What Marketers Need to Know About Internet of Things Data Security in 2017

Former Pentagon webmaster on uncharted territory

If nothing else, 2016 taught the world that data security has become incredibly critical. In the fourth quarter alone, Yahoo saw more than 1 billion accounts breached, the DNC's emails were infamously hacked and ultimately doomed Hillary Clinton's run for the White House, and Twitter, PayPal, Spotify, The New York Times and other publishers experienced lengthy outages. What's more, 2017's promised proliferation of Internet of Things technology—everything from smart crockpots to connected cars to personal robots—will make consumer information as equally imperiled as it is rich. "Vulnerabilities are inherent to all internet communications," said W.L. Donaldson, CEO of security player Nomx and former United States Marine Corps webmaster at the Pentagon.

So to kick off a new year of technological innovation, we tapped into his expertise to provide a quick tutorial on what marketers need to know as they head into uncharted territory. 

This is the new normal 

The recent, massive Yahoo attack, in particular, underscores how data security can affect anyone and everyone. "We need to accept that the landscape—where hacks and cybersecurity breaches exist—is our reality now," Donaldson said. "The question remains how we will deal with the challenges this new normal presents."

It was inevitable 

The internet wasn't designed for safety. "It was built for redundancy and not security; i.e., we're not on it to survive, we are on it for convenience," he explained. "And convenience normally sacrifices security."

Why IoT is scary

Donaldson stated that all cyberattacks can be categorized into at least one of six key vulnerabilities: transmission, routing, acceptance of data, communications header data (or metadata), encryption and storage. If just one of these elements is compromised on a device or in a system, he said, a breach can occur.

Brands are at stake 

As Wendy's can attest after its six-month data saga last year, security failings—when played out in public—can wreak reputational havoc. Consumers put faith in brands enough "to give their most personal information, and in exchange users trust that their providers will protect and secure it," Donaldson remarked.

Donald Trump factors in

The incoming Republican administration is widely expected to more be aggressive in digital spying, and Donaldson suggested that "marketers must be aware of the changes that may be put into effect on [the nation's] cybersecurity policies."

People may take matters into their own hands 

Out on the cutting edge, he proclaimed, numerous data-worried citizens have already begun storing and protecting their personal information. "The next logical technical step is to allow home-based servers to provide the same services as remote clouds," he said.

This story first appeared in the January 2, 2017 issue of Adweek magazine.

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