We’re still wide awake, focusing on what keeps us (and our financial institution clients) up at night. Let’s pick up where we left off following our December webinar, but this time address data INsecurity from the perspective of its “other” victims, i.e., consumers. Last months’ webinar reviewed the benefits of risk-based approaches to organizational cybersecurity frameworks and identified potential obstacles to their achievement. Today, we’re thinking about another risk of cybersecurity breakdowns – the loss of consumer confidence. This risk threatens companies as surely as the regulatory, media and legal fallout.

Despite the proliferation of data breach notification and consumer financial privacy laws, data-breach-fueled identity theft is increasing. A recent report of the National Consumers League & Javelin Strategy reveals that consumer fraud victims don’t discriminate between business organizations and financial institutions when assigning blame for data breaches. Rather, they avoid doing business with all organizations involved. Ironically, nearly one-third of fraud victims take no action to prevent further fraud, even when they’ve been notified that their data has been compromised. The majority of consumer victims, according to the NCL/Javelin report, say both businesses and FIs should be held accountable, and want to be able to sue the breached companies. An even greater majority think the federal government should protect them — and lawmakers are listening. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), for example, favors a national security breach notification law.

Financial institutions are between a rock and the proverbial hard place. Compromised financial information results in greatly increased fraud against affected consumers. However, many consumers don’t take action to prevent a breach from escalating into further incidents of fraud. (Partly, this results from lack of faith in the effectiveness of solutions like credit monitoring, and partly, consumers don’t know where to go for help.) Some consumers contact law enforcement or government agencies, but many simply avoid patronizing the companies involved as a result of diminished trust. An overwhelming number of victims believe the right course is action against companies where their information was breached.

Trust lost is hard to regain. Data breach responses are key to effective enterprise risk management, not only because of legal and enforcement risk, but because consumer loyalty, and its loss, have real, tangible, operational and financial consequences. In an effort to bolster consumer trust, companies should: be transparent in communicating their practices and controls with respect to the management and use of data; and provide guidance to their customers on actions that can be taken to protect their own data.