9 min read time
We all know data is a big topic at the moment, and it’s no wonder when we look at the world we live in. This year alone some huge data breaches have occurred, putting our personal details at risk and with new regulations coming into play, we all need to look again at data. But not in the way we think…
It’s true we need to focus on the gathering and use of data- it’s a vital part of B2B marketing, often fueling our campaigns to success, but we can’t ignore the other side of data usage- its security from data breaches. In many ways, it’s not only the biggest threat to our success, it’s the most important part of working with data.
Numbers you need to know
You may already see data protection as a priority, however some recently discovered stats reveal the scary truth about data security in B2B marketing. Whilst three-quarters of marketers view data breaches as genuine threats to brand value, only 48% of them currently possess the tools needed to appropriately deal with a data breach, and just a tiny 27% of marketing departments have said they’re completely confident in their ability to identify the precise data involved in a breach, which is not just a low figure, it’s a genuine problem. Undergoing a data breach can cost businesses precious time, money and reputation; some organizations never recover from a large scale data breach. We seem to be aware that data breaches pose a true risk to us, but on what scale?
The cybercriminals aiming to illegally capture data or break into business systems are more active than ever before. Every minute alone they conduct more than 1,200 ransomware attacks, they distribute 818 new malware strains and send 108,300 phishing emails. It’s predicted a lack of data security sees 58 data records stolen every second, and by 2021, the value of global cybercrime damage will reach $6 trillion.
These numbers speak for themselves; data security is one of the most important undertakings for businesses everywhere, but a vast majority are both under-prepared and misinformed. But now isn’t the time to panic! Many cyber/data security discussions involve far too much FUD pressure (fear, uncertainty and doubt), so let’s aim to get it sorted once and for all. It’s time to understand data breaches, how they happen and what we can do to combat them.
Data breach reality
If we’re going to secure our data against breaches, we need to know what we’re up against. With cybercriminals making continuous efforts to access and damage business held data, it’s only a matter of time before we fall victim of an attempted data breach; so what are we dealing with?
Let’s start by understanding some vital vocab:
- Data Breach: When important data (especially personal or sensitive) is mistreated, lost, stolen or ransomed. The ICO describes it as such- “a breach of security leading to the accidental or unlawful destruction, loss, alteration, unauthorized disclosure of, or access to, personal data. This includes breaches that are the result of both accidental and deliberate causes.”
- Hacking: When an unauthorized person(s) uses system vulnerabilities to gain unwarranted access to a secure network or system.
- Ransomware: When someone manages to take control of a business network or data and demands a ransom in exchange for the information. Oftentimes, business receive only a fraction of what data was lost when agreeing to meet the ransom.
- Malware: Short for Malicious Software, causing unauthorized access and damage to a system or data.
- Virus: A type of Malware, entering a computer system without knowledge, exploiting information, damaging data or wiping the system entirely.
- Phishing email: An email or message, aiming to extract the readers credentials by posing as a common login system or similar. Some are easy to detect, others are very convincing, and difficult to decipher from the genuine article.
- Server attacks: A deliberate attack on a business server. As many businesses used shared servers, cybercriminals are offered more opportunities to hack into systems. This can be dangerous, as business servers don’t only hold a vast amount of prospect/client data, but can also hold very sensitive employee information, such as payroll credentials.
There are other ways to encounter a data breach, including internal dangers of system failures, but a vast amount stem from a lack of security to combat most of the above.
Increasing data security
We know what’s out there, so what can we do about it? There are plenty of data security options available, with differing effectiveness and costs, for businesses of all shape and sizes. However some of the most essential data security actions for B2B marketers are very simple, and just take a little extra everyday attention- here are some basic, best-practices to get your started, that can make a huge difference:
The 4 Rs of cyber security
Jeremy Kajendran proposes this great place to start when investigating and sorting data security, giving businesses a clear structure to work with, eliminating the fear mongering and focusing on getting security sorted. As B2B marketers encounter data almost every minute of every day, working through these steps as a team is hugely beneficial:
- Reality- First of all-face up to the fact it’s not about IF you face a cyber-attack, it’s about WHEN you will. Don’t believe “it might not happen”; be prepared for when it does, and make sure your team understand the reality of the risk.
- Response- Consider how you identify and respond to a breach - what is your immediate action? How quickly can you initiate an appropriate response to the breach itself and notify the necessary staff, customers, prospects, legal bodies and stakeholders? Is your response plan in line with data regulations?
- Resilience- How will you learn from a data breach? What process will you undergo to ensure security flaws are not repeated, to avoid future data attacks?
- Rehearsal- What are your plans to rehearse a data breach scenario? How often will you conduct a rehearsal to understand how your team will handle data breach scenarios?
Working through these steps allows you to ensure data breach preparation with the necessary (and legal) requirements in place to take the best course of immediate action.
Website hacking is a common form of cyber-attack that doesn’t always involve data theft, but can offer a dangerous opportunity for skilled cybercriminals to access much more than just the back-end of your website. It’s predicted that hackers cost small-medium sized businesses an average of almost $200,000 per year, and 60% of these business never fully recover the financial costs, forcing some of them to close down completely. Keeping a close eye on website security and running regular checks to ensure all chosen security systems are well in place can be all it takes to prevent a website hack. It sounds so simple, but many aren’t aware of the “easy-in” your website offers those with the ability to take advantage. Team up with your IT department to keep it secure and safe.
Vigilance over communications
A huge amount of malware and ransomware attacks can be prevented by simply being vigilant, especially when looking at email communications. Ensure your whole marketing team knows what to look for when receiving an email from an unknown source. Even the really convincing ones have a tell, so train everyone up to spot a phishing communication from miles away. All it takes is one unsure person using your business network to open the wrong attachment, and the damage is done.
There are a huge amount of anti-virus softwares available, and it’s definitely worth investing in one to help your business network remain virus free, but before you splash any cash, look into your marketing systems and data processes, to understand what viruses you’ll be most vulnerable to. Many sorts of virus won’t apply to your network, and won’t pose a danger to your day-to-day activities, so do your research and invest in a software best tailored to your virus protection needs.
An active firewall is always recommended to properly manage the traffic going in and out of your network. This is for your IT department to officially sort out, but as your marketing strategies can take team members offsite to events or trade shows, it’s important to ensure your network isn’t vulnerable when on the move. Firewalls allow businesses to ensure only certain connections are permitted on their business network, leaving your devices less vulnerable to alien softwares and external accessibility. If you share a server, go the extra mile to ensure the business(es) you share with have the appropriate measures in place too, as if one of them falls victim to a data breach, there's a chance you all will.
As marketers, using plenty of exciting and helpful Martech solutions for data procurement and management is a given, and they all come with different softwares. The older your software, the more vulnerable is it to cyber attacks and data breach as more modern softwares gain the ability to detect any weaknesses that may allow unlawful access. By simply keeping all of your softwares well updated, you do more than just gain efficiency; software updates always come with additional protection against the latest viruses and software dangers. It’s another simple fix, but it can be the difference between data security and vulnerability.
Of course, it goes without saying that one of the easiest ways to keep your whole business network safer from data breaches and cyber-attacks is to continually update passwords. Changing business passwords every 6 weeks can halt hackers in their tracks. If you’re a business that holds especially valuable data (such as financial), many may be interested in hacking your systems repeatedly to try and access that specific data. Changing passwords regularly, for every protected software across the whole system (especially for those password protected data spreadsheets) continues to reset security, and ensures any gaps are once again covered.
And these are just the basics! We’d recommend getting professional advice from your IT department and data advisors when looking to fully ensure data security, but these small additions can help make the world of data a safer place for your business.
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