Apr 12, 2017

CEOs believe digital trust matters – so why aren’t they investing in it?

trust written in the sand

Recent research shows that CEOs are increasingly concerned about maintaining customer trust — but when it comes to the digital world, they’re having trouble connecting those concerns to effective cybersecurity and brand-protection investments.

The annual CEO survey from consulting firm PwC polled nearly 1,400 chief executives around the world. Overall, CEOs are more worried than ever about their companies’ reputations. The report notes:

In 2013, 37% worried that lack of trust in business would harm their company’s growth. This year, the number has jumped to 58%.

Digital technologies increase the complexity of the challenge, with 69% of CEOs saying that it’s harder to gain and retain trust online, while 87% believe that social media could negatively impact their industry in the next five years.

Not mentioned in the research, but highly relevant, is the issue of the lack of trust in email. How can companies win the trust of their customers if those customers can’t be sure that the email they’re receiving really comes from the company? With non-authenticated email, companies are wide open to phishing attacks, business email compromise, and other kinds of fraud perpetrated in their name. All of those will erode the ability of customers to trust these companies.

Email authentication offers a rare opportunity to effectively eliminate the ability for fraudsters and attackers to abuse a company’s brand in this way. By properly implementing a trio of widely-supported standards–SPF, DKIM, and DMARC–companies can ensure that customers, as well as employees and partners, can trust that the sender of an email is who they appear to be.

However, while CEOs believe trust is important, there’s a disconnect when it comes to acting on this belief.

That’s particularly true with private company CEOs. According to a Reuters article on the research, 41 percent of private company CEOs are not concerned about cyber threats.

According to a PwC executive quoted in the article, this is worrying, given that private companies generally have fewer resources to defend themselves:

“This may make them more vulnerable to cyber attacks, so in theory they should be more concerned about these threats not less,” she said.

But across the board, in publicly traded and privately held companies alike, CEOs don’t seem to be investing in shoring up that trust through security initiatives.

Diving into the data, it appears that zero percent — none — of the executives plan to devote increased resources to cybersecurity in order to capitalize on new opportunities, such as ensuring a more trustworthy online presence.

That’s a mistake, as we have seen with nearly daily news stories about cyberattacks, stolen customer data, and phishing attacks.

It’s not that executives don’t take the threats seriously. It’s that they don’t see how cybersecurity investments can pay off with increased trust–perhaps because security companies aren’t making the pitch well.

In fact, with cyber threats on the rise, and a wide range of standards-based tools to address many of these threats, now is the time to invest in increasing digital trust.

Investments in cybersecurity are more than just insurance against potential attack; done properly, they provide a proactive investment in protecting and shoring up your digital brand. Cybersecurity, in the broadest sense, is about defending the integrity of your brand against all types of attacks: Hacks directed at your products and your corporate network, yes, but also phishing and other kinds of digital fraud committed in your name.

Such investments can generate “a significant return on investment,” as the Global Cyber Alliance recently saidwith respect to DMARC.No one pretends to have all the answers on cybersecurity. But increasing the reliability and trustworthiness of email, which is one of the primary vehicles of communication with customers for most companies, is a terrific start. Find out how much of a difference trustworthy email can make with our free white paper on email authentication.

Top photo via Pixabay

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