Breach, Data Security

Earning back respect following a breach

You can't take me anywhere these days because I start finding security messages at the most inappropriate places.

I was at a sociology talk the other night that focused on the effect of the internet on the course of romantic relationships, and one bit struck me as applicable way outside the bounds of even platonic interactions.

"Ours will need to become a society of forgiveness."

When all our actions online are indelibly etched there, there will inevitably be mistakes or missteps. Everyone from your neighbors, co-workers and friends up to politicians and religious leaders will say or do suboptimal things.

But this is not necessarily the end of a career or a friendship.

Companies are no more immune to this than any of the rest of the world. And they are no less responsible for correcting their errors in order to earn back the trust of their customers.

We all know what a difficult balancing act it is for businesses to provide both security and accessibility. Lately, Sony has been mired in another sort of balancing act: How much do you allow people to do as they please with a purchased product when this can cost your company money?

Sony's troubles began when hackers breached its network out of solidarity for George Hotz, whom Sony was suing for his hack of the PlayStation 3 and subsequent posting of how-to instructions online. While this original breach has been fixed, hackers continue to exploit one hole after another in Sony's network, apparently in order to continue tarnishing the electronic giant's reputation.

What effect these incidents will have on Sony should not be the significant question. What is important now is the company's actions going forward.

Will it learn lessons about how to properly store customer data? What will it do to improve its security? How quickly will it notify customers of any future compromises?

Plenty of companies have had security holes in their products or their networks. And yet people still give them their business based on the strength of their response.

Sometimes this change will take years, but it will come if trust is earned back.

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