Balance the importance of network security with digital trust

July 20, 20184 minute read

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For the past several years, companies have been collecting and storing massive amounts of customers’ personal data. For the most part, those customers handed over their data without a second thought. Everyone assumed colossal organizations, like Facebook and Equifax, had air-tight protection.

Ah. Sweet, blissful ignorance.

Then, everything changed. Suddenly, data breaches and ransomware attacks dominated the headlines, and customer faith in organizations’ ability to protect information took a nosedive. Businesses learned an expensive lesson about the importance of network security and the hefty cost of not having enough of it. Today, in a time when the digital evolution has reached full speed, customer confidence is in rapid decline. Luckily, there’s still plenty you can do to shore it up.

What is digital trust?

Digital trust is a measurement quantifying the expectation that an entity is what it claims to be and that it will behave in the expected manner. If you act recklessly or negligently with customer data and it falls into the wrong hands, you can expect that trust to dip. As is the case in the #DeleteFacebook campaign, the viral nature of the digital environment that gave your company life could cause irrevocable damage and, potentially, its demise.

But if you’re constantly working to protect the privacy of your customers or users, investing in reliable security, and holding yourself accountable when and if you make a mistake, you can build and retain that trust.

4 key categories of digital trust

To better understand the current state of trust in the digital age, the Fletcher School at Tufts University studied digital customer trust across 42 countries and published the findings in their report, Digital Planet 2017. The report uses four key dimensions to understand user trust: behavior, attitudes, environment, and experience.

1. Behavior

Whether it’s waiting for a page to load or entering a security code, you almost always experience some level of friction before you complete a transaction online. Behavior measures the tolerance people have when they run into this friction.

The higher the proportion of people who complete a transaction despite friction, the higher the level of trust. By monitoring the rate of transactions, you can determine any slippage in customers’ trust of your brand and take efforts to course correct.

2. Attitudes

This dimension looks at qualitative data based on questions about whether or not people find value in interactions with tech companies, trust tech company leaders, or believe businesses can protect their data.

Consider asking your userbase to complete an anonymous survey to determine its overall attitudes. It’s easy to assume customers trust you, but the data may tell a different story.

3. Environment

A trustworthy digital environment should incorporate three factors:

  1. Privacy: How well protected is sensitive information?
  2. Security: What measures are you taking to protect against cyber attacks, and how high does your organization place the importance of network security?
  3. Accountability: How well does your organization adhere to legal frameworks to ensure privacy and security?

This is where you need to “walk the walk,” so to speak. Invest in privacy protection and advanced security measures, and make sure you’ve addressed vulnerabilities in your network—including easily forgotten endpoint security concerns, like your print infrastructure.

4. Experience

It’s important your organization can balance security with user experience by simplifying authentication efforts. While you want customers to feel protected, you don’t want to create such a complicated experience that their frustration drives them away from your brand.

Each time you enact a new security measure, do some usability testing to make sure it doesn’t destroy UX.

Earn customer trust with better network security

Plenty of massive brands have landed in hot water after failing to address security needs, and they’ve paid dearly—both in lawsuits and in a loss of digital trust. Now imagine the level of destruction a breach or negligent mistake would cause for smaller organizations. Just one General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) penalty, for example, could cost a company more than $20 million.

At this stage of the digital evolution, it’s better to be safe than sorry. By understanding the importance of network security and making it a top priority for your organization, you can reduce the likelihood of a mishap and retain the customer trust you need to continue growing and thriving.

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