The Heartbleed bug caught just about everyone flat-footed this month after computer scientists discovered the vulnerability. As news spread that millions of websites were potentially compromised, tech security experts advised Internet users everywhere to change online passwords—but the fallout is continuing, especially for retailers that take customer information online.
The bug, which was discovered in OpenSSL software, affected major sites such as Yahoo, Imgur, and OKCupid. Though social networks such as Facebook and e-commerce giant Amazon said they were unaffected, users who share passwords between sites are being urged to change them across all accounts. Retail companies, still on edge after security breaches such as the massive Target data theft in December, are being urged to take additional steps to communicate with customers through their website content.
First, it’s a matter of fixing the breaches: Experts such as Yahoo Tech encourage all websites to upgrade to the newest version of OpenSSL, which has patched the vulnerability. OpenSSL has issued a fix that requires sites to install all appropriate updates and patches in order to stop further data theft through the Heartbleed bug.
However, retail brands are also encouraged to schedule a mandatory password change for employees and post a message on their website’s main page that urges customers to change their other passwords as well. Marketers should communicate extensively about what they’re doing to fix the problem and educate customers—and potential customers—about what happened and whether they are vulnerable.
But alarming media reports haven’t dampened sales as much as online retailers may have expected.
Craig Miller, vice president of growth at e-commerce company Shopify, told media outlets, “Despite public awareness of Heartbleed, we did not notice an overall reduction in e-commerce sales and activity in the more than 95,000 sites that use Shopify. Our data indicates that while consumers are aware of Heartbleed, they are happy and willing to continue to shop online.”
While it looks like short-term effects of Heartbleed could be minimal on retailers, content marketers still need to reinforce the idea that it is safe to shop online. As more news about the exact scope of Heartbleed continues to surface, content marketers will need to reassure consumers that security measures have been taken on their behalf.