CEOs taking notice of online privacy threats?

Threats to online security have been coming thick and fast. But a new study shows that CEO's may finally be taking notice. Is that enough?

If there's an upside to the recent rash of hacks and digital subterfuge, it may be that businesses are beginning to see the ugly reality of online privacy exposure. According to the Wall Street Journal, a study by analysts at AIG recently showed that more executives are concerned about breaches than harm to their property. Eighty-five percent of executives polled placed more emphasis on their information and digital reputation than their physical holdings. 

Awareness is one thing, but are these executives putting their money where their mouth is?

It appears so. Studies show that there has been a corresponding increase in the amount of money recently spent by retail companies on cyber security measures and experienced anti-fraud experts. It's remarkable what a little bad press (hacking of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Twitter, Evernote) will do to motivate previously complacent companies.

As precious as your material property may be, it's not being targeted at all times like your data, which is under automated 24/7 attacks by hackers in their pajamas. Breaking into a house carries a great deal of risk, but hacking your email or bank account can be done from anywhere, anonymously, and with little chance of being caught. Unlike burglars, the cyber thieves that steal your personal information aren't very likely to leave behind a trail.

While it's good that executives appear to be getting the message, there's no substitute for proper cyber security training. Behind all of the technology and at the source of every data breach is a human being (generally, a poorly trained human being). Security isn't a department, it's a system of beliefs that must be instilled in your people. And when those people take protecting your data as seriously as they do their homes, then you've made progress.

John Sileo is a cyber security expert and keynote speaker on privacy, identity and reputation protection. His clients included the Department of Defense, Pfizer, and Homeland Security. See his recent media appearances on 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper and Fox Business.