Article | August 9, 2021
No matter what business you run, digital marketing is crucial to reach out to people and generate leads today. Businesses of all sizes rely on digital marketing to take the business to the next level.Digital marketing in many forms, such as search engine optimization, social media marketing, email marketing, content marketing, and online advertisements, have been utilizing to bridge the gap between business and customers.
Technology is evolving and is expected to be transformed further. As technology gets improved every second, online advertising and marketing opportunities are also getting amplified. However, the villain, cyber threats and attacks, can jeopardize your business dreams and opportunities. Yes, alarmingly, cybersecurity in digital marketing has become a serious concern today. The more the opportunity you have in digital marketing, the more you become vulnerable to cyber threats and attacks.
Cybersecurity in Digital Marketing-Importance
Cybersecurity is very significant as digital marketing heavily depends upon data and information, which are sensitive and confidential to your business. This confidentiality is to be maintained to retain your customers. If your business is affected by cyber-attacks, your customers lose trust in you and your business. That is because the customers think their data and information could be compromised or stolen. Therefore, you need a strong cybersecurity practice to save you and your customers from breaches and malware attacks.
Apart from information loss, financial loss, loss of brand reputation, etc. too, can happen. Ultimately you may end up witnessing a crippling loss in your business. Thus cybersecurity in digital marketing is essential as threats and attacks are detrimental to your business.
Cybersecurity in Digital Marketing- Challenges
As all businesses are going digital now, cyber threats are expected to increase. As a result, according to Gartner, the information security market is projected to grow to US$170.4 billion in 2022. This warns businesses to be extra alert regarding the startling rate of cyberattacks. Organizations have to be ever ready with solutions.
There are a lot of challenges faced by cybersecurity in digital marketing. Email marketing is an essential and powerful part of digital marketing. Email marketers face the challenges, such as phishing. Small businesses are the main targets of phishing activity as they are unaware of it. Hackers may send spam using your email accounts with virus-infected emails. Occurring continuously, the server may backlist or block your site, affecting your email campaign. Customers will lose trust in you.
Content marketing is also vulnerable to cyber-attacks as hackers are well aware of content management systems (CMS) and how it works. Therefore, they can easily hack it and distribute malware. In addition, social media marketing is vulnerable to identity theft. In case a hacker cracks your password, he can do unimaginable damages to you and your business. The hacker can do unauthorized downloads, share your confidential data and information, and even exploit your customers.
The above-mentioned are some of the cybersecurity challenges in digital marketing. In addition, e-commerce and customer relationship management (CRM) systems are also prone to cyberattacks and threats. Therefore, it is essential to take necessary cybersecurity measures to overcome becoming the prey of cybercriminals while performing digital marketing activities online.
Overcoming Cybersecurity Challenges in Digital Marketing
As businesses began to use digital marketing widely to reach out to customers successfully, organizations started getting exposed to cybersecurity threats. The consequences of breaches and malware attacks can be far-reaching. Therefore, it's high time for businesses to be ready to tackle these cybersecurity issues in digital marketing. The following tips may help companies to do it proactively.
Your digital marketing executives are vulnerable to cyberattacks, especially those who are handling email marketing. To protect your campaigns, train all how to recognize a phishing email. Also, encourage them to use spam filters and strong passwords.
SSL to Secure CRM
Installing an SSL(Secure Sockets Layer) protocol on the website makes your data transfer secure and encrypted, eliminating the chances of hackers getting access. Also, your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system should have strict data security policies. It helps you keep your data protected while your staff access sensitive data.
Regular Data Backup
Data loss can happen in many circumstances, such as ransomware attacks, hard drive damage or crash, or malware hijacking. These data losses will result in losing you a lot of money. Thus, encourage your staff to backup all data regularly in a different location other than your system. It will protect 100% of your data in case of cyber-attacks and system malfunction.
Integrating Security Features
As part of content marketing, businesses use Content Management Systems (CMS) to upload, edit easily, and publish different forms of content. However, as hackers are very familiar with CMS, they can damage your reputation by distributing malware if they hack your site. Thus, it is very much crucial to integrate security features in your CMS platform.
In addition, many vulnerabilities could be closed off by installing security plug-ins. The following security measures also can be taken regarding your CMS.
Use strong password
Change the default admin login URL
Do not use public Wi-Fi networks to access your CMS
These cybersecurity measures in digital marketing are necessary as content marketing is part and parcel of the process.
Ensuring cybersecurity is a team effort and is a continuous process. The set-and-forget policy will not work with cybersecurity. Your company's measures taken regarding cybersecurity in digital marketing have to be audited regularly to ensure your cybersecurity goals are met correctly. The audit should be done at least once a quarter.
It is a time-consuming process to devise strategies to protect businesses from cyber-attacks and threats. However, unless you take necessary measures in time, your business can be jeopardized, losing clients, money, and reputation. Cybersecurity threats in digital marketing are expected to increase as technology is getting transformed every second. A stitch in time saves nine!
