Many of our businesses store information about our customers. Perhaps customers set up accounts for e-commerce or for information access. Perhaps we install cookies and track their movements across our websites. Perhaps we gather demographics and create profiles of those individuals. And perhaps our customers upload and store data (such as photos or videos) that they think is private.

Our customers would be appalled if we released it, sold it or allowed it to be stolen. Yet that’s happening all too often, as we read about with Jennifer Lawrence’s photographs appropriated from iCloud, or credit card data from JP Morgan, the Dropbox password debacle, or most recently, pictures grabbed from Snapchat.

We could play “blame the victim” in some cases, for choosing passwords that are too easy to guess, or for sharing passwords across services, or simply for being naïve and expecting that information stored on phones or cloud-based services to be secure. Yet in reality, if we claim that the service is secure, it should be secure.

We can’t always blame the victim, though. Bugs and flaws enable hacks. For example, vendors are now releasing fixes for the Shellshock flaw recently discovered in bash, a popular command processor for Linux, Mac and other platforms. The bug has apparently been in the code since 1989.

What can you do about it? Apart from making sure that you write secure code, and review code for security flaws, not much. The challenge is that end users are becoming skeptical about tech security – not skeptical enough, however. They are generally too trusting.

A company called Tolana QuickSurveys recently sent me the results of a study on 1,000 Americans to the Apple iCloud/JP Morgan data breaches. To quote from the study,

  • 66% have heard about the iCloud leak
  • 57% have heard about JPMorgan Chase
  • 19% hadn’t heard about either hacking incident
  • 31% are more worried about falling victim to data breaches/identity theft following high-profile breaches
  • 39% don’t keep sensitive personal information on their devices
  • 45% make sure their passwords are difficult for others to guess
  • 59% regularly check their accounts for fraudulent activity to avoid issues
  • 69% worry about their personal SSN being compromised by hackers
  • 41% are very worried
  • 37% are very worried about personal financial info being compromised
  • 37% are not at all worried about personal text messages being compromised
  • 34% are not at all worried about personal pictures being compromised
  • 17% of those with a Chase account aren’t sure if they were affected by the breach
  •  55% with iCloud accounts are worried about personal pictures being compromised and 50% are worried about text messages.

If you store customer information on your platforms, you might consider surveys or other research to understand their comfort level with your security. If confidence is low, that’s something you need to address – both from the marketing/communications perspective and, of course, from the technology perspective. Customers trust you. Be worthy.

Are your customers worried about data they store with your company? Write me at alan@camdenassociates.com.

About Alan Zeichick

Alan Zeichick, founding editor of SD Times, is principal analyst of Camden Associates. Contact him at alan@camdenassociates.com.