Marketers bolster cyber credentials as data breach notification law kicks in

It's d-day for the Notifiable Data Breaches legislation today. Here, we ask marketers what they're doing - and what they should be doing - as the laws come into effect

Asking the right questions

Mark Phibbs is vice-president of marketing for APJ at networking and security technology maker Cisco, and a fellow of the Marketing Academy. He has been working to change the way that Cisco communicates its cyber message out to its customer base.

“One of my challenges is to take this very ‘technical’ technology and put it in the terms of the consumer,” he says. “We are trying to think about this not from Cisco out, but from customers in. The best way to do that is case studies and short stories of a day in the life of a CMO or a CEO, so they can get the picture of why this is important, and leave the technology aside.

“But they need to be asking the right questions, about ‘what is our data protection?’.”

Phibbs boils those questions down to four key points: Knowing what and where the data is, having a governance structure in place for its usage, having it protected through the right security and privacy controls, and ensuring that employees are properly educated regarding how to handle and protect data.

“I don’t expect marketers to be the experts on cyber security, but they need to be aware of the threat, and what the threat to their brand image is,” he continues. “Because once this happens, it takes a lot of great marketing to recover from it.”

Phibbs is acutely aware of the dangers a cyber breach could pose to his own organisation – as any marketer should be. But he says this knowledge can be used by marketers to help strengthen their position.

“It is the role of the CMO to talk about brand value,” he says. “We have the 16th most valuable brand in the world, and that is worth a lot of money. And if you talk to CFOs about that, that is a convincing story to invest in the right technology, people and process to minimise the risk.”

Unfortunately, that message still has some distance to travel before it reaches all Australian businesses, despite the legislation itself having been passed by Federal Parliament a year ago.

Lack of awareness

According to Canon Australia’s Business Readiness Index on Security, 60 per cent of affected businesses are unaware of the new law and what it means for them. Canon suggests smaller organisations represent a ripe target for hackers, as they often hold credentials that can see them used as unwitting back doors into much larger organisations.

“The crooks look for the weakest link,” says Asia-Pacific cyber lead at PwC, Steve Ingram. “In many cases, for the people that hold this data, they hold rich data sources for a crook to jump on a as a stepping stone to something big and better.”

Ingram believes legislation such as NDB is necessary, to drive compliance that might avert potential disasters. “This is just fundamental basic business hygiene in this new world that we find ourselves in,” he says.

But even with the new laws in place, he believes much of the market won’t move until someone is made an example of.

“First and foremost, they run the risk of losing client data,” Ingram says. “Secondly, they run the risk of bearing the wrath of the Privacy Commissioner, and I suspect they will be looking for a head on a stick. Third is the damage to their reputation if they have a breach and don’t notify anyone, and it comes out through the privacy commissioner.

“That naming and shaming will be where the real pain comes, and they need to be careful that they don’t have a history of breaches of other compliance regulations because then you start to doubt the culture of the organisation.”

And no marketer ever wants to be a dire warning for others.

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