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CVS drugstores. Ashley Madison. The IRS. What do these three seemingly unrelated institutions have in common? Anyone who follows technology news could tell you that each of these major organizations suffered a severe security breach in 2015. The news of these obvious gaps in the security programs of these organizations left customers outraged and onlookers shocked.
But why did news of these security breaches shock people? Surely, reasonable consumers are all aware of the risks associated with putting our personal information out there, yet they still have the expectation of security and privacy. It’s this expectation of privacy that drives the relationship between the customer and the online business owner.
Businesses don’t even have to ask the customer: each and every customer assumes, without ever being told, that his or her information will be safe with the business. When a customer completes a transaction, fills out a form or even provides feedback to an online entity, he or she takes it for granted that his or her information will be protected by that entity. It’s this unspoken expectation that drives all customers to participate in online business.
But even with this clear expectation for security in the customer experience, businesses do their best to clarify these desires in user agreements and terms of service. However, just as common as the expectation for security is the tendency for customers to simply check the “I Have Read and Agree” box and continue on with their lives. For a long time, businesses have been content to shrug their shoulders and say that the customers should have known better. While this may be technically and legally true, it is alienating and drives a wedge between the customer and the internet-based business.
Online business owners who are reading this article are probably a bit on the defensive at this point. There are so many external factors that contribute to the security (or lack of security) that your customers’ information encounters. Hackers, system outages and other variables beyond the business’s control all pose a threat to the security of the customers’ information.
However, despite the external nature of these threats, there are so many steps that business owners can take in order to boost the security of their internet-based business. Simple steps include: storing customer information outside of local storage or email accounts that are easily compromised, clearly marking all confidential data and documents even if it seems obvious, staying in close contact with the legal team of the business and encrypting all hard drives associated with the online business. These protective measures, and other measures like them, make it more difficult for hackers, non-malicious data leaks and everything in between to adversely affect their businesses’ security.
Even though security issues are so easily taken for granted by customers of online businesses, the mere expectation for security is enough to drive the customer’s decision-making process. If a business is considered to be more secure, then a customer is more likely to spend his or her money on that business. In the grand scheme of things, a business’s bottom line literally depends on the business’s ability to provide reasonable security that fits the expectation of security that every customer brings to the table.
The important thing for business owners to remember, especially those who work with the internet, is that the best customers are the ones who keep coming back. If a customer’s expectations aren’t met in any way, he or she will not continue in his or her dealings with that business. In this way, the ability of businesses to meet their customers’ expectations about security directly affects their ability to keep making money. That’s the most important reason for any business owner to do his or her best to make sure that security is as tight as possible!
What are your experiences with online business security? How do you secure your customers’ information? What advice would you give to other business owners and consumers who want to make sure that their information stays secure? Feel free to contribute to the conversation in the comments section below!
About the Author: Caroline is a blogger for Secure Thoughts, a top-rated internet security website. She enjoys writing about anything that empowers consumers to protect what’s theirs in the wider world of the internet.