Equifax is living out a nightmare that illustrates what can happen to a business when it drops the ball on cybersecurity. Following an internal security breach in September that exposed more than 143 million Americans’ data to hackers, the company’s public image took a significant nosedive. In fact, its Buzz score dropped a record 33 points in 10 days, worse than any other brand has experienced following a similar attack.
Furthermore, surveys indicate more than half of all Americans believe Equifax should shut its doors, while the city of San Francisco has already filed a lawsuit against the consumer credit reporting agency. Meantime, Congress is in the process of investigating the company, whose CEO has since resigned from the fallout.
The woes of Equifax serve to underscore how potentially devastating a cybersecurity attack can be to a brand’s reputation. Here are three reasons why it’s essential to implement effective cybersecurity measures in order to deliver a favorable customer experience and maintain brand loyalty.
1. Consumer Confidence
Maintaining consumer confidence is one of the main reasons investing in cybersecurity is so important. After all, when customers aren’t confident about giving up their personal and financial information, your business is effectively dead. Case in point: An estimated 76 percent of consumers say they would take their business elsewhere when a company is found to have engaged in negligent data practices.
But it’s not all bad news. Conversely, when customers know your business takes strong measures to protect their identity and security, their confidence goes up. For example, 91 percent of consumers say they prefer doing business with an online service provider that makes security visible to them, according to the RSA 2017 Consumer Cybersecurity Confidence Index.
Still, one of the most visible security measures you can take is adopting HTTPS authentication for your website, which is displayed in your URL and lets search engines and your customers know you prioritize security. Beyond that, advising customers how you will use their data, alerting them when you plan to share said data with a third party, and reminding or requiring customers to use strong passwords are other ways to build consumer confidence.
Furthermore, the FCC recommends taking a number of additional measures to protect important business data. In an age of prevalent ransomware, one of the most crucial measures your business can take is regularly running automated backups of vital data to prevent security breaches. Experts point to using a cloud backup service that employs military-grade encryption.
Best of all? These services can help quickly recover customer data if a breach occurs, allowing your company to refrain from publicizing that customer information has been lost or compromised. Talk about a potential PR nightmare that can be avoided altogether.
2. Customer Satisfaction
Cybersecurity can also have an impact on customer satisfaction. Indeed, how well your security measures promote consumer confidence largely depends on how much effort you make to balance security with usability. For example, if your e-commerce site’s authentication process becomes too complex, customers will become frustrated and choose to do business elsewhere.
Thus, instituting an authentication process that customers find to be straightforward can generate 10 percent to 20 percent more sales on your e-commerce site compared to ones they find more difficult to navigate, according to McKinsey. However, failure to not provide authentication protocols can ultimately drive down consumer confidence.
But one way to balance security with usability is by tailoring security options to user preferences. For instance, allow your e-commerce site to ask customers whether they want their personal and/or financial information to be remembered each time they visit your site. Additionally, you can ask customers whether they want your internal systems (i.e. cookies) to determine which devices they use when accessing your site.
Ultimately, this will give your customers more control about how they’d like to protect their information
3. Brand Reputation
As Equifax’s case illustrates, maintaining a dependable cybersecurity presence directly impacts your brand’s reputation. Of course, experiencing poor customer service and support after a cybersecurity breach can spread like wildfire, ultimately impacting referrals, generating negative publicity, and potentially prompting legal and regulatory action.
To maintain your brand reputation in the wake of a security breach, companies must demonstrate resiliency against future attacks. Ultimately, whether they like it or not, all companies should assume they will one day experience a cyberattack. With that in mind, develop a cybersecurity strategy that includes the recovery steps you will take in the event of a breach.
In the end, acting proactively in response to a cyberattack will help preserve your brand’s reputation by letting your customers know you’re taking steps to protect them.