Breach, Data Security

Consumers wise up to protecting their data

It seems that recent headline-making breaches are starting to make some waves. Deloitte, one of the ‘big four' auditors, has released a report this week which suggests just that. Among other conclusions, the report shows that 73 percent of consumers would reconsider using a certain company if it failed to properly protect their data.

“The evidence we've seen during our consumer research suggests that consumers are increasingly aware of the potential impacts of a cyber breach on them personally” Simon Borwick, director of Deloitte's Cyber risk services team told This, added Borwick, “points to consumers being increasingly engaged with cyber-security, and creates an opportunity for organisations who can show a commitment to data protection to stand out from their competitors”.

The report notes: “Our research shows that as a result of the increase in cyber-attacks, consumers are becoming more distrustful about how secure their data really is when sharing their personal information with businesses. This lack of trust provides an opportunity for businesses to act transparently and reassure consumers that their data is safe with them.”

The authors of Consumer data under attack: the growing threat of cyber-crime note that:  “Businesses need to be explicit not only in how they secure consumers' data, but also in the benefits to consumers of sharing their data and in giving them the choice about how their data is used.”

This concern for consumers seems to take precedence over the traditional bugbear of higher prices. While 73 percent would consider changing provider over data insecurity, only 51 percent would consider changing due to threat of higher prices.

It also appears that consumers are taking more care to protect themselves and respond when a breach actually occurs. In 2013, 29 percent of consumers did nothing when faced with a breach of their personal data. Now, only nine percent go down that road. What is more is that in 2013, when only 25 percent of consumers would close down their breached account or stop dealing with the company, now 36 percent do.  About time too many would say, as breaches are ever going up consumers are starting to take action.

The old cyber-security cliche might look towards the human as the weak link, but those humans are increasingly looking towards the companies they employ to protect their data: three quarters of consumers think that their data's security is the responsibility of the company holding it and 57 percent are more likely to use and recommend a company that lets them decide how their data is used.

But how to remedy this new scepticism on the part of consumers? James Pattinson, vice president for the EMEA region for, Absolute, an endpoint security and data risk management company spoke to SC. Pattinson said: “The reputational impact of a data breach can be one of the hardest areas to measure, but also one of the most serious. The Ashley Madison breach, for example, has effectively crippled the business' reputation, and may make it difficult to attract new customers and provide reassurance that their (highly personal) data is secure.”

Pattinson added that, “While it may seem that no organisation is safe, the Ashley Madison case shows that the reputational consequences of a serious leak of customer data can be unimaginable.”

Borwick told SC that the key to customers feeling that their data is being handled securely is, “to provide regular interactions with customers, which reassure them that security is a primary concern”. Borwick added that: “Businesses should ensure that all employees who come into contact with their customers are aware of and follow good security practice, so that they visibly demonstrate a commitment to protecting consumer data."

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