Getting marketing to better understand cybersecurity

Forcepoint CMO shares why marketing leaders need to think more about cybersecurity and the reputational damage data breaches can cause

With Australia’s mandatory data breach reporting laws being officially implemented in February 2018, marketers across the country are facing two big responsibilities. Not only is their prized customer data a major theft risk, it is also marketers who will be left with the task of cleaning up any brand issues should their organisation need to report a breach.

It’s for these reasons that chief marketing officer at US-based cybersecurity company Forcepoint, Praveen Asthana, makes a point of speaking to marketers about their cyber responsibilities.

“The CMO is responsible for gathering a lot of data on prospects and customers, and that has to be safeguarded,” he tells CMO. “But they also have a responsibility to make sure that when there is a breach, they can effectively respond to the reputation damage that can happen.”

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) can levy fines above $1 million for failure to comply with the new laws, meaning organisations can no longer rely on the chance that a breach might not be made public.

At the same time, marketers have seen the fiscal and reputational damage that has flowed from breaches at US companies such as Sony, Equifax and Target, can be much greater than any fine the OAIC can levy.

“It is more than likely that a company will get breached, and the customers of that company will lose confidence,” says Asthana. “So it is important for marketers to understand how to respond in terms of a potential breach, and to raise the awareness of it.

“Helping CMOs understand they are responsible for damage control once a breach happens really puts it front and centre in their head that they need to get very savvy about cyber security.”

Asthana’s career spans senior marketing roles in technology firms including Oracle and Dell. He has some sympathy for marketers that have yet to appreciate their full responsibility in terms of cybersecurity.

“Companies have spent a lot of money on technology and really are not seeing the results from that that they thought,” Asthana says. “And we know there is a lot of noise in cybersecurity. There are hundreds – maybe thousands – of companies in cybersecurity, all offering point solutions. And because of all that noise, customers aren’t paying attention to any given thing.”

As a marketer, Asthana has sought to cut through that noise by taking an approach that talks more about human factors than technology, in the hope of having individuals consider cyber as a ‘first-class’ concern. He suggests marketers should take a similar approach when communicating information out to their organisation through their internal communications function.

“People are your best defence, so having as many people in the company understand the importance of cybersecurity and the vectors on which they can get compromised and what they can do about it is important,” Asthana says.

Read more: 5 things marketers should do today to reduce their cybersecurity risk

Forcepoint itself takes a differentiated approach to securing an organisation by focusing on behaviours within a client’s network that might indicate a compromise. Asthana says this is a response to realisation that the distributed nature of computing now – including use of the cloud-based systems often favoured by marketers – makes the old notion of setting up a defensive perimeter unworkable.

“The world has become a lot more complicated, in that the data is no longer just stored in one place,” Asthana says. “As a CMO, I am using a lot of different third-party applications, all of which contain data that we would need to protect.

“That data is now distributed all over the globe in different cloud and SaaS providers. And so we are in a situation where my CIO cannot help me guard al that data because it is all over the place and beyond the control of the CIO.”

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