COVID-19 crisis brings CDP vulnerabilities to the forefront

  •   April 13, 2020

As the coronavirus outbreak continues to disrupt routine work processes, it’s no longer business as usual for many of the marketing technologists managing customer data platforms.

“Many organizations have had to make the decision to do more with less and this includes resources that have been laid off or furloughed,” said Elizabeth Marshall, director of solution consulting for the CDP Tealium, “These decisions cause an organization to take a tough look at inspecting their people, processes and technology.”

But with fewer resources in place to complete, many marketing operations and marketing teams are being forced to reconsider how they use their customer data — a move that comes with its own set of security challenges.

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“People are trying to do things without their usual support systems in place,” said David Raab, founder of the CDP Institute. “People are managing and accessing the system through different connections than usual, often over open networks. This leaves all sorts of opportunities for accidental and malicious data leaks at a time when hackers are very much looking for weaknesses to exploit.”

Raab’s not alone in his concerns. A recent survey of 300 IT and security professionals by the cloud security platform Fugue found that 92% are worried their organization is vulnerable to a major cloud misconfiguration-related data breach and that 84% fear they’ve already been hacked and don’t know it it.

“The rapid global shift to 100% distributed teams is creating new risks for organizations and opportunities for malicious actors,” said Fugue CEO Phillip Merrick in the company’s release on the survey findings. The survey’s focus wasn’t specifically on CDPs, but cloud platforms in general. Still, the threat is very much a real concern as many organizations rely on cloud-based CDP solutions.

Raab also points out the added risk that comes with approved team members accessing customer data without the appropriate oversight that happens under normal working conditions.

“I’d also worry about authorized users doing things they shouldn’t, such as violating privacy rules, because the normal checks and balances are not in place and there is increased pressure to get things done,” said Raab.

It’s a good time to focus on privacy

Marshall says one action MOPs teams can take to safeguard their customer data is to prioritize their privacy efforts by ensuring their company is complying with legislation like GDPR and CCPA.

“If you are not confident you are following these laws, prioritize these efforts now as you are helping to avoid not only the financial ramifications, but the consumer trust that has an even longer lasting impact,” said Marshall.

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She also recommends taking another look at your customer data collection processes and the potential benefits of machine learning capabilities within the CDP ecosystem.

“The output of machine learning efforts within CDPs greatly improves because you have better data to work with,” said Marshall. “I think we all would agree that garbage in is garbage out. So if you haven’t revisited your data collection and where your organization falls from a data maturity perspective, now is the time to do so to ensure you get more out of the investments you have made.”

But don’t lose site of future goals

Redpoint Global CMO John Nash said brands should be focusing on prioritizing customers and creating experiences that will keep them engaged now — and on the other side of this crisis.

“During a time of such uncertainty, it can be hard to focus on the future,” said Nash, “Yet, there are some trends that will be accelerated once we enter a recovery phase and this is an opportunity to be prepared for that take-up.” One trend Nash sees happening right now is the dramatic shift to digital engagement.

“This is a time to reset, reengage, and connect with customers in real-time,” said Nash, “These instant connections are now more important than ever before.”

Marshall said Tealium is seeing customers develop creative use cases with their customer data right now, using the CDP to quickly determine who would benefit from offers like digital service subscriptions and free trials or notifications for out-of-stock items that are back in stock. Another use case they’ve seen recently: Creating alerts for canceled travel plans or identification of customers who have traveled to an affected area.

According to Marshall, now is also a good time to evaluate and increase not only the data sources living within the CDP, but the distribution of first-party data across the CDP ecosystem.

“Organizations are looking for a competitive advantage to maximize every dollar and investment in technology that they have already made,” said Marshall, “Many times, organizations buy a CDP starting with one or two ‘use cases’ that span certain data sources and distribution vendors. You should utilize this time to evaluate how you can increase the distribution of this data across different teams and tools — and make sure you have a well thought-out plan as to why it will add additional value.”