When you think of the word ‘marketing’ there are probably a lot of things that you associate with it; email campaigns, Google rankings, advertising, and even social media influencers. Digital security is probably not something that finds itself on that list – in fact, it might be one of the last areas of your business that you associate with marketing.
In relation to this, many areas that have an impact on digital security also have an impact on your marketing. Things like where and how you store customers’ personal data, issues around remote working, and even how you use certain marketing platforms can become digital security challenges.
But in more ways than ever, digital security, good marketing practices and multi-channel strategies are all beginning to intersect. In this article, we will take a look at exactly how digital security can be an integral part of a more holistic approach to strategic marketing.
Building Trust Via Transparency
Undoubtedly, every business must value building trust with its customers. In a sense, it is one of the key jobs of marketing to establish trust and make sure customers feel that they can use your business without worrying. Indeed, many small businesses miss out on the custom of individuals to larger companies simply because those customers know and trust the bigger brands better.
As such, building trust via transparency and high-quality digital security is a must. Customers need to know that you take their digital security seriously – they won’t buy with a company that is known to have a bad reputation or one that has suffered a high-profile digital security crime in the past. In fact, this is a big part of the reason that 60% of small businesses that suffer a digital security attack close within six months.
Teaching and Sharing Defensive Tips
It is becoming increasingly important that all businesses find ways to educate their clients and customers on the habits of cyber criminals. As cyber crime becomes more sophisticated and more common, the best defence that we have is information about the types of scams and how they operate.
Of course, there are many different scams and types of attack depending on your industry, but some of the most common include:
- Phishing – one of the most common forms of cybercrime, phishing emails are disguised to look as though they come from legitimate sources. They attempt to trick users into clicking a link, which takes them to the copy of a website that they regularly use. Here they enter their log-in credentials, which can then be stolen by criminals.
- Ransomware – a form of malware that locks users out of their system and then demands a ‘ransom’ be paid or all of the data on the system will be deleted.
- Cryptojacking – a more unusual form of cybercrime where the victim might not even know a crime has taken or is taking place. Cryptojacking is a type of malware that attaches itself to computers and then begins to use their computing power to ‘mine’ cryptocurrency. The user will generally only notice that their machine is running slow.
It might seem logical that the IT department is the only one that needs to think about digital security issues, but the marketing team plays a crucial role as well. For example, it might well be the marketing department that makes decisions about whether customers need to set a strong password.
Collecting and Protecting Data
Carrying out any form of marketing for a business requires collecting a large quantity of customer data, most of which is personal and needs safeguarding. From signing up to an email newsletter, or purchasing any product, when a company stores a person’s data it must be archived and recorded safely.
The UK Government’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and Data Protection Act 2018 lays out the proper procedures and legal responsibilities for ensuring that customer data is safe. If a company fails to comply they will be heavily fined and risk an enormous amount of damage to their business reputation now and in the longer-term. In a PR sense, this would be business suicide.
Securing Your Website
Your website is one of your most valuable marketing tools. It is where you direct all of your traffic to and it can play an essential role in maximising sales – whether you are selling products or services. As such, you need to make sure that your website is as secure as possible. It is probable that a big portion of your marketing budget goes into improving your website, updating it with content and making sure that it looks as good as possible. And this is all very important – but failing to secure the site can be a major problem and ruin all of the good work that you have put in.
It is a great idea to make sure that digital security is budgeted for appropriately. Thankfully, there are many things that any business can do to secure their site:
- Powerful antivirus software – antivirus software solutions are often thought of as the cybersecurity of yesteryear, but they can still play an important role. Many malicious websites still use malware that can be easily caught with antivirus software.
- Multi-factor authentication – if your business only uses single factor authentication (usually a username with a password), a single breach of these credentials can allow cybercriminals into your system. Multi-factor authentication (MFA) requires further identifiers such as a passcode sent to a mobile phone or a PIN.
- SIEM – security information and event management software is an advanced cybersecurity measure. Data from a variety of sources is fed into the software so that it can understand what constitutes ‘normal’ running and behaviour for the business, its website and its computer system. The SIEM can then generate alerts if anything happens that falls outside ‘normal’ parameters. These can then be investigated by your IT team.
- Training staff – unfortunately, human error is still the most common factor in security breaches. Providing training for staff to help them understand the risks and challenges can help to minimise this problem.
- Backups – it is more important than ever to have appropriate backups for your website and all of its data. Forms of cybercrime such as ransomware deliberately target your data – so having a strong backup can limit the effectiveness of this attack.
Digital Security and SEO
You might not be aware that digital security can have a significant impact on your search engine optimisation (SEO). SEO has become a major part of marketing for any business with a website; ranking higher on Google and other search engines can have a significant positive impact on your company.
However, poor digital security can lead to cyber crimes against your company, and this can become a major problem for your SEO. For a start, if your site is hacked, Google will place a ‘hacked site’ marker against your site in its rankings. Additionally, any downtime that your website suffers as a result of cyber crime is seen by Google as a negative ranking factor.
Defending Social Media Accounts
Your social media accounts might well play an extremely important role in your day-to-day marketing. But it may well be that you aren’t putting in the kind of digital security measures to keep social media safe.
Social media channels are often seen as easy targets by cyber criminals. It is assumed that there will be less in the form of digital security around social media platforms because businesses don’t take their security as seriously as they might do for their main systems. This is perhaps because social media is seen as a ‘fun’ extension of the business, rather than a key part of its day-to-day running.However, sophisticated cyber criminals are adept at scamming customers via social media.
Issues With Ransomware
One of the ways that phishing is often deployed by cyber criminals is in the use of ransomware. This is a type of malicious software that effectively locks a company out of their system and data and then demands a ‘ransom’ in order to get the data and information returned to them.
“Phishing is one of the most commonly used ransomware attack vectors, whether this is through links, attachments or both,” says George Glass, Head of Threat Intelligence at digital security specialists Redscan, “attackers create emails purporting to be from a trusted source and attach a malicious file, such as a Word or Excel document”.
It has been suggested that paying a ransom is not a good move. There is no guarantee that you will get your data back, and even if you do, cyber criminals will be aware of your compromised system which could lead to you being targeted again. Once again, this can be very negative for your business. Your goal is to attract prospective buyers and to retain as many paying customers as possible. However, paying a ransom will show customers that you were not properly protected against cyber crime and will certainly cost you dearly!
Phishing That Targets Marketing
One of the most common forms of cyber crime is phishing. This involves sending fraudulent emails that appear to come from a genuine company email address. Unfortunately, this can have a big impact on the marketing department from two perspectives.
First, if email scammers can find a way to get access to your company inbox, they can send out nefarious emails to your customers. It may be the case that you have a mailing list with thousands of names, and they could all be a target of cyber crime. This is clearly a huge problem, as it can ruin your business’ reputation.
It is also worth considering the impact that phishing can have when your marketing department is the victim. It is natural that marketing departments use a very wide range of apps and software, which all require login credentials. One of the most common phishing scams attempts to trick users into clicking a link and signing into an identical login page created by the scammer. This reveals your login details to them.
It is important, then, to not only ensure that you provide training to staff to allow them to spot scams and phishing attempts but also put a policy in place to make sure that passwords and login credentials are not re-used.
There is so much more at stake for a business that suffers a crime against its digital security than simply the money that they could lose. As well as financial hit from direct theft or downing tools, the overall threat is the damage a cyber attack can cause to the reputation of your entire business operations – something that can take a long time to recover from.