As a part of the marketing department, it is your job to gather information about existing and potential customers and their likes/dislikes. While the data that you gather is important for your business, it is also attractive to hackers, so being proactive and reactive with effective cybersecurity is of paramount importance. If you are not careful, and a data breach does occur, you will need to take swift action to mitigate the damage and your reputation.
If you have just experienced a data breach or you are concerned that an issue could happen down the road, you need to know and be prepared with a plan for how you will alert the public. You will not only want to tell the customers what happened but also what you are doing to remedy the issue now and in the future. Let’s talk about how to do that.
A Data Breach Must Be Communicated
While most people know that credit card and Social Security numbers can be used to take out fraudulent loans, some don’t realize that even birth dates, phone numbers, and email addresses can be sold on the black market or used for future scams.
That is why it is so important to alert the affected customers of a data breach during your “apology” campaign. As part of your messaging, you should advise your customers of the type of information that was lost or compromised, along with helpful tips so they can ensure that leaked data does not lead to future issues. For example, if credit card numbers were stolen, customers should be advised to cancel cards or contact the credit bureau. If email addresses were stolen, consumers should change their passwords.
Keep in mind that all of the responsibility should not be put on the customers. If certain data is lost, your company will be legally responsible for contacting specific third parties. For instance, if the breach involved health records, then the Federal Trade Commission needs to be informed, as medical information is covered under the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule. You’ll also want to contact any of your vendors who may have been impacted. In all instances, you will want to contact law enforcement so they can conduct an investigation.
What You’re Doing Now
Next, your marketing team should address what your company is doing right now to protect all other data and avoid a future breach. This is important because when customers hear that their data is not in safe hands, their first instinct will likely be to ask that their information is no longer used by your company, and they may go to a competitor. On top of the potential damage to your customer base and reputation, you could also be sued by the victims. Any reassurances you can provide might put your customers at ease.
There are several actions that you should take before any type of breach occurs, if you haven’t already. This includes backing up all information onto an external hard drive or server, so if a breach does occur again, you can quickly recover the data and resume business functions quickly. You might also consider moving all of your systems and backup data to a cloud server with an external company. Cloud companies like Microsoft and Amazon AWS have internal security teams that can keep an eye on your data and enable their own cybersecurity protections. This extra pair of eyes might make your customers feel more secure.
In addition to your recovery efforts, you will also want to inform the people about the protections you have in place, new and old, to prevent another breach. That includes securing your network with a strong firewall and antivirus software. Assure the customers that you are running scans weekly to catch any vulnerabilities. Finally, mention that you will bring in a cybersecurity team who will check all systems and patch the vulnerabilities that allowed this breach to occur.
While your campaign may convince customers that their data is now secure, they will likely want to believe that you are taking the proper precautions to ensure that your systems are locked up tight for years to come. This strategy should include a comprehensive training program for all marketing employees that goes over all common cybersecurity threats and provides them with a clear pathway to report any suspicious activity the moment that they see it.
While that is a good start, it is also a great idea to have a qualified information security analyst join the team on a permanent basis. Security analysts are becoming more popular as of late because, as technology advances, so do the tactics used by hackers to gain your information. A cybersecurity professional knows how to learn about and catch the newest threats, and they can ensure that your network has all the necessary protections, slimming the chance of breach.
Finally, you need to implement a data loss prevention policy that will include all the actions you are taking now and what the plan will be if a breach or threat ever occurs again. This plan should include all of the information that needs to be protected, the processes that have been put in place to guard that information, and the specific individuals within your organization that will carry out these tasks. While you don’t need to add the exact specifics into your marketing campaign, mentioning the basics will show your customers that you are serious about protecting their interests.
As you can see, there is a lot that goes into approaching data loss if your department experiences a breach. It is important to be proactive, so the issue doesn’t occur in the first place. Consider the tips discussed here, and you will be on the right track.
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