There has been much talk of customers losing faith in organisations which have experienced data breaches.
Indeed, MicroScope recently reported findings that customers are less trusting of businesses that fail to look after their data.
The problem is organisations need to exchange valuable and sensitive information all the time.If you are a supplier of goods or services, your customers and partners need to give you some knowledge of their business, activities and people, so you must be able to demonstrate that you can be trusted with this information. But how?
As a starter, understand the sector. A high-end government department or agency will have different security needs to an online retailer. Understand the consequence of something going awry with information. If you provide similar services to different sorts of organisations, do you need an enhanced security offering? Does your company need to be independently certified –maybe via the ISO27001 route? Should you have your systems independently – and regularly – tested, by using a credible CREST (or CHECK, if that’s your target market) company.
Look at your own arrangements. Would a customer be impressed if they found your IT had been outsourced to a local company and you had not tested their provenance? Do you let your staff work on customer information remotely? On their own equipment? Take a step back and look at yourselves through your customers’ eyes. If they look just a bit more than skin deep, will they be happy with what they see?
Businesses sharing information must be aware that people – competitors, hacktivists, criminal organisations or the merely curious – will want that information. Recognise that all information has some corporate value – what happens if that piece of information is not kept private or if you cannot get access to your information where and when it is required? Know which information is out of your control – once it has been sent to a partner, you have lost control of its safekeeping.
Being able to demonstrate that you are trustworthy is a critical investment that can deliver competitive advantage. And actually, it is nothing more than common sense. You can trust me on that – after all, I’m a data security expert...
Martin Sugden is CEO at Boldon James
This was first published in January 2014