Blog post

Ahead of the curve, cybersecurity is your top priority

January 9, 2018Jake DiMare

2017 was one more in a string of years with increasingly alarming evidence that the organizations we trust with personal data have dropped the ball when it comes to cybersecurity. News of high-profile data breaches at Equifax, Uber, Yahoo, and the US SEC topped the headlines in what seemed like a year when no organization was safe from hacking, and any hope of privacy for consumers around the world has become a foolish naiveté.

Meanwhile, in May of 2018, the highly anticipated EU General Data Protection Regulations take effect. With fines as high as 4% of global revenue and extra-territorial enforcement, organizations in the EU and around the world are anxiously working on compliance plans that impact people, process, and technology, to avoid a violation.

The hard costs for a breach today are high and about to get much getting higher. It should come as no surprise that understanding cybersecurity is a top priority for boards in 2018. To be ahead of the curve today means being one step ahead of this concern. Whether your organization is currently making investments in digital transformation or not, there has never been a better time to think carefully about your strategy around cybersecurity and implement change as required.

Accelerate digital transformation initiatives

One of the most frequent and glaring issues I have encountered while assessing digital commerce tech ecosystems for mid-market and enterprise clients is cybersecurity risk created by excessive technical debt. Whether your organization is handling eCommerce with a mesh of homegrown applications or an old vendor platform, the cost and complexity of maintaining these systems can often be overwhelming.

In 2017, the average cost of a data breach in North America was $1.3 million for enterprises and $117,000 for small and medium-sized businesses, according to a report from Kaspersky Lab. Meanwhile, the average annualized cost of cybersecurity has reached $11.7 million according to a report developed by Accenture. Now that cybersecurity is on the tip of every board member’s tongue, it’s an easy win to include the reduction of these costs and risks in a business case for new technology.

Organizations making investments in digital commerce are exceptionally well positioned to make meaningful, positive change in their cybersecurity profile. When considering changes to the technology underpinning the customer experience on the path-to-purchase, include cybersecurity requirements. These decision gates should be part of the process of selecting technology and ensure it’s a high priority capability for your digital commerce solution partner.

Ensure cybersecurity leaders understand the business

IT/Security must be in service of higher-order business goals and objectives, not an obstacle to them. Unfortunately, many organizations have fallen into the trap of allowing IT leaders within the organization to become reactive roadblocks to progress as opposed to proactive enablers of success. Although this damaging negativism can seriously impact the development of operations and products, it is reasonably easy to turn around. Above all else, it should not be acceptable for IT to stymie an initiative based solely on security concerns rooted in the current way of operating.

On the other hand, it’s critically important for IT/Security to be part of every conversation about the adoption of new technology. Under the GDPR, companies are accountable for a personal data breach, even when it’s information stolen from a cloud-based vendor platform.

Ideally, IT/security executives work best when they are included in the conversation in much the same manner as a CFO: Early and often. They should attend board meetings and be given the opportunity to present a strategy to support the organization’s priorities. Conversations rooted in the possible should be encouraged. Conversations that sound like: “We can’t accomplish A because of B security risks,” should be replaced with: “It will take X to accomplish Y with appropriate attention to the relevant cybersecurity risks.”

If cybersecurity is part of the discussion of all new products and services it will naturally follow that the relevant personnel are included in the conversation when there’s enough time to plan accordingly.

Engender a culture of cybersecurity

Keeping vital data assets safe demands much more than merely installing antivirus software and hardening networks. Social engineering cost businesses $1.6 billion between 2013 and 2016 and phishing attacks cost the average large company $3.6 million a year. Create and nurture a culture of security to reduce these costs and risks.

To do so, continually communicate the importance of security. Educate teams on the evolving nature of the threat and hold contests to normalize and incentivize best practices. Empower frontline ownership of security while putting the top-down guardrails in place to keep colleagues safe.

A culture of cybersecurity will not be surprised or confused about routine security assessments and necessary updates. Teams should participate in upfront planning for incidents and have identified and defined roles during a crisis. Conduct exercises to simulate the causes and conditions of a breach and practice the response.

Check digital commerce platform features against GDPR requirements

The cost of violating the GDPR is potentially an extinction-level event for many businesses. The fine for a single violation could be as high as $4 M or 4% of revenue, whichever is higher. Interestingly, a violation incurred as a result of technology that is outside of compliance is still the responsibility of the business leveraging the technology, whether it is on-premise or, as noted above, a cloud-based platform.

On the other hand, a strategy that includes compliance with GDPR provisions such as privacy by design puts the organization in a better position for success in the short and long term.

It’s important to point out that all of the costs we’ve identified here are to the businesses, but personal data breaches also cost the most important people in any market: Our customers. Besides all the legal considerations, protecting customers’ data is just the right thing to do. It’s nothing less than what we expect for ourselves and our friends and families. There is much to do, but it’s incredibly valuable effort. 

If you’ve got questions about cybersecurity at your organization, we’d love to hear from you. Please don’t hesitate to contact us. For more on this and other topics related to digital commerce, please check back often and subscribe to our email newsletter for regular updates.

Comments (1)

  • Security hacks too big to ignore: preparing for cyber attacks in 2018

    January 29, 2018 at 4:18 pm

    […] As you strive to improve your company’s digital presence and digital commerce platform, be wary of the risks that are out there. As we’ve touched on today, cyber attacks can be devastating to the private information of both businesses and their respective customers. Being such an abundant source of this information, digital commerce spaces are becoming more of a prime target for such attacks. Now more than ever, it’s of the utmost importance to prepare accordingly. […]

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