Watch out, Wiki Leaks is about!

Richard Lees, chairman of dbg, argues that the Wiki Leaks scandal in the US highlights the importance of data security

They’ve antagonised the BNP, embarrassed Sarah Palin during the US elections and caused a threat to US National security; if you handle sensitive information then every new Wiki Leaks headline probably sends shivers down your spine too.

Although most of us don’t have documents affecting national security to worry about and therefore can rest reasonably easy that Wiki Leaks is not out to get us, we do have our customers’ data security to protect and it does bring this topic to the top of the agenda again.

So why are we so scared of data security? Probably because we see the aftermath of data scandals and know how debilitating to a brand they can be. Bad PR does not even come close.

My second instinctive reason is not one you might expect – a feeling of inevitability.

It’s so easy to get data processes wrong and everyone is always waiting for the real clanger to happen. Working in the marketing and data industry I understand the responsibility of handling personal data and the trust that exists between organisation or brand and consumer.

Despite what people may want to believe, no bank wants to lose customer details to expose them to the risk of identity fraud; no Government organisation wants to publish private individuals details; no organisation wants to cause worry over data security but the number of diverse touchpoints that are relatively loosely controlled means it’s far too probable that this can happen.

So a scandal hits and we all get worried. There is no need to book onto a lecture on how to avoid espionage attempts, but rather than panic, perhaps it’s time to dust off ’best practice data security’.

It amazes me how some people still fail to do the basics such as merely password protecting data they are sending offsite, using secure file transfer protocols (SFTP) or if they do password protect the data at least sending the password in a separate communication to the data. It is remarkable how much customer data still moves around the internet every single day with very little control.

Wiki Leaks get so much coverage because they challenge our assumptions that data is safe. It takes a story about a data leak or mishap to remind us that security should always be at the top of the agenda, as soon as we take our eyes off it the potential for disaster appears.

As proud and responsible marketers, it reminds us that although the laws are there to try and regulate the industry and protect consumers from a range of mishaps, ultimately their fate lies in our hands and without regular reminders of the dangers, those hands can become a little too loosely clasped.

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