As cyber risks continue to rise, how does a CMO protect their valuable data?

It seems that just about every week there is a new hacking scandal is reported. These costs consumers and corporations millions of dollars, not to mention a lot of wasted nervous energy. One of the most rapidly growing threats of cyber-hacking is coming from social media applications and updates to mobile devices. As marketers continue to deepen their reach of customers through social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc… the risk of having data stolen increases.

Over the past few years hackers have figured out that one of the easiest ways to get past current cyber security protection is through a mobile device.

Apps are your achilles heel.

Using myself as an example, I’ll illustrate how it works: I have an iPhone with about 60 applications on it – everything from Facebook (FB) to the Bloomberg and CNBC app. As many of us do, I check my emails through my phone, which means that I’m connected to our corporate network. In other words, when I check my emails, and more importantly reply to emails, I am sending information through our corporate servers. And, if I have any sort of an attachment to the email, I may be sending all sort of “extras” to our servers. If you own a smart phone and have applications on it, you’re getting update requests about once per week. Most of these are legitimate and necessary. However, downloading these updates, opens us up to hacking risks. While we may not be aware of it, every time we download an app or an update to an app, we are opening up our phones to intruders.

It’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when. 

Last fall I had the privilege of attending the annual Ernst & Young Strategic Growth Forum, where the accounting and consulting firm highlights and celebrates America’s entrepreneurs. Over 1/3rd of the participants at the 500 person plus forum started companies in the technology field, and I decided to seek some of them out and learn more about “cyber security”. One of the attendees was Udi Mokady, CEO of Cyberark (CYBR), he explained the problem very succinctly – hackers know that the easiest way to get into a network is through a mobile device, and the easiest way to get into a mobile device is to send an update notice – who knew that playing solitaire on my phone could pose such a threat? Mr. Mokady explains that we have to re-train employees and change behavior to make them aware of this threat. More importantly, companies have to rethink their security protocols. Paul Martini, CEO of iBoss, one of the EY highlighted companies, agrees “the conversation has finally shifted from ‘how do we keep from being hacked’ to what to do to minimize the effects of being hacked?’

Isolating servers and insulating information is the best protection.

As the lines between personal devices and business devices become more blurred, the threat from applications and other mobile downloads will exponentially grow. Mobile device users, which means pretty much all of us, need to be aware that hackers may not be interested in our personal data, but certainly are interested in the data we have access to. The advice from experts: maintaining separate work and personal devices is best. Do what you can to limit hackers getting into your system, and make sure that your downloads come through the official provider (in Apple’s case through the App Store). The forward-thinking CMO will work with their IT security department to make sure that valuable data is segregated and isolated so that it protects its customers better as well as the companies’ valuable research.