Many enterprise marketers view cybersecurity as someone else’s job. On the surface, this may be true. Enterprise cyber defense is largely an IT-led strategy, whereas marketing is responsible for the brand and company image.
That said, separating marketing and cybersecurity completely can be dangerous. In today’s digital-first landscape, any successful marketing strategy revolves around a company’s website as a central hub that incorporates multiple outside apps and plugins – many of which are potential entry points for hackers. By ignoring cybersecurity awareness, marketers risk exposing their entire organization to significant threats.
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The Growing Intersection of Marketing and Cybersecurity
The biggest reason marketers should care about cybersecurity is that it’s on top of the mind for customers. Today’s consumers are so inundated with news of breaches that they’ve become desensitized to them. But this condition – popularly termed “breach fatigue” – has generated a higher level of corporate mistrust among the consumer public. If Target and Equifax can’t be trusted with our data, who can be? This trust issue alone should encourage cyber literacy among marketers.
Beyond that, marketers must be engaged with cybersecurity because it’s a key dimension of modern marketing strategy. To keep pace in today’s marketing arena, successful marketers leverage many externally-developed applications as part of their customer relationship management strategy, in turn integrating these into their website and the corporate network.
While these tools significantly enhance the marketing process by providing marketers with quick deployment of functionality, and more actionable analytics, they also introduce companies to risk. As soon as a new external marketing tool is plugged into a company network, it begins having some degree of interaction with proprietary enterprise information. And for hackers, this connection can create a new potential entry point for a broader attack.
The threat posed by a single vulnerable application plugin cannot be discounted. As pointed out in the SiteLock Q3 2017 Website Security Insider report, one vulnerability in such a piece of software can create a domino effect that can impact more than 1,000 website pages. And when businesses introduce plugins – like a social media platform, for instance – they only increase the odds of attack. In fact, SiteLock found that websites with 6-10 plugins double their risk of suffering a breach.
More specifically, websites that linked to Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter were four times more likely to be compromised than websites that did not link to all three of these social channels.
In an atmosphere of elevated cyber threats, the impact of a security breach on the customer experience can be devastating. While large enterprises like Target and Equifax have large teams dedicated to repairing diminished customer trust, smaller businesses generally do not.
As a result, many small businesses aren’t prepared to handle the reputational losses that can follow a data breach. In fact, 65 percent of consumers who have had information stolen or compromised due to online shopping no longer shop online or refuse to return to the site where their information was compromised.
How Marketers Can Play a Proactive Role in Cyber Defense
For marketers, the cyber situation boils down to a simple directive: Just as cyber attacks are expanding, so too must their commitment to cyber literacy. While marketing professionals may not be expected to work on technical implementations of cyber protection, there are important things they can do to be proactive in support of their company’s cyber defenses —
- Vet security of external solutions: Because all it takes is one vulnerable integrated marketing app to expose an entire enterprise to the risk of attack, marketers should be especially vigilant in evaluating the security practices and standards of any outside solution they consider deploying. They should also work closely with IT to ensure all applications and plugins are continuously scanned and patched for new vulnerabilities.
- Clarify data privileges of external apps: The most vital part of the vetting process for external marketing apps and tools is to understand fully the access they’ll have to your business’s data. For instance, a form on your site for newsletter signups is likely supported by an email marketing plugin. Because those form completions feed into your larger customer lists, sensitive data is continuously going through that email marketing plugin. Without a comprehensive, granular understanding of exactly what that app will access, you significantly heighten the risk of wide-ranging data loss.
- Prioritize engagement with IT: Traditionally, marketers and IT professionals operate in silos. But today, the face of a business is its online presence, and for this reason the two departments must work strategically together. This alliance should start at the top, with marketing and IT leaders taking time to familiarize the other with departmental workloads. For example, including IT in the initial evaluation process for new marketing tools and their implementation will help alleviate and prevent any potential security concerns from occurring.
For digital marketers, a brand’s website is at the core of every initiative and goal they set. When security is ignored or assumed to be someone else’s job, however, marketers put their brand and customer relationships at risk. By taking a proactive and engaged role in cybersecurity, marketers can play a key part in bolstering customer trust, strengthening the customer experience, and driving a stronger bottom line.