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is cybersecurity so important in digital marketing?
Cybersecurity benefits your brand by protecting your website and each of your digital marketing activities. It saves all your data as well as the data of your clients. However, cyber-attacks can be detrimental to your business.
What is the biggest problem in digital marketing?
Apart from standing out from the competitors, the biggest problem in digital marketing is cyber-attacks and threats. Unfortunately, cyberattacks can jeopardize your business.
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Article | April 9, 2020
What races through your mind when you see “Coronavirus” or “COVID-19”? Fear, anxiety, curiosity… these internal reactions can prompt actions that we may not normally take. Recent attacks have been sending out mandatory meeting invites that ask you to log in to accounts. Others have been receiving emails to put themselves on a waiting list for a vaccine or treatment. The heightened emotions we experience when we see emails, or messages like this, may prompt us to give personal information out more willingly than we usually would. Security awareness takes a back seat as emotion takes over. It’s known as amygdala hijacking. Why does this happen to us? The amygdala is a small part of the brain that is largely responsible for generating emotional responses. An amygdala hijack is when something generates an overwhelming and immediate emotional response.Many common cyber security scams use amygdala hijacking to their benefit. We see this used often in phishing, vishing, SMShing, and impersonation attacks. Chris Hadnagy of Social-Engineer, LLC did a case study on amygdala hijacking in social engineering.
Article | January 21, 2021
There is a saying, ‘you can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time.’ Given the fact that there is no such thing as 100% security and human nature being trusting, this has been the backbone of many cyber security scams over the past 20 years. Cyber-criminals know that they will always fool some of the people, so have been modifying and reusing tried and tested methods to get us to open malware ridden email attachments and click malicious web links, despite years of security awareness training.
If you search for historic security advice from pretty much any year since the internet became mainstream, you will find that most of it can be applied today. Use strong passwords, do not open attachments or click links from unknown sources. All really familiar advice. So, why are people still falling for modified versions of the same tricks and scams that have been running for over a decade or more? Then again, from the cyber-criminal’s perspective, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it? Instead, they evolve, automate, collaborate and refine what works. Sound advice for any business!
It is possible though to be in a position where you can no longer fool people, even some of the time, because it is no longer their decision to make anymore. This can be achieved by letting technology decide whether or not to trust something, sitting in between the user and the internet. Trust becomes key, and many security improvements can be achieved by limiting what is trusted, or more importantly, defining what not to trust or the criteria of what is deemed untrustworthy.
This is nothing new, as we have been doing this for years as many systems will not trust anything that is classed as a program or executable, blocking access to exe or bat files. The list of files types that can act as a program in the Microsoft Windows operating system is quite extensive, if you don’t believe me try to memorize this list: app, arj, bas, bat, cgi, chm, cmd, com, cpl, dll, exe, hta, inf, ini, ins, iqy, jar, js, jse, lnk, mht, mhtm, mhtml, msh, msh1, msh2, msh1xml, msh2xml, msi, ocx, pcd, pif, pl, ps1, ps1xml, ps2, ps2xml, psc1, psc2, py, reg, scf, scr, sct, sh, shb, shs, url, vb, vbe, vbs, vbx, ws, wsc, wsf, and wsh. As you can see, it is beyond most people to remember, but easily blocked by technology.
We can filter and authenticate email based on domain settings, reputation scores, blacklists, DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication Reporting and Conformance) or the components of DMARC, the SPF and DKIM protocols. Email can also be filtered at the content level based on keywords in the subject and body text, the presence of tracking pixels, links, attachments, and inappropriate images that are ‘Not Safe For Work’ (NSFW) such as sexually explicit, offensive and extremist content. More advanced systems add attachment virtual sandboxing, or look at the file integrity of attachments, removing additional content that is not part of the core of the document. Others like ‘Linkscan’ technology look at the documents at the end of a link, which may be hiding behind shortened links or multiple hops, following any links in those documents to the ultimate destination of the link and scan for malware.
Where we are let down though is in the area of compromised email accounts from people that we have a trust relationship and work with, like our suppliers. These emails easily pass through most email security and spam filters as they originate from a genuine legitimate email account (albeit one now also controlled by a cyber-criminal) and unless there is anything suspicious within the email in the form of a strange attachment or link, they go completely undetected as they are often on an allow list. This explains why Business Email Compromised (BEC) attacks are so incredibly successful, asking for payments for expected invoices to be made into a ‘new’ bank account, or urgent but plausible invoices that need to be paid ASAP. If the cyber-criminals do their homework and copy previous genuine invoice requests, and maybe add in context chat based on previous emails, there is nothing for most systems or people to pick up on. Only internal processes that flag up BACS payments, change of bank of details or alerts to verify or authenticate can help. Just remember to double-check the telephone number in the email signature before you call, in case you are just calling the criminal. Also, follow the process completely, even if the person you were just about to call has just conveniently sent you an SMS text message to confirm, as SMS can be spoofed.
