Marcum LLP
Thoughts of the Week

By Jeffrey M. Weiner, Chairman & CEO, Marcum LLP

 

Data Disaster

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Data Disaster
 

Many people think that when they post photos of their vacation in Aruba or their kids' birthday parties on Facebook, only friends and family have access. But given this week's headlines about an analytics firm that allegedly got its hands on 50 million Facebook users' personal data, it may be time to rethink that assumption.

We don't know all of the details of the Facebook situation yet, but this case is a good reminder of how vulnerable our personal data can be. There are many people looking to profit from it - from marketers to criminal gangs involved in identity theft. And with each new technological advance that brings amazing new possibilities to our lives, there will be a flip side: potential data breaches. Even a smart home can potentially be hacked (Have you covered up the camera eye on your laptop? Stifled conversation around your smart TV?).

As the digital age is teaching us, with data collection comes a big responsibility. In this environment, it is more important than ever for companies to make sure that they are transparent with their customers about how they are using any data they collect in the course of doing business. Customers need to know they can trust you to keep their personal information private.

It is also essential for firms to become very proactive in protecting client data. Doing this the right way requires an investment, but it is one of the most important things a company can do to protect its clients - and ultimately its business - today. No firm wants to become synonymous with the words "data breach" in clients' minds. A single incident can undo years of brand-building, no matter how outstanding your services.

Given the nature of the information we work with at Marcum, we're very transparent about how we protect our clients' information. We view their data as sacrosanct and invest heavily in safeguarding it.

We use a multi-pronged approach to do this. Our My Portal system, for instance, allows our clients and their Marcum teams to share files securely. Marcum Secure enables us to send and receive secure emails - and, leaving nothing to chance, automatically encrypts any email with "Marcum Secure" in the subject line. I'm sure some of you receiving secure emails from us may think the extra steps involved are a pain, but trust us, it's worth the extra steps to insure the security of the data being transmitted. Meanwhile, we use multiple data loss prevention solutions to make sure clients' information is not leaving the Firm inappropriately.

Given how fast technology is evolving, no firm, no matter what its budget, can anticipate every possible threat. Years ago, no one would have anticipated that people's casual posts on Facebook might be interesting to a company looking to help a presidential candidate win an election - but once again, truth turns out to be stranger than fiction.

We all need to stay on our toes and anticipate misuses of data that may even seem like far-fetched scenarios from a spy novel. Mark Zuckerberg just announced Facebook will be auditing thousands of apps because of the "breach of trust" that's been relentlessly reported in the news. Damage control is not a job any CEO wants to do - and it isn't always possible after the fact. But it's Zuckerberg's new priority for the foreseeable future.

Data is powerful. The more we treat it that way, the better off our companies – and the clients we serve – will be.



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Disclaimer

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Jeffrey M. Weiner and do not represent those of Marcum LLP, its partners or its employees.

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