is exemplary“.
All the things that go wrong on the cybersecurity front represent CX opportunities. Why? Because everything is relative. The less your competitors do, the better you look if you take the challenge seriously. The cybersecurity issues are here for the long haul, which implies that most are doing the minimum or not everything top-class protection calls for. So, for a company to enter the marketing arena with piqued cybersecurity consciousness is a meaningful attitude to gain one-upmanship fast. It requires a team effort to integrate new norms into the corporate culture. Sogolytics is at the cutting edge of these initiatives. Contact them if you need assistance with any part of your EX or customer experience planning.