Why Cybersecurity Is Marketing’s Job
If you’re an in-house marketer, as I’ve been for the near entirety of my career, becoming at least a semi-legit subject matter expert for the industry your services support is a must-do. For me, that’s a lot of industries. I know bits and pieces about concrete construction, chemicals, telecom, banking, insurance, home services…the list goes on. This makes me brutal competition at trivia and likely to drop “nuggets of wisdom” about random things at odd times.
But I’ve been in cybersecurity marketing for the last three and a half years. It’s been an easy industry to embrace since I enjoy—and for the most part, understand—technology. It’s also been eye-opening as I learn more about the risks of living in a digital world.
Everything is online. From personal to business, most things are just a few clicks away. It’s convenient and fast, and we’re unlikely to go back to offline life. As marketers, we take advantage of that. As we should. But it also means we have a certain level of responsibility in helping to protect our customers, prospects, and brand online.
Consider this fact: 81% of consumers do research online before purchasing-regardless of whether the purchase is also online or in-store. And much of that research takes place within our sphere of influence—social media, email, websites, and digital resources.
Our success as marketers is measured by how often we can convince our audience to take the desired action. This happens in a number of subtle and not-so-subtle ways. When we ask them to fill out a form to talk with a representative or read our content, we ask them to give up a certain level of their personal information.
Our ultimate success is leading a prospect to purchase. This requires even more trust and data from users. Financial information, physical location, and the like produce data that can be used maliciously.
Brand trust is not easily gained and happens through many micro-level touches. Marketing and corporate communications play a big role in supporting a brand’s public persona. But consumers ultimately control how our brands are perceived in the marketplace. When an organization suffers a data breach, especially one that includes the loss and exposure of customer information, the price tag is often in the millions and recovery is often long and arduous. Convincing customers and prospects to believe in a brand again will take time, consistency, and likely a large marketing budget.
How can we positively impact and protect our customers and our brands? As an employee, understand how your daily online interactions and choices can affect and compromise your company. Know what you are clicking before you click. Email attacks are popular and successful for attackers. These attacks, known as phishing, rely on social engineering tactics that convince you to click a malicious link and provide confidential information, such as a password.
As a marketer, it means actively understanding and using security best practices and should include the following:
- Your IT Department. Don’t circumvent any processes in place, and actively engage with them for support in securing, updating, and maintaining your digital spaces and tools.
- Data: Don’t collect more data than you need, and don’t store it, use it or transfer it without involving your IT department. Data is the ultimate prize that attackers seek, and they have endlessly evolving methods for getting at it. You won’t be able to stay on top of these methods. Leave it to the professionals in your IT department to help you secure marketing data.
- Website Hosting. Review and understand the security practices your hosting company has in place. Third-party vendors can be an avenue for attackers to reach your domain. All sorts of malicious activity can occur at that point, from redirecting purchases to taking your site down entirely.
- Protecting Emails. From the emails you send to the emails you receive, be security aware. Always be suspicious of links in any email you receive and ensure that your marketing email platform is helping to bolster security and not providing a possible route to your digital space.
- Software updates. Websites require continual maintenance. Most platforms issue regular updates and patches. These don’t only update capabilities and features. They often include essential security updates to correct an identified vulnerability. If a vulnerability is known, you can be sure the attacker world is aware of and exploiting that vulnerability. Don’t wait on updates. The same is true for plugins.
- Tools. The MarTech stack grows every year. We use various online tools, but they aren’t all as secure as they could be. Know what you are using. Research their history of security incidents and consult your IT department before implementing a new tool. Online tools offer easy access that is always the latest version available, but that doesn’t mean that security is baked into their application development process. It’s on you to check.
- Passwords. No one really likes using, remembering, or changing passwords. But a strong password that is kept confidential is essential. When you can implement two-factor authentication, do it. This adds another layer of security to your digital spaces. A password manager is also a great tool for generating really gnarly passwords. Most use encryption to prevent a data breach of their organization from impacting you. It can also make signing into online tools faster and easier for a win-win.
- Vendors. Your vendor relationships are a lot like what your mom used to say – when you kiss someone, you’re also kissing everyone they’ve ever kissed. This means that if your vendor does risky business with anyone, it can also cause risk for your organization. Know your vendors, know their business practices, and always be sure that the email is really from them before you click that link to your invoice!
Every October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, but taking care of cybersecurity is a 365/24/7 responsibility for all of us. Even marketers.
Peggy Steckelberg is VP of Communications for AMA Omaha and Senior Marketing Specialist,
Cybersecurity with Converge Technology Solutions