The damaging impact data breaches have on American society as a whole

July 14, 2020 | Sam Bocetta

This blog was written by an independent guest blogger.

In the age of the internet where everyone has a mobile phone and multiple social media profiles, one phrase has become synonymous with doom and dread - data breach. It seems like these breaches have become a regular occurrence in modern society.

Small businesses may be particularly susceptible to security hacks, but even large corporations are not immune. Consumers may assume big companies have the best security systems in place, but hackers are savvy and can find their way around these measures.

One of the biggest data breaches in recent memory was to Marriott International from 2014 to 2018, where valuable information from over 500 million customers was stolen by hackers. The hackers were able to get into the Starwood hotel brand’s system and remain there after Marriott acquired the company, giving them access to an even greater array of data.

Not only did this breach impact many customers’ private information, but it also impacted foreign politics. The attack could be traced back to Chinese hackers, which is influencing potentially one of the biggest trade deals in modern U.S. history.

Data breaches go far beyond customers needing to get new credit cards. It can drastically impact consumer trust and even impact foreign affairs. In the long-term, the devastation caused by such hacks can be even worse than most people, businesses, and politicians realize.

Quantifying the loss and damages that result from a data breach

Destruction may seem like a strong word when dealing with security hacks. However, as you look closely, you may find that it’s an appropriate term.

When you try to explain the kind of destruction caused by a data breach, where do you begin? The easiest would be in relation to how much the data breach costs a company. After all, a dollar amount placed on such a scandal would make it easy to quantify how bad one breach is to another.

However, data breaches go beyond losing companies’ money in the short-term. They can also have long-term psychological impacts. Thanks to the internet, no one forgets anything anymore.

Once people learn a company failed to take adequate security measures to protect their customers’ data, they won’t forget.

There are many ways for companies to build cybersecurity policies. It may seem expensive right now, but the potential losses a business may suffer from a data breach make security measures seem like pennies in a bucket.

That loss of trust will become even more pronounced if the data breach was the result of something that should have easily been avoided. For example, in the Marriott case, hackers were able to gain access to millions of people’s private information due to two employees’ login credentials becoming compromised.

If just those two workers had taken better security measures, then the whole thing could have been avoided. That information, combined with rebranding efforts to gain back consumer trust, adds up.

Data breaches can be prevented, and while security measures may seem unnecessary or expensive now, it pales in comparison to what a company has to deal with in the aftermath of a hack. Suddenly, it’s no longer millions of dollars a company has lost but billions when looking at all the money lost over the years when you’ve lost the trust of a significant portion of the population.

Examining the loss of trust after a cyberattack

Individuals take steps to protect their private information. They use password managers and change their passwords often in order to reduce their risk of a hacker attack. Corporations have similar tools at their disposal, so why does it seem like companies don’t use them?

It isn’t just millions of people who have lost important information to data breaches. It’s billions.

Every year, billions of individuals lose money, financial security, and their peace of mind to security hacks. Numerous companies hang onto your credit card information as well as other data. This is marketed as being “for your convenience.”

While it may be nice to automatically check out when making a purchase online, it also puts you at risk. The same holds true any time you sign up for a new social media service.

You likely have dozens of apps on your phone that serve a litany of purposes. But those apps put you at even greater risk, and you may be surrendering more data than you realize.

One major problem is that companies often don’t immediately report data breaches to law enforcement. You would dial 9-1-1 if someone broke into your house, but companies often don’t report cyber crimes to authorities unless they’re forced to.

Companies don’t want to deal with a media backlash even though research indicates that when companies report cybercrimes quickly, there’s a great chance the stolen data can be recovered.

But many businesses still keep quiet. As a result, there’s a good chance a lot more data breaches are happening all over the world the general public is unaware of.

Defending from a data breach needs to be mandatory

Companies continue getting away with having shoddy security simply because it’s easy to get away with it. Oftentimes, if the public doesn’t demand something, then the status quo remains.

This presents itself a major opportunity for business owners to make their companies stand apart from the competition. Just think - if you run your own business, then you can give your customers peace of mind by advertising the fact that your organization takes special care to protect your customers’ data.

Consumers tend to think smaller companies are more susceptible to data hacks because they can’t afford the same kind of security measures as the big dogs.

The truth is that no company, regardless of size, can afford a data breach. Companies have gone under from being careless with customers’ data, and the last thing you want is to lose your livelihood from something that could have easily been prevented. And the good news is that there are numerous highly effective steps even the smallest company can take.

For starters, there are plenty of methods to provide your customers with safe online transactions. You can also utilize virtual private networks to prevent third parties from monitoring your traffic.

Additionally, you can use email marketing services that highly value security, such as Constant Contact or Active Campaign to name a couple. These services come with important security measures such as email authentication, TLS encryption, and brute force protection. Remaining compliant with PCI DSS and having data encryption are just the tip of the iceberg, but they do help.

Steps like this will help make your company stand out by taking extra security measures. Once customers are aware of how cautious you’re being, they’ll feel a lot better ordering products online and signing up for your mailing list.

Your customers’ privacy should be a primary priority

Billions of individuals have already lost crucial information. Their credit card information could be available for sale on the Dark Web without them even knowing.

Hackers may be savvy, but you need to be savvier. You should be just as serious with your online security as you are with your company’s building security. The same way you set up security cameras and fences, you also need to establish key features so that you drastically reduce the chances of your customers’ data falling into the wrong hands.

Sam Bocetta

About the Author: Sam Bocetta

Sam Bocetta is a freelance journalist specializing in U.S. diplomacy and national security, with emphases on technology trends in cyberwarfare, cyberdefense, and cryptography.

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