Last week, I wrote about customer loyalty, and how a strong cybersecurity program can help ensure the trust of consumers. Here are some fresh stats about the business impact of cyber threats that consumer products and services executives should know about: In 2016, one in five businesses lost customers due to a cyber attack. Nearly 30 percent lost revenue. About one-quarter lost business opportunities. And when a breach occurred, brand reputation was one of the top areas of the organization to be affected, right behind operations and finance.
These unsettling findings are from the Cisco 2017 Security Capabilities Benchmark Study, featured in Cisco’s latest cybersecurity report. Combine these data points with all the news about recent hacks and breaches involving major retailers, restaurants, hotels, and other consumer products and services companies, and it becomes crystal clear why industry executives are extremely concerned about cyber threats.
In the latest Executive Perspectives on Top Risks Survey from Protiviti and North Carolina State University’s ERM Initiative, which I referenced in my recent post, respondents from consumer products and services businesses also cited the following risk among the top five for their industry group in 2017:
Our organization may not be sufficiently prepared to manage cyber threats that have the potential to significantly disrupt core operations and/or damage our brand.
The research also shows that the risk score for this concern increased significantly from the 2016 survey.
Consumer respect and trust are at stake
For consumer products and services companies that spend millions of dollars annually to cultivate and promote their brand image, a hack or a data breach can be devastating to their reputation — and their bottom line. These events can lead not only to long-term brand damage, but also the loss of the public’s respect and trust. This is especially true if customer data is compromised or stolen, leaving people at risk for financial loss and identity theft. Even if a company can recover quickly from such an event and make things right with its customers, its image will likely remain tarnished for some time to come.
Unfortunately, cyber threats (and privacy concerns) will become only more severe as businesses and consumers increase their reliance on technology in all aspects of their lives; digital commerce and mobile payments continue to grow; and the emerging Internet of Things (IoT) expands. Over time, consumer products and services companies will need to significantly increase the data they collect to provide highly customized products, services and experiences to their customers.
These trends underscore why consumer products and services businesses must make improving cybersecurity and building cyber resiliency even higher priorities — starting now.
Developing a world-class response to a high-profile crisis
Most executives today understand that a cyberattack is not a matter of if, but when, for their organization. Taking steps to prevent hacks or breaches should always be a high priority for any business, of course. But what is even more important is creating a well-thought out and tested action plan that will allow the company to respond swiftly to a cyber incident, mitigate the impact of that event on the business and its customers, and protect the brand.
A recent issue of Protiviti’s Board Perspectives: Risk Oversight offers some insight that can help consumer products and services companies better protect their brand reputation in an increasingly treacherous cyber threat landscape. One of the “10 essential keys” to risk management outlined in the document —developing a “world-class response to a high-profile crisis”— is particularly relevant to the cyber threat discussion.
Creating a world-class response requires that the board of directors and executives ensure, long before a crisis hits, that:
- The risk assessment process has been designed to identify areas where preparedness is needed.
- A crisis management team is in place and prepared to address a specific sudden crisis scenario; otherwise, a rapid response will be virtually impossible.
- Response teams are supported with robust communications plans that emphasize the importance of transparency, straight talk and effective use of social media.
- Response teams update and test their rapid response plans periodically.
These actions can strengthen organizational resiliency. When developed with cyber threats specifically in mind, they help to build cyber resiliency. Preparing to reduce the impact and proliferation of a cyber event is paramount for any modern business. For consumer products and services companies, it can make all the difference in maintaining their customers’ trust, preserving the long-term health of their brands, and being able to confidently face the future.