The retail industry faced unprecedented cyber crime conflicts in 2014 with a barrage of data breach incidents that exposed hundreds of millions of retail customers to the long and often international reach of a growing breed of criminal. Data breaches and other cyber-crime insults were a regular and consistent occurrence across retail channels, resulting in significant changes in both approach and practice for many retail organizations.
Cyber crime remained a primary topic across digital channels once again in 2015 with cyber criminals hacking into everything from the Ashley Madison database—which proudly boasts as “the most famous name in infidelity and married dating” website—to prison phones to CIA Director John Brennan’s AOL account. Personal information belonging to more than 178 million Americans was exposed in cyber attacks, according to the Identity Theft Research Center.
Lessons learned took us in several different directions. Government data breaches including the breach of the Office of Personnel Management exposed the personal information of tens of millions of Americans and made it clear that our own government agencies are actually lagging behind in the area of data protection and are in desperate need of fortification. On the other end of the spectrum, the self-proclaimed adulterer’s website claims that the publicity from the data breach has actually increased their traffic and popularity. Go figure.
The retail industry has responded aggressively to the threat of cyber crime, increasing awareness, enhancing education and training opportunities, restructuring responsibilities, and adding new positions to better prepare for such threats. But while the industry didn’t face the bombardment of attacks that occurred in 2014, retailers certainly didn’t escape unscathed in 2015 as evidenced by reports related to CVS, Walmart Canada, T-Mobile, and UK’s Carphone Warehouse.