In the course of its relatively short history, digital marketing opened up a whole new world of promotion opportunities for companies of all sizes, from small businesses with virtually no budget to international corporations with thousands of employees. However, just like any other tool, it is a double-edged sword. Opportunities for businesses go hand-in-hand with opportunities for all kinds of crime and misuse. Most types of digital marketing require businesses to collect and process massive amounts of data about their customers. In case of a breach, all this information can be used for malicious purposes, directly harming the clients and striking a terrifying blow to the company’s reputation. It means that cybersecurity should be a primary concern of any digital marketer. In this article, we will cover some things you can do to protect yourself and your customers.

1. Teach your clients and employees the rules of digital hygiene

In 2018, almost 700 million people worldwide became victims of some kind of cybercrime. However, it would be wrong to attribute this appalling number just to the rapid development of technology and tactics among hackers. According to the research by security firm Kroll, the majority of data breaches happens due to human error and negligence, not because of flaws in software. In other words, you have more reasons to be afraid of phishing and primitive passwords than of somebody directly cracking your security software.

The only way to deal with it is prevention. Teach your employees to use complex passwords and be careful when responding to suspicious email. Establish an anti-phishing strategy and communicate it to your clients: for example, state often that your employees will never ask them directly for their personal and financial information.

2. Use VPN

Due to the nature of their work, digital marketing professionals have access to all kinds of sensitive, important, and personal data on a daily basis. In other words, people working in your industry are particularly attractive targets for hackers and different types of cybercriminals.

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a tool that creates an encrypted “corridor” through the standard Internet between you and your target website. It encrypts your data and makes your actions anonymous, preventing hackers from spying on you. In addition to that, it allows you to access the Internet as if from a different geographical location, which can be extremely useful if you need to check real search results in a particular country.

3. Use an encryption certificate

Install a digital HTTPS certificate to encrypt the traffic that passes through your website. In addition to protecting the personal and financial data of your customers, it brings added commercial benefits: tech-savvy customers tend to trust https websites more, and search engines rank them higher, improving the results of your marketing efforts.

4. Protect critical assets

Identify your business-critical assets (social media accounts, websites, administrator logins, etc.) and install additional protection features for them. At the very least, they should include two-factor authentication. If, for example, your company’s social media account gets hijacked even for a short while, it can wreak all kinds of havoc with your business.

5. Update everything regularly

It is a good tip for dealing with any software, but is particularly important in case of WordPress security, because it is your best bet at staying ahead of any potential vulnerabilities as they get discovered. The best practice is to simply turn on automatic updates.

6. Backup data regularly

In addition to stealing sensitive information, cyberattacks can outright destroy it. As data is the lifeblood of digital marketing, the importance of backing it up cannot be overestimated. Losing the data you have been collecting since the inception of your business can eliminate years of progress in a blink of an eye.

7. Use strong passwords

According to a facepalm-inducing statistic from the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre, 23.2 million accounts cracked last year used “123456” as their password, with two dozen other popular simplistic passwords accounting for millions upon millions of cracked accounts. It is good practice to use strong passwords whenever you register, but it is especially true for accounts of digital marketers due to their likelihood of being specifically targeted by hackers. Use complex passwords (with both higher- and lowercase letters, symbols and figures) and change them regularly. You may want to use a password manager for extra safety.

In 2019, knowing the basics of cybersecurity is no longer a useful extra for a digital marketing specialist. It is a norm and your duty to your company and your clients. Not following these basic principles endangers everybody you work with and can potentially lead to financial and reputational losses for your business. And do not think that your company is too small to become a target of cybercriminals – you may be targeted for the sheer reason of not paying enough attention to your cybersecurity.