Posted January 16, 2012 9:26 am by with 3 comments

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We hear so much about social media. It’s the this and the that and all things in between of business. You can reach more, do more sell more, relate more etc.etc etc. It’s hard to argue this line of thinking. It makes sense and it is real but is it overshadowing what appears to be a much bigger concern which is less sexy but possibly much more important which is the security of the online space?

Earlier we talked about the security breach at Zappos that exposed millions of Zappos customers account information (supposedly not credit card info but time will tell). As Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh put it

“We’ve spent over 12 years building our reputation, brand, and trust with our customers,” Mr. Hsieh said. “It’s painful to see us take so many steps back due to a single incident.”

All of the goodwill, all of the relationships, all of the sales and essentially, all of the hard work of Zappos has been put at risk (I am not saying it has been lost by any stretch so please relax) and why? Not becasue of a rogue employee’s tweet. Not because of some social media miscue but rather to one of the most fundamental yet arguably most overlooked threat to business in the Internet era: good old fashioned online security.

This is nothing new. Heck, business espionage and sabotage has existed long before the Internet came along. It just never got the attention it does now because it now has the potential to impact business function like never before. All that said and we still focus on social this and social that. Interesting and extremely risky.

It looks like 2012 is off to a rollicking start in terms of security news. How about this one from the about the City College of San Francisco that has been leaking vital information from poorly designed and maintained systems since, gulp, 1999. That is not a typo folks.

Personal banking information and other data from perhaps tens of thousands of students, faculty and administrators at City College of San Francisco have been stolen in what is being called “an infestation” of computer viruses with origins in criminal networks in Russia, China and other countries, The Chronicle has learned.

At work for more than a decade, the viruses were detected a few days after Thanksgiving, when the college’s data security monitoring service detected an unusual pattern of computer traffic, flagging trouble.

Really? REALLY?!

Now comes the good news that a hacker is set to release the full code of Norton Antivirus tomorrow! According to Reuters

A hacker who goes by the name of ‘Yama Tough’ threatened Saturday to release next week the full source code for Symantec Corp’s flagship Norton Antivirus software.

“This coming Tuesday behold the full Norton Antivirus 1,7Gb src, the rest will follow,” Yama Tough posted via Twitter.

In the past week Yama Tough has released fragments of source code from Symantec products along with a cache of emails. The hacker says all the data was taken from Indian government servers.

So what’s the point here to marketers and businesses in general? Lock the freakin’ doors before you decide to get all social on everyone! It seems inconceivable that this far into the Internet game that large players are still as vulnerable as anyone else to being hacked and all of that data that is being collected for business reasons can be taken for reasons that are for business but not on the right side of the law.

Just imagine if this Zappos “problem” takes a turn for the worse and it is revealed that something bigger happened that included financial information etc etc. I AM NOT SAYING THAT IT HAS! Just imagine that if it goes that way what would be the impact on one of the most highly respected online brands on the planet? It could be devastating.

So my question is to all the other businesses that are not Zappos but still like to have their customers’ trust, are you doing what you need to in order to protect the data that you so badly want to acquire?

How about this for a thought. Want to ruin the largest IPO in a while? Just find a way to get to all the data that Mark Zuckerberg has on all of us. Would people put money in a company wants all the world’s data but can’t protect it?

Don’t think online security is sexy enough for your attention? Think again.

  • Last night, ABC aired a special on Anonymous and although their cyber attacks are purposely focused – who’s to say their actions won’t encourage others for their own gains? That’s exactly what I consider to be the reason behind the Zappos attacks and the pending release of Norton’s information.

    Like you mentioned, cyber warfare has been going on for some time now, it’s the social side that has changed the game. Companies are focused on controlling this new channel of information sharing and in some ways taken their eye off of building their security infrastructure. If this is warning enough, what will come is sure to be interesting.

    Great post, appreciate your commentary.

  • They say those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Historically, Google & Facebook have created a large majority of their billions by axiomatically gathering *as much data [personal and otherwise] as they possibly can* and selling to the highest bidder.

    That said, it’s unwise to expect internet based companies to magically start upholding privacy; and users need to learn to protect themselves eventually [although it’s going to take time and a bunch of media coverage of the types of issues this can cause for people to cause a shift].

    Privacy and security is ultimately something that people have to give themselves; and as long as there are people who trust some big faceless corporation with it, there will be occasional issues!

  • The majority of social media users and Internet users in general don’t worry too much about security until something goes wrong. It’s important for consumers to be aware of how much data of their is being shared and set privacy settings whenever possible. If security is a real concern, the only advice is to just not use social media.