These days, data security is more important than ever. As technology evolves and more people work from home, hackers are developing new tricks to steal our data. Though every business needs to understand these threats, the marketing industry is one of the most vulnerable.

Marketing is all about data. It’s about finding out what makes a customer tick, how to reach them, and when. Though most people aren’t afraid to share their data, they may not be aware of what can happen if that information is stolen. With that said, marketers need to be aware of the risks and be proactive in avoiding them. 

The Marketing Industry is At Risk

To emphasize the importance of data security in marketing is to explain the repercussions of successful a cyber attack. When major data breaches hit Target and Experian, their profits and customer retention took a major hit. It can take upwards of $8 million to repair the systems, rebuild customer trust, and get back to where they were pre-attack. A smaller marketing firm may not be able to come back from that.

The volume of information you have can be used in several nefarious ways. Something as simple as an email address can send phishing emails to others. A hacker could use a  birth date, social security number, or address to fill out fake applications or sell the information to other hackers. 

This is only the tip of the iceberg as far as the kinds of information that can be stolen from a marketing firm. Even data about a person’s favorite websites can be used maliciously. To do this, hackers use a technique called water-holing, which involves putting malware on sites that victims frequent. When the user visits the website, they can fall into the trap and download a virus. The point is, as a marketer, you need to know the risks and do what is necessary to protect that precious data.

Have a Plan

The first step is to pair up with your IT team and work in tandem to reduce the threat of a cyberattack. To start, put a business continuity plan in place that guides reactions to disasters. These plans should account for terrorist attacks, power outages, or potential cybercrimes. You’ll need to outline the immediate actions to take after an emergency, including stopping the leak, assigning a team to fix the threat, and informing your customers of the breach.

You don’t want to end up like Target; they took notoriously long to inform their customers of the data breach. Because of this, there are now requirements in every state about how long an entity has to disclose the threat. More than that, it’s just right to inform customers of any compromised data. It allows them the time they need to cancel affected cards, watch for phishing emails, and look for strange purchases on their statements.

An Educated and Secure Staff

Management should educate staff about cyber threats related to their work and what they should do to prevent an attack. For instance, many marketers connect with advertisers on social media looking for partnerships. Hackers can exploit this process by sending fake requests via phishing emails that contain malicious links or attachments. When the unknowing victim clicks on it, malware is unleashed onto their systems. To avoid this issue, your staff must be aware of the signs associated with phishing scams, so they can separate the authentic and the malicious requests. These may include:

  • Numerous misspellings in the subject or body of the message.
  • The message is addressed to “whom it may concern” or “Dear sir or madam” (if advertisers want to work with you, they should know your name or business.)
  • A request from a “professional business” but it uses a common email address like Gmail or yahoo.

Beyond being aware of scams, marketers must also do their part to secure their devices so hackers cannot gain access. At the very least, all computers and mobile devices should have strong passwords that include combinations of letters, numbers, and special characters. Pair these passwords with a form of two-factor authentication that could include an extra code sent to a separate device or even a fingerprint scan. If your office tech is outdated and vulnerable to attacks, you may need to replace it. 

When working outside of the office, marketers should be aware of man-in-the-middle attacks that involve a fake Wi-Fi account set up by a hacker to look like the real network at the establishment. Connecting to this malicious network will put you in direct contact with the hacker, and from there, they can gain access to your device and your unprotected customer data. 

As a marketer, you have the power to connect consumers with their ideal products, but with great power comes great responsibility, so maintain that trust, and you will have a better career because of it.

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