Last week’s announcement that Target is laying off several thousand employees generated a plethora of negative articles and comments across the web and news outlets, not least due to the outgoing CEO’s golden parachute. What I did not see were articles linking Target’s massive data breach to its subsequent downturn in business due to loss of customer trust.
To me it seems self-evident that if a business exposes the card details of 40 million of its customers, these customers are not going to trust that business again. And as the USA is a country of card users, these customers are going to go elsewhere to use their cards. Just as other giant US vendors have gone the way of the dinosaurs, sadly we may be witnessing the irreversible downward spiral of a once-respected US institution.
So what initiated the fall of Target Corporation? As far as we understand, Target had installed effective countermeasures, but the IT staff did not have the confidence to act on its alerts. There is good evidence that businesses do not empower their employees to interrupt business operations. For example, during the Piper Alpha incident, dozens of men who had taken shelter in a fireproof accommodation block died because other employees believed they would be punished for stopping production. Similarly there is evidence that when an employee does stop operations for safety reasons, that employee will often be fired.
Trust is hard to earn and easy to lose. Yet over the last 16 years, Zix has built a client list of over 11,500 businesses that trust Zix to protect their emails; and who in turn are trusted by their customers. I was especially pleased to learn that Cisco is trusting Zix to develop their new Enhanced IEA email encryption solution. Current users will be able to continue working with IEA, while retaining their existing architectures, without interrupting their email services. To me it is axiomatic that for a modern business to be successful, trust is key.