Cybersecurity for Digital Marketers: Simple Steps to Stop Cyber Attacks From Ruining Your Brand

petter lagson

Digital marketing is a fast and furiously competitive environment. Marketers are often early adopters of new technologies and digital tools. And with the advent of AI, marketing has become an even more competitive industry than before.

Suddenly, we have access to a vast range of AI tools. These include AI copywriters, image creators, and video production tools. They are within reach for marketers willing to delve deeper into new tech. New and exciting ways to reach audiences are good, right?

However, with all this new tech, marketers face significant cyber-dangers without fully realizing it. They are responsible for securing their own personal data, customer data, and their company’s data. Marketers must juggle this burden in a digital environment designed to make data sharing fast and easy but not always safe.

That’s a lot of responsibility, so the pace of marketing can be frenetic. It’s easy to click the wrong button in the maze of marketing tools and complex infrastructures, such as CRM systems and websites. A slight mistake can lead to the accidental exposure of large chunks of data.

Cyberattacks will cost the world $10.5 trillion annually by 2025. Marketers are prime targets for cybercriminals because they can access sensitive customer data. They could become unwilling participants in many data breaches unless they take cybersecurity seriously.

A Surge in AI-Driven Cyberattacks

According to new data, there is a growing concern about the increase in cyberattacks that are driven by AI technology. AI can significantly increase the scale, speed, and success rate of attacks. It’s no wonder that hackers are adopting AI at a blistering pace! They’ve even developed WormGPT, a chatbot that writes malicious code. They’ve also made FraudGPT, a chatbot that helps scammers write phishing emails.

AI can be used in various other ways for cyberattacks. For instance, deep fakes are fabricated images or videos of people or places. These can be used to impersonate individuals or brands, leading to potential identity theft or fraud. Attackers can also use AI to research potential targets. Once they know a person’s daily routine or what they do on social media, they can use AI to tailor a malware attack.

Since the advent of AI, you don’t even need coding knowledge to become a hacker or write malicious code. Anyone can ask a chatbot to develop a data stealer or ransomware.

How to Face the Threats

Although marketers face enormous risks, the response to threats is relatively simple. The most crucial factor is to identify all the angles that cybercriminals can use to attack you and develop a strategy for each. The tricky part is to ensure that you apply the basic safety principles to all the vulnerable areas in your area of responsibility.

Here are the most significant aspects that you have to keep in mind for a cybersecurity strategy:

1. Protect Yourself and Your Own Data

You need to secure your own activities first before you can look at the larger issues in your team and the company. Follow these tips to maintain good cyber hygiene and protect your data:

  • Beware of phishing attacks. Email scams often arrive as fake emails that appear to be from legitimate organizations or individuals. AI writing tools, like ChatGPT, can generate convincing fake emails that lead people to websites that steal people’s sensitive information.
  • Prevent password cracking. AI algorithms can crack passwords much faster than traditional methods. Use a password manager to generate long, complex passwords that will be difficult to break. If possible, also enable two-factor authentication to protect your accounts.
  • Update all software and systems regularly. Keeping your systems and software updated can protect your devices against threats and viruses. Updates can also improve your apps and software, making customer service delivery easier.
  • Protect your private data with a VPN. Marketers sometimes have to use public Wi-Fi connections at cafes and restaurants while working on the go. Criminals love those high-traffic areas and use special gear to impersonate public hotspots. If you accidentally connect to a fake Wi-Fi network, they can capture your credentials. A VPN can protect your internet traffic on public Wi-Fi and prevent visits to malware-infected sites. It can also scan files for viruses, so you won’t have to deal with malware removal later. Keep in mind that there are various VPN apps, such as a VPN for Chromebook, Linux, Windows, or Mac. You just need to choose the one that is compatible with your system.
  • Use antivirus software. Reliable antivirus software can protect against malware. The best solution is a VPN with anti-malware capabilities or an antivirus with a VPN function.
  • Select a reputable cloud storage provider and backup data regularly. Choose your cloud storage solution with care. Use only well-known solution providers with a good reputation for data privacy. If you save any files on a local server or computer, do regular backups to a secure cloud storage solution.

2. Protect Your Company and Customers

Protecting your customers’ data is beneficial for your business image and brand. The public is increasing pressure on big tech to decrease surveillance and respect their privacy. This movement has led to some noteworthy changes to privacy laws across the world.

Consider the short-term effects of a data breach. There’s the initial cost of fending off a ransomware attack, for example, using emergency funds to replace devices and upgrade security. However, there can also be terrible long-term effects on your company.

Losing customer trust can be devastating, especially if the breach leads to identity theft and financial loss from stolen credit card information. Additionally, hackers sometimes publish stolen data to force companies to pay a ransom. If the hackers make sensitive personal information public, your customer’s privacy will be lost.

Customers increasingly believe that businesses have an ethical responsibility to protect their data. They are moving away from companies that openly disrespect people’s privacy rights. Moreover, if you operate in the EU, you must comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The US has also passed data privacy laws such as HIPAA, with more regulations set to be implemented soon.

You should restrict your team’s choice of AI tools. Chatbots and other AI tools process all the data you and your marketing team feed them. They may decide to release sensitive information about your customers or accidentally expose your company’s secrets to the public domain.

