Target breach notifications are a perfect example of what not to do

It's bad enough that Target allowed more than 100 million accounts to be compromised, but its response is an exercise in poor judgment

Hopefully your company will never be the victim of a massive data breach. If it is, though, and customer data is compromised, make sure you don't follow Target's lead when it comes to notifying customers. Target's customer notification efforts are wrong on almost every level.

Customers are conditioned to not click on links in email messages. In the wake of a massive data breach like Target experienced, phishing scams often try to exploit the heightened awareness by sending out emails that look very legitimate.

Security experts warn users to specifically avoid such emails following a data breach, and remind users that a legitimate, reputable company would not send you an email and ask you to click on a link.

Apparently, Target did not get that memo.

James Lyne, global head of security for Sophos, received an email from Target--although he claims that he is not even a Target customer. There are apparently many people receiving breach notification emails from Target who did not shop at Target and are not affected by the breach.

Lyne dissected the email in a post on Forbes, breaking down point by point all the ways Target failed. It uses a shady subdomain--"target.bfi0.com" rather than just "target.com"--and directs users to click on a link comprised of endless gibberish. The email is distributed using a ridiculously suspicious-looking email address. In a nutshell, there is nothing about the legitimate breach notification email from Target that differentiates it in any way from a reasonably well-crafted phishing attack.

"What hope do users have of making a decision about the legitimacy of emails when the good guys behave like this?" asks Lyne. "Target needs to look closely at how it rebuilds consumer trust and suspicious looking emails is not going to help."

Try this

If you ever find your company in the unfortunate position of needing to notify customers of a data breach and possible compromise of personal information, this is not how you do it. The notification email should originate from a domain that is instantly identifiable as your company. If your Web domain is "pcworld.com", the notification email should come from "<SomeRelevantAddress>@pcworld.com".

The notification should be just that--a notification. It should clearly state the facts of the incident, and explain in simple terms what information is potentially compromised, and what customers can do to determine if they're affected, and what they should do to protect themselves and their personal data. It can provide a phone number for customers to call, but it should not contain a link that customers are expected to click on for any reason.

We can excuse Target to some extent for being the unfortunate victim of such a massive data breach. It's response to the breach, however, and these very shady customer notification emails, are inexcusable.

Join the CMO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Supporting Association

Blog Posts

Is AI on course to take over human creativity?

Computers and artificial intelligence have come along at an exponential rate over the past few decades, from being regarded as oversized adding machines to the point where they have played integral roles in some legitimately creative endeavours.

Jason Dooris

CEO and founder, Atomic 212

Are you leading technology changes or is technology leading you?

In a recent conversation with a chief technology officer, he asserted all digital technology changes in his organisation were being led by IT and not by marketing. It made me wonder: How long a marketing function like this could survive?

Jean-Luc Ambrosi

Author, marketer

Disruption Down Under – What’s Amazon’s real competitive advantage?

Savvy shoppers wait in anticipation, while Australian retailers are gearing up for the onslaught. Amazon’s arrival is imminent.

Thanks for picking this up. We are always happy to add richness to our products and in turn the lives of our followers and fans.

Fitbit Middle East

​Fitbit announces new virtual race platform to enhance customer experience

Read more

Thanks for a very interesting article. B2B marketing seems tricky. I think that marketing plays a vital part - it can build the brand and...

Aaren

From tactical overhead to strategic growth driver: B2B marketing in the digital age

Read more

meanwhile loads of people with digital skills are not finding work or getting an opportunity to be hired?? Double standards perhaps.

Graduate dying on centrelink

Report reveals Australia faces digital skills shortage

Read more

These laws are in one way or other giving businesses to VPN service providers &amp; other cyber utilities. Just read PureVPN claiming 37%...

Paige Hudson

Getting prepared for mandatory data breach reporting

Read more

Great Post.Thanks for sharing such an informative article.I have worked with Ally Digital Media and it has a very good service which is b...

Utkarsh Kansara

Predictions: 17 digital marketing trends for 2017

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in