Retailers' efforts to safeguard consumer data not enough, survey shows

A Retail Data Security Benchmarking Study based on 71 respondents from various retailers and merchandisers, shows greater vigilance is needed by retailers to protect consumer information.

With 51.7 million consumers expected to buy gifts online this holiday season, and data thefts increasingly making news headlines, it is more important than ever for retailers to secure consumer information. While methods for securing data have improved, the survey conducted by Retail Systems Alert Group found most retailers do not encrypt customer-specific data within the database itself, a key defense in the fight against data theft. Data privacy solutions provider Ingrian Networks co-sponsored the study.

Survey findings show retailers are taking measures to safeguard consumer data, but greater vigilance is needed to protect this information. Key findings of the survey include:

— More than 50 percent of the respondents have assigned responsibility to a security program coordinator, and even more provide training to employees regarding consumer privacy and information security.

—Only 43 percent of retailers have a formal incident response plan for consumer data security breaches, and one-fourth of those that do have a plan, do not test that plan.

—Most retailers rely on internal control audits to ensure the security, confidentiality and integrity of consumer-specific data.

"In an environment where customer data is captured, used and secured appropriately, a retailer and its partners can make better, consumer-focused decisions that will lead to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty," says Brian Kilcourse, chief strategist, Retail Systems Alert Group. "The results of this survey clearly illustrate that although retailers are aware of the sensitivity of consumer-specific data, and some have taken measures to ensure the integrity and appropriate use of that data, there is room for improvement in the use of technology to secure consumer-specific data."

For more information about the survey, see