Cybersecurity has been a rising issue for pretty much any specialist operating online. As a marketer, you may not think that it’s very relevant for you. You’re probably more focused on things like SEO, social media, paid ads, etc. Well, you’re about to learn why cybersecurity should be one of your priorities as well.
Data breaches have been more and more common in the past couple of years, which means that the longer you fail to secure your data, the higher the risk of a breach. In this article, you’ll learn why data security is so important for marketers, and you’ll learn how to ensure the highest security of your company’s and users’ data.
Data breaches have been on a rise
Unfortunately, data breaches keep on growing every single year. In the graph below, you can see by how much. Back in 2014, 62% of companies had experienced a data breach, and that percentage has been going up ever since. In 2021, there were already 86.2% of companies that had a breach of their data.
Considering how high these numbers are, it’s fair to say that every single marketer is at high risk of a data breach. The risk keeps increasing because:
- Businesses keep moving online, and many employees work from home. Because of how decentralized work has become, you can’t control what wifi employees connect to (it might be unencrypted). Also, employees are generally more laid back when working from home and more likely to click on links that will infect their devices with malware.
- Hackers keep thinking of new techniques. Hackers have noticed the rise in remote working and have used this to their advantage. We’ll cover the exact techniques hackers use later on in the article.
Customer trust is pivotal in marketing
Customer trust is one of, if not the most, important thing in marketing. When customers know that your company stores their data securely, their trust in you grows stronger. Failing to understand data safety risks can lead to a loss of customer trust, which can even result in your business closing down.
Every step you’ve taken in your marketing campaign has been aimed at building stronger relationships with customers. Just one cyber attack can make all of your marketing efforts go to waste. Without proper data security in place, you can quickly lose everything you’ve worked so hard to build.
GDPR has changed the data game
GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation and is the basis for data protection in the EU. If you conduct business in the EU, then GDPR plays a crucial role in your business operations. As a marketer, you may not know much about this regulation. However, since marketing involves a lot of data collection and analytics, you should know some GDPR basics, such as:
- Users must be able to opt out of data processing at any time.
- Personal data must be protected. This point keeps getting more and more difficult because of the increase in cyber attacks leading to data breaches.
To add to the point of data protection, below is a screenshot of a GDPR data security checklist provided by the EU.
Marketers usually aren’t very educated on data protection regulations because they assume that it isn’t an area they should be concerned with. Well, since marketers often collect data, it’s very likely that a marketer unaware of GDPR will violate the regulation sooner or later. Such violations can lead to huge penalties and lost trust from users.
What are the main threats?
Now you know why data security is so important in marketing. The next step is to find out how data breaches happen and how to prevent them. Here are the main threats:
Sometimes, cyber attackers can be the ones you least expect: your fellow employees. Sure, they might leak the data entirely by accident, but the consequences are the same. For instance, they might accidentally give outsiders access to social media account login info. Or they might leak some of the data collected on customers, such as names, last names, phone numbers, and emails.
We keep seeing new types of malware that result in data breaches. For example, there’s the threat of ransomware. This is a type of malware where a company’s data is blocked, and the hacker demands that a certain amount of money is paid in exchange for access. The hacker may also say that they will leak all of the company’s sensitive data if the ransom is not paid. Ransomware isn’t the only threat: there are also plenty of viruses that can steal all company data and delete everything from company devices.
Phishing occurs when a person is tricked into disclosing important data through a deceptive email or link. There are so many different forms of phishing and these attempts keep becoming harder and harder to notice.
For example, ever since COVID-19 hit, there has been a rise in phishing attempts related to the virus. Fake invitations to get the vaccine, fake questionnaires to help “understand the pandemic situation in your area”, etc. Phishing attempts often result in the disclosure of important login information or customer data, which bring about horrible consequences for marketing specialists.
How to protect business data?
You now know how data breaches happen and why they are so damaging for marketers. Below are 5 easy ways to prevent such breaches from happening.
