Cybersecurity is mission critical in today's digital-first world, especially with news of data hacks and breaches that seem to happen daily. Thanks to this fever pitch of online threats, security has become the go-to answer for staying safe and controlling the online experience. But is security the only solution -- or even the best solution -- for keeping your organization safe and its most critical data private online?
In the digital world, security has become synonymous with privacy. But the truth of the matter is that they are not the same at all. As long as these two terms continue to be misunderstood or interchanged for one another, businesses will struggle to protect the privacy of consumers online.
Today, however, the biggest risk to our privacy and our security has become the threat of unintended inferences, due to the power of increasingly widespread machine learning techniques. Once we generate data, anyone who possesses enough of it can be a threat, posing new dangers to both our privacy and our security.
Security: Privacy’s Poser
Security comes in a myriad of shapes and sizes and is defined as being free from danger or protected against it. It is anything from the lock on your front door to the online protection package recommended by your favorite cybersecurity provider.
Cybersecurity, in particular, protects users from infiltration and cyberattacks of internet systems, hardware and software. Security is an important element of any connected device because it helps keep user information protected from unwanted, malicious interruptions. In other words, security for businesses and their customers is mostly about keeping data secure from incoming threats to their devices.
Due to several high-profile data breaches in recent years, consumers have become more aware of their own need for protection against such crimes. For example, early in 2017, hackers gained access to the data of nearly 150 million users during the Equifax breach. Without warning (and without any say in how their data was stored and used), this put customer names and even driver’s license data in the hands of cybercriminals who are capable of storing and accessing the data for years to come. In 2018, Marriott International announced cyberattackers had stolen the data of 500 million customers, leaving their personal information exposed.
Privacy: Security’s Ally
Privacy, on the other hand, is a more complex idea than security. When we experience true privacy, we are free from uninvited observers and disturbances. Security software may address the challenge of protecting your devices from viruses and intruders, but it doesn’t provide control over how your information is shared online. It also doesn’t give you the choice of what to share or with whom. Security software is important in that it safeguards your devices from incoming threats, but it is ineffective when your data is shared with others.
Along with an awareness of the need for security, consumers have become increasingly conscientious of their individual need to be private as we continue to lose trust in significant names like Facebook and Google in terms of using our data carefully.
To better understand why privacy matters, imagine enjoying a beautiful, sunny day from your backyard. A few minutes later, imagine your neighbors decide to do the same thing next door. Instantly, the environment would likely change from one of relaxation to one of interaction, entertainment or uncomfortably pretending the others don’t exist by attempting to avoid eye contact. For this reason, we put up privacy fences in our yards that protect us from unwanted company or observation. It’s important to note that a privacy fence is not necessarily a form of security. It is not impenetrable and could easily be scaled by a physical intruder, but it does allow you to control who sees you and when.
The same expectation of privacy should exist in the cyber world. The most imperative and valuable part of true privacy is the ability to dictate how and when your information is used and by whom. How do we accomplish this sense of privacy?
We’ve reached a tipping point where everything we search, look at and (sometimes it seems) think about is tracked online, and it’s starting to spill over into our physical lives, leaving us feeling as though we’ve been followed all day. Imagine the possibilities if we had the choice to be private and could enjoy an entirely private landscape online when we desired. Without worrying who might be in the background silently taking notes, we would be empowered to live more freely, openly and creatively.
Becoming Both Private And Secure
The good news is we may be closer to the freedoms privacy allows than we think. By taking a few simple precautions, companies can help ensure the private data of consumers remains private. The following are a few ways to stay secure and private in an increasingly connected world.
Be sure to look for these features when choosing the security suite for your company's devices:
- Fraud alerts/vulnerability detectors
- Antivirus software
Your customers' privacy should be an embedded experience that gives them the control in choosing when to be tracked, ensures a secure connection and allows them to make changes to personal details at will. Must-haves in your privacy software should include the ability to:
- Check whether or not your customer data has been exposed.
- Keep your customers' personal information private.
- Stay private on public Wi-Fi.
- Log in easily and privately.
- Block trackers.
Security and privacy have been treated as interchangeable terms for too long. As you work to make our world both secure and private, keep in mind their innate differences and the need for each in creating a truly safe online experience.