Not all compromised email attacks are asking for money though, many are after user credentials, and contain phishing links or links to legitimate online file sharing services, containing files that then link to malicious websites or phishing links to grant permission to open the file. To give you an idea of the lengths cyber-criminals go to, I’ve received emails from a compromised account, containing a legitimate OneDrive link, containing a PDF with a link to an Azure hosted website, that then reached out to a phishing site. In fact, many compromised attacks are not even on email, as social media is increasingly targeted as well as messaging services or even the humble SMS text message via SIM swap fraud or spoofed mobile numbers. As a high percentage of these are received on mobile devices, many of the standard security defences are not in place, compared to desktop computers and laptops. What is available though are password managers as well as two-factor authentication (2FA) and multi-factor authentication (MFA) solutions which will help protect against phishing links, regardless of the device you use, so long as you train everyone in what to look out for and how they can be abused.
One area I believe makes even greater strides in protecting users from phishing and malicious links is to implement technology that defines what not to trust based on the age of a web domain and whether it has been seen before and classified. It really does not matter how good a clone a phishing website is for Office 365 or PayPal if you are blocked from visiting it, because the domain is only hours old or has never been seen before. The choice is taken out of your hands, you still clicked on the link, but now you are taken to a holding page that explains why you are not allowed to access that particular web domain. The system I use called Censornet, does not allow my users to visit any links where the domain is less than 24 hours old, but also blocks access to any domains or subdomains that have not been classified because no one within the global ecosystem has attempted to visit them yet. False positives are automatically classified within 24 hours, or can be released by internal IT admins, so the number of incidents rapidly drops over a short period of time.
Many phishing or malicious links are created within hours of the emails being sent, so having an effective way of easily blocking them makes sense. There is also the trend for cyber-criminals to take over the website domain hosting cPanels of small businesses, often through phishing, adding new subdomains for phishing and exploit kits, rather than using spoofed domains. I’ve seen many phishing links over the years pointing to an established brand within the subdomain text of a small hotel. Either way, as these links and subdomains are by their very nature unclassified, the protection automatically covers this scenario too.
Other technological solutions at the Domain Name System (DNS) level can also help block IP addresses and domains based on global threat intelligence. Some of these are even free for business use, like Quad9.net and because they are at the DNS level, can be applied to routers and other systems that cannot accept third party security solutions. On mobile devices both Quad9 and Cloudflare offer free apps which involve adding a Virtual Private Network (VPN) profile to your device. Users of public Wi-Fi can be made secure via a VPN, though it’s preferable to have a premium VPN solution on all your user’s mobile devices, as these can be centrally managed and can offer DNS protection as well.
Further down the chain of events are solutions like privileged admin rights management and application allow lists. Here, malware is stopped once again because it is not on a trusted list, or allowed to have admin rights. There is also the added benefit that users do not need to know any admin account passwords, so as a result cannot be phished for something they do not know the answer to. Ideally, no users are working with full administrator rights in their everyday activities, as this introduces unnecessary security risks, but can often be overlooked due to work pressures and workarounds.
Let’s not forget patch management is also key, because it doesn’t matter how good your security solutions are if they can be bypassed because of a gaping hole via an exploit or vulnerability in another piece of software, whether at the operating system or firmware level, or via an individual application. Sure, no system is perfect and remember there is no such thing as 100% security, which is where the Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) solutions and Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) solutions come into play. These can help minimize the damage through rapid discovery and remediation, hopefully before the cyber-criminals fully achieve their goals.
By harnessing the power of technology to protect us, layering solutions to cover the myriad of ways cyber-criminals constantly attempt to deceive us, we can be confident that emotional and psychological techniques and hooks will not affect technological decisions, as it is a binary choice, either yes or no. The more that we can filter out, makes it less likely that the cyber-criminals will still be able to fool some of the people all the time. This allows security awareness training to focus on threats that technology isn’t as good at stopping, like social engineering tricks and scams. The trick is to spend your budget wisely to cover all the bases and not leave any gaps, which is no easy feat in today’s rapidly changing world.
Article | February 20, 2020
The subject of how information security impacts different industry sectors is an intriguing one. For example, how does the finance industry fare in terms of information security compared to the health sector, or the entertainment business? Are there some sectors that face greater cyber-threats and risks than others? Do some do a better job of keeping data secure, and if so, how and why? Information security risks and challenges in the healthcare industry are well documented and much maligned. There are several reasons why the healthcare sector is particularly vulnerable, but one of the chief causations is the high amount of connected yet insecure devices commonly used within hospitals, clinics and medical centers. For example, a report from researchers at healthcare cybersecurity company CyberMDX discovered that connected medical devices are twice as likely to be vulnerable to the BlueKeep exploit compared to other devices on hospital networks.