Why Data Security Should Be One of Your Brand’s Concerns in the Coming Year
Data security, the protective measures that businesses put into place to keep their networks and databases safe, has become essential for almost every company.
Cyber attacks are on the rise. Hackers are taking advantage of COVID-related chaos and technological shifts — like the pivot to remote work — to break into company networks.
To defend your business and your customer’s data against these hackers, you need data security. Otherwise, your company may be open to a data breach — and consequences like a damaged reputation, downtime or fines and fees.
#1. Almost Every Business Is Vulnerable to Attack
The frequency of cyberattacks has steadily increased over the past few years. Then, with COVID-19, cybercrime exploded — with cybercriminals taking advantage of the chaos to launch new scams and target businesses of all kinds.
While attacks on large businesses and major organizations typically make the news, small businesses aren’t safe.
One cybersecurity survey from Forrester Consulting and Tenable found that almost half of all businesses experienced some kind of COVID-19-related cybersecurity event. Additionally, 78% of respondents said they had experienced a growing number of attacks over the past few years, and 48% said that they had faced five or more attacks in 2020 alone.
Almost all businesses face attacks right now, and almost half of all businesses are facing repeat cybersecurity threats.
The data your business holds onto has value — especially if it is customers’ personal or financial information, like email addresses, passwords and credit card numbers.
Even if your business isn’t that large, you still need to consider data security and implement some best practices that will help keep your business’s data safe. Otherwise, you may leave your business wide open to an attack.
#2. Security Can Be a Powerful Trust Signal
Consumers are aware of how serious cybercrime has become. They also know that . . . sensitive information.
Trust signals show customers that your business is credible and trustworthy. Often, these signals come in the form of content or visuals — like product reviews, testimonials and professional-looking site design. You can also signal trustworthiness by investing in security.
For example, many websites display trust badges during checkout. These are small icons or graphics from well-known financial organizations that show off the financial security credentials your business has.
Because around 19% of customers abandon the checkout process because they don’t trust a business with their financial information, these trust signals can also help you reduce your cart abandonment rate.
Communication is also one of the best ways to drive business growth, and keeping customers in the loop about security can help round out a communication strategy.
#3. A Breach Can Damage Your Brand Reputation
Customer trust has a major impact on business success — and once lost, it can be hard to rebuild.
One study from Deloitte, a Big Four accounting organization, found that brands that broke trust due to a scandal lost 20% to 56% of their market capitalization. The same study also found that employees may be less enthusiastic about working for an employer they don’t trust.
Data breaches can be a major scandal. To customers, they may suggest that a brand isn’t willing to keep their data safe. Customers may also experience long-term negative effects from a breach — like attempted identity theft or fraud — that will continue to remind them of the breach after it happens.
Data security helps you build trust and keep it safe. Because trust is increasingly important to business success, data security has become key, as well. Investing in basic security measures will help you prevent breaches and the reputation damage they can cause.
#4. Cyber Attacks Are on the Rise
Hackers are adopting automated tools and ramping up their efforts. Cyber attacks rose significantly when COVID-19 hit and experts believe that they’re only likely to become more frequent over the next few years. As businesses hold onto more and more data, they’re also likely to become more attractive targets to hackers.
Even if your business hasn’t been targeted by an attacker in the past, there’s no guarantee that it will stay safe in the future. Because hackers are constantly innovating — and because the potential rewards of a successful attack are growing — it’s likely that any small business may face an attempted breach in the next few years.
Awareness of how hackers tend to attack businesses — especially tactics like phishing and ransomware — will help you keep your network and data safe from criminals.
#5. Successful Breaches Are Becoming More Expensive
As cybercrime has become more frequent, successful attacks have also become a lot more costly.
Estimates vary as to how much a successful breach will cost a small business, but most research suggests that the damage can be expensive enough to put a company out of business.
The average cost of a data breach in the U.S. in 2020 was $3.86 million, according to data from IBM.
This figure includes both small businesses and major enterprises, as well as outliers that may have driven up the total number. However, no matter the size of your business, you can expect a data breach to be disruptive. Investing in data security now can help prevent these kinds of events in the future.
#6. Data Security Helps Make Privacy and Safety Top Priorities
Keeping data secure requires some vigilance — plus an understanding of how your business is holding onto data and keeping it safe. If you prioritize data security, it won’t be possible to hold onto customer data without realizing or without knowing who has access to what data.
Data privacy and safety are both increasingly important to consumers. If you want to demonstrate your commitment to these values, data security is a great place to start.
Implementing basic security measures — like firewalls, back-ups, network segmentation and virus protection — can help you better understand how your business uses customer data. It will also help you identify potential security trust signals and risks that you can either leverage to your advantage or mitigate to avoid losing customer trust.
#7. New Technology and COVID-19 Disruptions Have Made Businesses Vulnerable
New tech like IoT devices and cloud-based software may also be making businesses more vulnerable to attack.
The pivot to remote work hasn’t helped, either. Because employees are connecting to their employer’s network from home, there is significantly more room for error when it comes to cybersecurity.
A misconfigured connection or vulnerable VPN may make your business network much easier to break into — allowing hackers easier access to confidential info and customer data.
Many businesses are also adopting cutting-edge technology and networked devices, like IoT office equipment. These devices can provide real benefits for small businesses, but they may also make their networks more vulnerable or harder to defend against an attack.
While it’s definitely possible to both adopt IoT technology and keep your network secure, new devices and networked tech may make data security more challenging. Investing it in next year will help you understand what unique challenges your business may face — and what strategies you can use to keep hackers out.
#8. Your Brand May Face Digital Threats From Fraudsters
Some attacks may not target your business directly. Instead, they may not take advantage of a brand to commit fraud or to confuse customers. These digital threats can be just as damaging to a brand as a successful attack.
Digital threats can come in the form of look-alike domains, which attempt to impersonate your business’s domains or website, or the impersonation of your brand on social media. Some attackers may simply lift your brand’s logo or other identifying brand elements to make it seem like your company endorses a page, product or event.
These attacks will target your customers and potentially your business’s team.
While you won’t be ultimately responsible for a customer’s loss if they fall victim to one of these schemes, your business’s reputation may still be damaged. Awareness of these threats will help you take action to stop them and prevent them from targeting your customer base.
#9. Privacy and Security is a Major Opportunity Area
For the most part, customers don’t trust the world to get security right. According to one McKinsey survey, there’s no industry where more than 50% of American consumers have faith in industry data protection practices. The survey authors believe that the lack of trust is due to the large number of high-profile data breaches that we’ve seen over the past few years.
While this low consumer confidence may seem concerning, it could also be a serious opportunity area for security-minded businesses.
A brand that can demonstrate its commitment to data security, privacy and protection may be able to distinguish itself from other companies in the same niche. For businesses in industries that have struggled with data security and cybercrime — like ecommerce and tech — a visible commitment to privacy and security may be especially attractive to consumers.
Investing in security over the next year may help you appeal to customers who feel like they can’t trust businesses when it comes to their data.
Data Security Is Becoming Essential to Business Success
Data breaches are on the rise. As customer and financial data becomes more valuable, attacks could happen even more often. Data security helps your business keep its data safe, preventing leaks and potentially building customer trust.
Investing in some data security basics over the next year can help your business defend its network from attacks and prevent data breaches.
About the Author!
Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. Eleanor was the creative director and occasional blog writer at a prominent digital marketing agency before becoming her own boss in 2018. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and dog, Bear.