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Online Security: A Competitive Advantage?

Are you completely confident, when you use one or more of the online ecommerce or social media outlets, that your personal data is protected from malicious hackers seeking to gather the information for ill-gotten gain? The recent hacking of the Ashley Madison website demonstrates the impact and vulnerability that a scandal can impose on online users. The growing sense among internet users is that regardless of any meaningful security measures, hackers will prevail.  A recent Associated Press poll found that 58 percent of people have “deep worries” when spending or conducting personal business online. But is all the noise surrounding the infamous breaches in securing consumers personal information causing us to hesitate doing some very simple things to help stop the unwanted activity?

It only takes a few simple, basic actions to help reduce your exposure to risks. “The strongest defense is educated consumers who know what they can do to keep themselves secure,” says Alexander Popowycz, vice president of information security at Fidelity. Consumers must remain diligent and be smart about how they are interacting with unknown and unseen online acquaintances. Always verify the legitimacy of any Web site that asks you for personal information. If you would hesitate to reveal the information to some stranger you encounter on the street, than why make it easily known to some unfamiliar website? A recent national survey conducted by Consumers Reports revealed that the study’s 3110 respondents said they have done nothing to protect their privacy on the Internet.

The most effective defense against an army of hackers is a well-informed and vigilant individual who takes personal responsibility while engaging in internet transactions. Social media sites have become a prime target for those who are looking to relieve you from your private information. Last year, 42 million passwords were exposed when hackers hit Cupid Media dating sites. Posting personal information on Facebook, Google Plus, Instagram, LinkedIn, or Twitter, can open up a vast opportunity for the community of internet miscreants. The sharing of some personal information to the world may be best shared on a “need to know basis.”

While many of the techniques users can employ to protect themselves are well known and readily available, it appears that consumers need to be reminded of their role in securing the internet. Many responsible internet companies have rallied to install and maintain the latest anti hacking software and devices to protect their customer’s data, but there is so much more to do. Consumer organizations’ security efforts are about more than just keeping hackers at bay with firewalls and algorithms. A new perspective recently published in the Deloitte Press says, ”Consumer product executives should consider viewing data privacy and security not just as a risk management issue, but as a potential source of competitive advantage that may be a central component of brand-building and corporate reputation. The field appears wide open for consumer product companies to differentiate themselves through a reputation for strong data privacy and security practices.”

The advancement of technology has far outpaced the protocols and processes required to protect and secure data. While Deloitte Press debates risk management versus competitive advantage, it might be time for all companies to consider it the new standard for doing business in this age of digital innovation.

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