Letter from the CEO

In this issue we examine what consumers and businesses can do to protect personal information in the wake of the massive security breach at the online marketing firm Epsilon.

Thursday, April 07, 2011
Baseball games that count in the standings are now underway, following the spring training ritual when even the most talented players focus on the fundamentals. 

Likewise, revisiting the basics of data security is critical for individuals and companies—a fact vividly underscored by the recent theft at Epsilon, a firm that provides online marketing services. The breach exposed the email addresses and customer names of some of the nation’s largest companies, leaving potentially millions vulnerable to targeted email spear phishing—scams designed to get customers to reveal sensitive data such as passwords and Social Security numbers. In this issue, we touch all of those bases.

Consumers must follow one important ground rule: Avoid helping data thieves. So many people unwittingly do just that, which is evident from the personal data provided by online information brokers such as Spokeo. These companies gather consumer data from a number of sources including the consumers themselves, many of whom disclose sensitive information just because a store, social-networking site or warranty service asked them to. In our main story, we review what not to share and how to respond to information requests.

Businesses commit significant resources to safeguarding customer data, but new technology creates new cyber threats. Companies can better protect and win over their customers by abandoning reactive security protocols. Instead they should adopt a proactive approach to privacy protection: Privacy by Design. This method promotes data security as a basic and critical element of product development. We examine this concept and its promise for those who adopt it, businesses and consumers alike. 

Sometimes consumer data isn’t safe even if a business maintains solid data security measures. That’s because many companies outsource their marketing services to firms that have weak privacy measures. A few high-profile data breaches illustrate that risk. Our experts discuss how to safely share your information with marketers so the free cheeseburger you accept in exchange for information on your buying habits doesn’t cost you dearly.

In our Ask the Expert column, CyberScout’s Brian McGinley, senior vice president of data risk management, discusses how small businesses easily can incorporate Privacy by Design into their security systems. Finally, don’t miss our Hail & Hiss column, a roundup of the latest fraud-related news.

We hope this issue is a game-changer for you.

Matt Cullina
Chief Executive Officer


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