Published: Sunday August 30, 2015

It’s dark days on the web… The big news this week has been how, following last month’s Ashley Madison hack, 10 gigabytes of stolen data has been leaked onto the dark web. If anything, it exposes the devastating, real-life impact that high profile data breaches can have. Just think what it will cost the individual, both emotionally and potentially financially, who has now had their personal details posted up on a dark web site for all and sundry to see.

With high profile hacks it often takes companies a long time to define the financial impact for their business, but in the case of Ashley Madison it’s all too plain to see. Earlier this year it had announced it’s plan float for $200 million, but the hack has effectively put paid to that idea. In the fallout it’s interesting to note that many of the users used fake details to register – no check was made on the identities of people and they could enter any information they liked. It’s therefore virtually impossible to put a value on the business whose primary asset is – or was - indeed, its customer data. Even without the breach, due diligence should always ensure that customer data is authentic, up to date and reflective of the business’ declared activity.

On a similar note Visa has reportedly reached a settlement to the value of $67 million with Target to reimburse its member banks following the data breach against the retailer two years ago. This pay-out would be used to cover costs and settle claims for fraud related losses. It’s pretty obvious that fraud comes at a cost. But what this and Ashley Madison shows is that big brands are increasingly aware of the financial impact not only to their customers, but themselves, of such data breaches.

We’re firm believers that companies must always put customer trust at the very top of their agenda, and the way to build that trust is through good data practice. After all, customers will vote with their feet if they feel like their data isn’t being protected and used properly – never mind what the hackers may be up to.