Privacy and security Concerns in Digital Marketing: Security Comes First

Digital marketing is the flow and extension of online ecommerce. Without marketing, what the vendor has to offer the marketplace cannot make the final leap to sales and conversions. Successful marketing grows a cohort of happy customers, who return and bring their mates.

Australian digital marketers who need to buff up or shore up their online marketing skills can consult experts like Jordan Fogarty, whose  analysis  of 2019 digital marketing trends is a solid starting point.

This article is based on the assumption that the reader is aware of and is pursuing the best digital marketing tactics. Instead, we will concentrate on the security threats to digital marketing. Security concerns should be up front in the minds of marketers who don’t want to experience an unfortunate ending point to their business.

The security concerns in digital marketers are much the same for anyone whose personal information goes through digital business pathways and platforms. On the other hand, cybersecurity threats tend to concentrate on the most lucrative and data-rich targets frequented by digital marketers.

The Small Business Association of Australia  highlights that threat  with this alarming statistic: According to the PWC, “in the last two years 45% of Australian companies were attacked by online criminals.” Our colleagues at the U.S. Small Business Administration also recognise those threats and have published a  top-ten listing  of cybersecurity tips.

The most important suggestions for marketers have to do with protection against malware, data backup, and employee education. Marketers should secure their networks and safeguard their network connections by using a firewall and encrypting tool like  Surfshark’s VPN.  In addition to heightened security, a VPN provides a wider reach for marketers in locations blocking outside internet access based on geographic location. A VPN allows for our internal marketing team to view what the search results look like in Singapore or San Francisco and also if website use personalisation we will see the website as intended for people visiting from another region. This is all very helpful in understanding whats happening for users outside of our geo location.

review of campaigns resources

What digital marketers need to do to keep security up front

A mountain climber’s goal is to get to the peak, but safety must come first for obvious reasons. Likewise, digital marketers should also focus first on security in meeting their goals. The consequences of spreading destructive malware would be catastrophic. This security awareness requires knowing and acknowledging the threats.The worst possible thing a digital marketering agency can do is compromise your website and related accounts.

Those threats include the following:

Email marketing risks

Outbound digital marketing via email is a traditional and powerful tool. The threat of email account hijacking includes  phishing  and spamming. Hackers can send links to malicious websites that download  ransomware  to completely encrypt the victim’s data files.

Guard against email messaging threats through encryption and adding outbound filters. Digital marketers should install  email security software  to stay ahead with cybersecurity threats.

Threats to customers’ data privacy

Customer data is the treasure trove of digital marketers. That data is likewise a goldmine for hackers, who steal, sell, and compromise customer passwords, credit card information, and personal data. Data breaches have resulted in the compromise of millions of customer accounts, bad publicity for the targeted businesses, as well as fines and legal sanctions.

The Australian Cyber Security Centre has published a Second Edition to its  Small Business Guide, Protect your business in 5 minutes”. The Centre’s most important measures for online marketers include:

  • Data security through anti-virus, firewalls and encryption, including keeping operating systems and backups up to date
  • Hardware and network monitoring as well as mobile security consciousness
  • Employee security education and monitoring,
  • Password security and strengthening, with passphrases and 2-factor authentication
  • Monitoring customer activity on a regular basis with a view towards detecting unauthorised access

Social Media Disruption

Social media is a valuable monitoring tool for tracking real-time references to a business brand. Those mentions provide a source for exploiting outbound marketing efforts. On the other hand, hackers can hijack a social media account and create confusion. Hacking can change the company profile, add false and offensive statements and send spam emails from the account to its customers.

 The best defenses against social media hacking are strong passwords and  social media monitoring tools. With the latter, marketers can trace brand name mentions as well as hijacking threats. See the Clutch  2019 review  of the top social media marketing Companies in Australia.

The Danger Social Media Bots Present

We are always trying to reduce costs, improve productivity and make things more efficient. This is how we evolve and with evolution comes innovation. Automating your social media account and the posting schedule is a useful function. This allowsd you to save time and become more productive.

Then came the automation social media bots that performed specific tasks. At first these bots were just doing small things like following new people who hashtagged something, and unfollowing accounts after xyz days. In the natural evolution of smart bots the bots started doing more complex tasks. The programming became more agressive.

At what point will the new smarter AI social media bots start cloning accounts?

There are already websites like this popping up >> This person does not exist. Refresh the screen for a new image completly AI generated form hundreds of thousands of existing images online….Scary right?

When we start to see all these celebrity accounts being hacked and the advancement in CGI images I get really concerned about where AI and social media bots are heading. The worry I have is where you can replace faces or bodies from image A and use the parts from image B to create a new image, it starts to scare me.

