How reputational damage from a data breach affects consumer perception

July 02, 2020//Ellen Neveux

Last Updated: August 20, 2021

Regularly, conversations regarding cyberattacks are often limited to the organization or company that suffered reputational damage from a data breach. We talk about what led to the attack, how it was found and reported, and the associated costs. Yes, all of these aspects are important, but a huge issue in the conversation we’re having about cyberattacks is that it only focuses on the organization. Often, the consumers whose sensitive information that has been compromised isn’t talked about, or if they are mentioned, it’s only because the company has “graciously” offered a year of identity protection for free. And with all the data breaches that happen, it wouldn’t be surprising if consumers went numb to them. But the thing is, consumers are greatly affected by cyberattacks, and we aren’t talking about it. Consumers are skeptical that organizations are even capable of handling their sensitive information and are now, more than ever, paying attention to what is happening with their data.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), an audit and assurance company that works in cybersecurity, reported that 69% of consumers surveyed believe that the companies they use are vulnerable to being hacked and attacked by cybercriminals. The same survey found that 87% of consumers are even willing to walk away and take their business elsewhere if, or when, a data breach occurs. These numbers highlight that consumers are not only skeptical of the organizations that have their sensitive information, but that they are willing to leave a company who goes through a data breach. With consumers being cognizant of both of these, organizations must implement standards to protect its network from bad actors while also preserving its relationship with consumers.


How do data breaches affect consumers?

In the past, the media primarily focused on how a data breach hurt the organization. However, newsworthy cyberattacks highlight that the gears are changing to be more consumer-centric. A good example of this switch is the Equifax breach. As a breach that still makes headlines, it emphasizes the long, drawn-out journey that both the organization and consumer go through once a cyberattack happens. While the organization affected may leave the news after weeks or months of an attack, the journey for the consumer can last a lifetime since they have to protect their identity once a data breach occurs.

It seems like all consumers are having a hard time trusting organizations, not just those that are affected by a cyberattack. According to InformationWeek, high-profile data breaches around the globe are putting consumers on edge and instilling a sense of mistrust that businesses aren’t actually capable of securing sensitive information and data. Prior to the influx of data breaches and ransomware attacks, people thought they could always trust companies with their sensitive information. However, reports show that consumers are considering organizations’ trustworthiness prior to using their services or buying their products.


A data breach puts your reputation at stake

A huge part of cyberattacks that is rarely addressed is that the organization needs to do whatever it can to save its brand reputation and image. This is easier said than done. A Forbes Insight report found that 46% of organizations had suffered reputational damage as a result of a data breach; 19% of organizations suffered reputation and brand damage as a result of a third-party security breach. In other words, reputation is near impossible to fix once the public sees an organization in a bad light. And cyberattacks are just about the worst light to be in, just ask the City of Atlanta, or any of the other cities or brands that has experienced a data breach (like Toyota, Tesla, or Hancock Health).

On the topic of reputations, the managing director of consultancy at KnewSmart, Jane Frankland, says that “a favorable corporate reputation is a valuable, yet intangible asset. It plays a vital role in attracting the best talent, suppliers, and investment.” How can an organization have a favorable corporate reputation if they aren’t protecting their network or consumers from a cyberattack? Many may be skeptical that a cyberattack affects a reputation when well-known companies, like Target, have bounced back from a largely public breach.

So what keeps brands afloat post-cyberattack? If and when one happens to an organization, the response to the data breach can make or break the brand’s reputation. According to Forbes, those that stay in the headlines are the breaches where the company’s response was questioned and its communication criticized. Although the City of Atlanta wouldn’t typically be defined as a “brand”, the City was in the spotlight for nearly 6 months.


Prevent reputational damage from data breaches with vendor management

Cyberattack help guides preach the importance of step-by-step guidelines to follow once hacked. Although it’s great to have a plan of action when a breach or ransomware attack occurs, it’s even better to take charge and protect your network.

The best way to take charge is to introduce a secure remote access software early on. The right remote access software helps to protect sensitive data from bad actors by always knowing that the people on your network are not only who they say they are, but that they are only able to reach what they need on your network— not too little, and never too much. On top of regulating access to a network, a remote access platform should also include multi-factor authentication, real-time access notifications, and high-definition audit. To learn more about how to fully protect your network from data breaches and the reputational damage that comes with it, check out our helpful brochure that highlights how important it is to have a vendor management platform to combat the top way hackers enter a network, a vendor’s access.

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