Headlines this week have been dominated by theft and fraud of all sorts; depressing news for those who believe in the honesty of mankind.
A traditional heist attempt in Aboyne (Aberdeenshire) backfired when thieves tried to steal a garage ATM machine complete with cash; they were thwarted by under-estimating the weight of the equipment.
Meanwhile Citibank launches its new iris identification service which will allow ATM machines to check who we are, by recognising our unique ocular print, thus dispelling with the need to remember pins, whilst of course protecting us against ATM fraud which is rising at an alarming rate.
The biggest story in town has of course been cyber fraud at Talk Talk, potentially affecting 6m customers. Many organisations will be breathing a sigh of relief for the alert; whilst others will be smugly confident, convinced that they are better equipped to prevent such an attack. Marks and Spencer, one of our oldest and trusted brands, has also had a cyberspace outage when 'technical issues' allowed online customers to view details of other shoppers’ accounts.
As if this wasn't bad enough, it was reported in the FT this week that personal details of more than 600,000 customers were stolen in 2014, a figure sure to be exceeded this year.
As consumers, our love of all things digital has been a fast-paced phenomenon which no one could have forecast. Accompanying the huge rise in our use of smartphones for online everyday transactions, has been a demand for speed of access and a decrease in memorising things which are now 'in the phone'.
If you are anything like me, the first thing you do in a coffee shop is to seek the wifi code; the dangers of this were spelled out in a recent BBC programme which highlighted the huge risks associated with using unsecured providers; even in some of our larger well known brands of coffee shops. Worryingly, recent research suggested that 50% of younger users store their password in their phone, even when they use the device for mobile banking.
Research from the Post Office reports that more than 7m Britons have never picked up a roadmap and 2.5m would have no idea how to use one if they did; the arrival of SATMAP and smartphones have rendered maps redundant for many motorists. Critics warn that such reliance on devices reduces curiosity and renders users less able to cope when things go wrong.
One of the consequences of this week’s torrent of online disasters is a massive wake up call to us as consumers about the value of our data, especially when it falls into the wrong hands. Our eagerness to move to the next stage of 'agree' must surely be tempered by a consideration of our data security.
Equally organisations must take a long hard look at how they are respecting consumer data, and of course being open about how and why it is being collected it; how it benefits the customer rather than merely making it easy for the organisation and its processes. Rather like a curious child being answered 'just because' are we too often fed 'security'?
The value of many newer organisations is built solely on the value of customer data, think of Facebook valued at greater than 100bn; derived from customers and product being one and the same entity.
It is tempting to think that complex cyber issues are just too complicated for humble non-IT mortals to get to grips with. In reality however there are numerous things that we can do to improve knowledge about the risks and alter our behaviour accordingly.
Organisations too have a huge responsibility to innovate around customer communication channels in order that they use every opportunity such as IVR queues to educate rather than frustrate us with messages that we don't want. Consistency across channels is a critical factor and knowledge workers at the front line must be able to explain their company’s policies clearly regardless of how the enquiry presents itself.
Much can be learned about inter-departmental communications from application of the CCA Global Standard©, and organisations who are serious about bringing customer contact into the centre of their organisation should not lose any time in applying to conduct a gap analysis against the new version. It is unlikely that the clever fraudsters will ever stop innovating, but their efforts must be more than matched by organisations in whose systems we have placed our trust.