1. Get a password manager
A business password manager will help keep all login information in check and safe from hackers. Essentially, a password manager provides an encrypted account to store all of your passwords in. This allows you to create very difficult and different passwords without needing to remember them or write them down.
A separate and encrypted password manager is a much safer option than using a browser’s built-in manager. If a business device gets stolen, anybody can access important accounts and learn their passwords. If employees work from home, you can’t control who else has access to their devices. A password manager ensures that the employee is the only one with access to accounts, even if the device gets stolen.
2. Only collect necessary data
Data is pivotal in understanding your audience and improving your marketing plan, but be sure to only ask users to provide data that is absolutely necessary. For example, when collecting information for a mailing list, only ask for the person’s name and email. Limiting the amount of data you collect on customers helps decrease the damage caused by a potential data leak. Not to mention, it will help reduce your data clutter by as much as possible. Companies already find it difficult to properly utilize their data because there’s too much of it.
3. Protect access to important data
You already learned about insider threats. The best way to prevent data breaches is by protecting the data and managing who has access to what information. All business login information should be safe and encrypted in a business password manager, and a limited number of employees should have access to the password manager.
This also applies to other important data, such as personal data collected from users. If they trusted you enough to let you know their home address, it’s your responsibility to keep that information on the down-low.
4. Incorporate a safe approach to user data analysis
When handling very specific and sensitive data, it is especially important that you choose a safe approach to data operations. Some time ago, Google introduced Federated analytics as a new data processing technique. Traditionally, data science gathers lots of information in one central location. Federated analytics enables analysis of data from distributed datasets without collecting it in one place, which means, for example, that the data stays on the user’s device.
Here are some Federated analytics benefits:
- it enables to securely analyse and aggregate sensitive data in times when users do not want to share it,
- it helps to maintain effectiveness and efficiency in data processing,
- it facilitates product development; companies can make their products smarter in a privacy-preserving way,
- it enables training machine learning models without exchanging local data.
Such an approach is gaining popularity and it is used by various companies which aim to improve their products in a secure way. For example, at Sotrender, which is a social media analytics tool, it is really important to process clients’ confidential data (like advertising data) separately. Thanks to Federated analytics, there is no need to centralise the data to further process it and to use it for machine learning. Confidentiality of data belonging to customers is maintained as this data is not directly used in analytics and machine learning.
5. Train employees
To protect a business from malware and phishing attempts, employees must be trained on these threats. Create a brief cybersecurity guide and keep updating it with the latest hacking trends.
Here are some basic points to cover in cybersecurity training:
- Phishing awareness – inform employees about the latest phishing trends. For example, hackers love taking advantage of people’s anxiety around the coronavirus, which is why COVID-related phishing has been very common lately. Phishing trends are bound to change in the future, and by staying updated and updating your employees, you’ll greatly increase the safety of your business’s data.
- Password security – staff must know about the importance of using strong passwords and not sharing them with anyone.
- Work device protection – all work devices must be protected at all costs because of the data stored on it. This means using a strong login password, setting auto-lock, and informing management of possible theft of a work device.
- Data protection – employees must know how sensitive business data is. They should not share it with anyone, even their closest friends and family.
6. Create a data breach response plan
Even if you take all possible precautions against a data breach, you can never be 100% sure it won’t happen. That’s why it’s important to have a response plan in case the worst happens. This will help minimize the potential damage of the breach.
A data breach response plan may include:
- Changing breached passwords immediately.
- Informing a client about their leaked data right away and instructing them on the precautions they should take, such as changing their own passwords. The last thing you’d want is for users to find out about their leaked data from other sources.
- Getting to the source of the leak and preventing it from causing any more damage (for example, firing an employee if they leaked data).
Data security should be of the utmost importance to marketers. The success of any company depends significantly on the company’s ability to build trust and relationships with its customers. You might have an excellent marketing strategy already in place, but all of your efforts can go to waste within an instant if your data gets leaked.
Now is the time to start taking cybersecurity more seriously, especially since the vast majority of businesses have had a data breach at least once already. We hope you found the information and tips in this article helpful, and we wish you the best of luck in securing your business!