Over the past few week there have been multiple companies – reputable companies, I might add- that have fallen victim to security breaches. When I think about the tech industry, network security always seemed like a table stake, or a minimum requirement just to do business. However, with notables such as Citi, Playstation Network, Google, Sony Pictures Studios, and SecureID all recent victims of intrusions, it makes me wonder what effect it will have on each of their brands.
This recent barrage of hacks presents an obstacle for brands who have promised network protection as a table stake. Now even they can fall victim to an attack.
Yet regardless of this, a consumer whose information is jeopardized directs the fault, not toward the hackers at the end of the line, but at the hacked companies caught in the middle. In the example of Sony, it is estimated that the recent hack of the Playstation Network has cost Sony upwards of $170 million. What this estimate does not include is the cost on its brand, both for the short and long term. Much like a product recall, the effect on a brand image following an intrusion that steals consumer information is dependant upon how well a company cleans up afterward, and its full effects might not be seen until much later.
Security breaches are strange in that if your neighbor always locked their door and was then robbed, you wouldn’t tell them “Boy, you really messed up. I thought you would have been sensible enough to have upgraded to the DoorMaster lock 2000 deadbolt lock.” No, instead the fault is directed toward the intruder who broke in. Conversely, when a company is hacked, the intruder is rarely identified and the company is deemed as being negligent.
As we continue to expand the ways in which technology reaches into our everyday lives, breaches will only escalate. It is the sad state of things that it is necessary, but companies must to treat their security with the same level of importance as their brand image. At the end of the day, success or failure of one directly affects the other.