Some basic security measure s to take to secure your account:

  1. Use 2 factor authentication.
  2. Change your password every 2-3 months.
  3. Review your profile and account settings every 2-3 months
  4. Check your settings for any unkown trusted devices and remove them.
  5. Avoid using the obvious data gathering quizzes on each platform.
  6. Limit the information you show publicly on your profile.

You can also unfriend or unfollow any profiles that look shady. You may be air tight with your checks on new suggestions but what about those ones that snuck in before you became safety aware? review your follows, following and friends just to be safe.

fake people

Cookie Logging & Cookie Jacking

Cookies are pieces of software that depends on the cookie type get downloaded onto the user’s browser or hard drive and provide information on the user’s habits. A use case of how cookies work is used in ecommerce stores when users place items into their shopping cart, this allows store advertising to send retargeting ads and messages to you because you have been cookied and the store knows your movements when on that stores website.

Now in the case of advertisers like Google and Facebook, they know a lot about you based on your browsing habits. This data retention is very valuable to these platforms. The intelligence they gather about your web history creates little pools of marketable audiences that can be sold to high paying advertisers and data aggregators. This intelligence about the perfect audience for an advertiser is crucial in making campaigns tailored towards that audience much more effective. Thank you very much cookie for making it so easy to target people based on browsing behavior.

You might have noticed that more and more websites are giving notice to their users that they use cookies, and to continue on the site you need to accept cookies into your life. This is largely a state by state legislative change, where some states are now requiring sites to inform their users of the use of cookies, so sites often find it easier to notify all users despite their location. 

Cookie Jacking is where a third party uses a session key to take over the browsing experience. A cybersecurity report reported that 88% of the time Cookie jacking took place the user who was exploited had no idea that it was happening. This can get really nerdy really fast when we dive deeper into this topic. To save you from learning a new language essentially what you need to be aware of is laziness to log out of places and open session tabs that can be hijacked.

Most common cookie jacking prevention methods that you can use:

  • Encryption of your data by using SSL/TLS secure data encryption.
  • Log out of websites, platforms, tools, and accounts when you are finished using them

Privacy protection legislation is attempting to crackdown on Cambridge Analytica level data sharing, but legislators are hardly up to the task of keeping up with developers. Sidestepping privacy legislation is almost its own branch of black hat marketing at this point, and should be avoided. Following the rules and respecting privacy is the best way to go for legal and ethical reasons.

How Cookies are used to track users

When a user visits a site, a cookie is placed on their browser to footprint them while they browse around web pages. After they leave the site, the cookie is still there and in some websites case, the cookie can remain for a time of up to 90 days (or more in some cases). If the user returns to the site, that cookie from the first contact can tell the website that it’s the same user that visited the website from before. 

WordPress Website Attacks

WordPress  ecommerce websites are popular platforms for marketers. They provide attractive targets for hackers, especially to older sites running out-of-date plug-in components. The attack vectors are essentially of the front-door variety.

So, the best advice for marketers using WordPress is to apply the patches and updates as they become available. Those updates are the essential security measures in the game of leapfrog staying one step ahead of hackers.

Threats to financial transactions

Digital marketing customers frequently include ecommerce websites. When those sites process customer payments through third-party services like PayPal, they can be lucrative targets. The usual vectors are malware. Marketers working for those sites need to be familiar with anti-malware measures. Additional security measures like SSL protocols and two-factor authentication processes can add a higher level of customer comfort.

Also, anti-malware measures should include the additional layer of data transmission  encryption provided by VPN. Data that is encrypted is useless, even to someone who manages to intercept it.

Invasion By Non-Human Bots

According to this social media monitoring  blog, more than half of web traffic is “non-human.” Those automated pests include “click fraud, scrapers that record links…spam bots, and more.” The also include software designed to mimic and recreate user credentials. Those bots can open the door to denial of service attacks, fake browsers and fraudulent traffic counting.

There are several countermeasures marketers can employ against bot-based attacks. They include installing false infiltration opportunities to detect botnet recognition signatures. Marketers can also help customer websites fit bots with CAPTCHA tests that only humans can pass.

Conclusion

Digital marketing in Australia—both of the outbound, and inbound varieties–can cast a wide net in the search, care, and product feeding of customers. Marketers must be aware of the security and privacy threats to both their business and their customers. Each web platform or social media site, a marketer uses can be a vector for vandals, fraudsters, and hackers.

The threats run the gamut of brand hijacking to stealing customer personal data. Safeguards include detection and blocking of the threats along with basic awareness. Security awareness and a healthy low-level of paranoia should be the first tools in the marketer’s approach and online presence.

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