5 Email Marketing Security Issues (and How to Fix Them)
Email is a key component of the internet. Whether you’re handling business, buying products, or using social media, you need an email address. Because of this, email marketing never loses value: it’s still essential, years after its debut. But its demands do change — particularly those concerning security. In this post, we’re going to look at five core security issues email marketers face, and offer advice for resolving them. Let’s begin.
Using Inadequate Software
Perhaps the biggest security problem an email marketer can face is relying on software that simply isn’t up to the task. Given the enormous scale and complexity of high-level email marketing, it simply isn’t viable to do everything manually, so individuals and companies alike turn to automation tools to ease their workloads and vastly improve their results.
This certainly isn’t a problem, but there’s a huge range of email marketing software out there, and the tools vary wildly in quality, reliability, and security. It’s possible to take all sensible precautions (particularly concerning the other issues we’ll be looking at here) yet encounter major security issues due solely to having an unstable software foundation.
If an email marketer is using a custom software solution and can’t go elsewhere, the appropriate response to a significant security issue is to commission further development — in other words, fix the software. In most cases, though, the software used will be a widely-available third-party service, in which case it’s best to identify a preferable alternative and make the migration.
Being Imitated by Phishers
Phishing is the process through which criminals pose as trustworthy individuals or institutions in an effort to trick people into paying them or at least sending them valuable data. It bears fruit frustratingly often for two key reasons: many email recipients don’t know how to guard against it, and some fraudsters are able to be surprisingly convincing in their acts of imitation.
Addressing the first reason requires you to support your mailing list, helping them take sensible precautions while using the internet. The second reason complicates this. In addition to being able to spoof URLs well enough to trick people, they often try domain squatting: in other words, they acquire domains that are similar to those people trust and use them for illegitimate emails.
Emails from a digitaldonut.com address could be confusing, for instance. You should create a guide on your website with some recommendations. Most importantly, you should explain how to check email legitimacy. The WMIP email lookup tool comes in handy when tracing an email, making it simple to tell when the claimed sender was faked. Guide people accordingly.
Suffering Internal Leaks
The most irritating email security issue is a data leak caused by human error (or even deliberate action). Something as simple as choosing a weak password or falling victim to social engineering can compromise the integrity of any marketing system — and when it happens, there’s no way to blame a software fault.
Reducing the likelihood of internal security issues comes down to two things: investing in employee training, and having a thorough vetting process for the provision of administrative access. Everyone needs to fully understand the importance of keeping the data private, and no one who isn’t considered entirely trustworthy should be granted broad access to a mailing list.
It’s also essential that there are meaningful repercussions in the event that someone makes a mistake resulting in a data leak. If you treat it as a minor issue and mete out punishment accordingly, your employees won’t take it seriously, and they’ll pay notably less attention to training materials than they should. Make it clear that apathy will have consequences.
Falling Foul of GDPR
GDPR, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (implemented in 2018), caused a lot of confusion, and there are still many people who don’t understand what it requires and how it works. If you’re based in the EU or you store data concerning EU citizens, you need to conform to it, and it doesn’t take an internal leak to fall short.
In fact, there are various ways in which you can err. You can store data for longer than you need it, collect data that you don’t need at all, or fail to anonymise data that you can’t justify attributing to specific people. In certain conditions, it’s necessary to appoint Data Protection Officers, so that’s another area in which you can fail.
So how can you keep up with GDPR to keep your core data safe? Well, the answer is simple, though it isn’t easy: use software that’s GDPR-compliant, learn the rules, and follow the guidelines. It may be awkward, but there’s no shortage of guides and tutorials out there.
Having Weak Integrations
Lastly, it bears noting that simply choosing a secure email marketing tool isn’t itself enough to ensure that you don’t encounter issues resulting from outdated or poorly-designed software. This is due to the inevitable presence of integrations for everything from ecommerce to digital analytics. If there’s a problem with one link in the chain, the entire thing is vulnerable.
Fortunately, this is one of the easier issues to resolve. The sensible approach is to use email marketing software that relies on a closed marketplace of integrations. If that isn’t viable, the alternative for those who have access to unvetted integrations is to stop using any tools that weren’t created by known developers with strong records.
And if there’s a compelling reason to have custom integrations, they should be developed by similarly-trustworthy developers. This will assuredly cost significantly more, but it’s absolutely worth it: after all, compromised system security can easily lead to severe brand damage.
Wrapping up, each of these email marketing security issues can cause great stress and negatively impact your brand’s reputation, so it’s imperative that you take action to make your marketing operation stronger. Use the suggestions we’ve outlined here to do just that: in the long run, you’ll be glad you did.