Therefore, it’s crucial to keep AI use within boundaries. Vet your team’s AI tools. Check the AI developer’s privacy policies and copyright restrictions. Make sure they take security and privacy as seriously as you do.

3. Keep Your Website Safe

Monitoring website safety may be outside your job description, as marketers often have help from an IT team or outsourced website management company. However, a website breach will have profound implications for you and your team. Take the precaution of getting on the same page as your website or IT manager. They should pay attention to these aspects of website security:

  • Back up your website regularly. If there are server problems, or, for example, your web hosting company fails, you could lose every scrap of work. Make regular data backups to protect against data corruption or loss. You should also store the backups in more than one secure location.
  • Install a high-level SSL certificate. SSL protocols encrypt the data between your server and customers. If your site is not secure, no one will use it!
  • Update your CMS. Content Management Systems (CMS) like WordPress roll out core updates regularly. Keep all your software and platforms up-to-date. Pay particular attention to themes and plugins. If you don’t receive regular update notifications, your theme or plugin may have become obsolete. If the developer no longer supports it, replace or remove the old plugins or theme.
  • Install a Web Access Firewall (WAF). A WAF stops malware and brute-force password attacks. It should also do malware scans and vulnerability assessments to identify vulnerabilities like old or risky plugins that hackers could exploit.
  • Limit backend access to your website. Only give access to people who need it. Change a few simple settings on your website backend to add multi-step verification measures. This can significantly tighten security in just a few clicks. You could also implement password best practices for the front-end users. WordPress can enforce strong passwords for both your team and your customers.
  • Monitor your site for spam or poisonous messages. Website spam vetting can take up a lot of your time, but tracking comments and posts from users is vital. It can be a rush to read positive comments and feedback. But competitors or trolls sometimes leave false or misleading reviews. Don’t let them spoil the experience for everyone else. Delete inappropriate comments.
  • Get out the ban hammer. Manage spammers and phishing messages. It’s a signal to Google that your site is well-run and authoritative.
  • Beware of bots. Chatbots could be a great boon to help you handle routine or minor FAQs or start a conversation with new site visitors. However, cyber attackers have become wise to the potential for mischief inherent in chatbot designs. Some malicious bot developers may manipulate your data to tweak the chatbot’s output.

Chatbots could also steal the data your customers share, such as email addresses, full names, social security numbers, and more. A “bad” bot could also point people to dangerous sites by providing users with false contact details, which may lead to dangerous websites. Look for reliable third-party providers for this crucial website element. Make sure they follow security protocols and respect your customers’ privacy.

4. Monitor Backlinking and SEO

Your business partners, affiliated sellers, or brand representatives could suffer misfortune from cybersecurity attacks. Direct links between them and you could influence your SEO score. Conduct regular audits to see if they maintain a healthy rating so you stay caught up if their status changes. Also, check for those sneaky, unauthorized, spammy backlinks that could harm your site’s reputation. Remember, a strong backlink profile is a cornerstone of SEO. The link quality matters more than quantity.

5. Address Social Media Scamming and Fraud

Social media marketing is a very important and cost-effective marketing strategy. However, social media platforms are crawling with scammers who are interested in reaching billions of people worldwide for free.

Despite public backlash about scammers taking over social media, creating a convincing fake profile or taking over someone’s legitimate account is still easy. And with the help of new AI data scraping tools, scammers can use social engineering to quickly build a sizable fake network of friends or followers.

Be on the lookout for fake profiles trying to cash in on your brand’s reputation. It’s not your fault if people fall for a criminal’s ploy. However, you are responsible for protecting your loyal customers as much as possible.

Regularly seek out fake profiles (or real people) who abuse your brand to make dirty money. Report them to the platform and the authorities to help put a crimp in this multi-million rand industry.

6. Turn the Table Against Cybercriminals

Digital marketers can use the dire cybersecurity landscape to their advantage by incorporating messages about cyber safety in their content. Educating customers is the foundation of any content management strategy. So, creating awareness about a shared threat is bound to bring rewards!

You can use social media channels or awareness emails to warn customers about the prevalence of cyber attacks. For example, you can send an email advising subscribers not to share their login details with anyone or to ensure their connection is secure before entering their credit card details.

Enforcing security measures like two-factor authentication (2FA) can help safeguard customer information, which is a plus in anyone’s Book of Good Branding. This strategy can help you maintain your reputation during the turmoil of a possible future data breach.

However, you can quickly lose any gains from showing that you care about customer privacy if you keep customers in the dark after a cyber incident. It’s essential to communicate with customers about any attack. You can assist them with suggestions to mitigate their digital risks, and you should inform them of future countermeasures to beef up security.

Cybersecurity Is a Lifelong Journey

Cybersecurity for marketers is a complex topic. Marketers operate in a highly variable and dynamic environment involving many focus areas. They carry a lot of responsibility. A data breach can cause huge financial losses. It can also take the company years to recover from a loss of reputation and customer trust.

Fortunately, your defense is not complex. It consists of taking basic security steps. By identifying all the angles that cybercriminals can use to attack and developing a strategy for each, marketers can protect themselves, their team, and their company from cyber threats.

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