The World Isn't Changing; You Are Changing the World

In the same virtual breath, technology can be exciting and empowering, as well as scary and smothering.

The more marketers are able to paint complete pictures about customers, either by simply asking for their information or collecting it through sophisticated data-gathering solutions, the more vulnerable consumers (Internet professionals included) are when it comes to digital security.

Perhaps the recent "Heartbleed" Internet security bug brought this to your attention. This bug makes website users on countless digital destinations vulnerable through the SSL/TLS encryption which was supposed to make them safe.

According to, which was set up by the security researchers who discovered the leak, "The Heartbleed bug allows anyone on the Internet to read the memory of the systems protected by the vulnerable versions of the OpenSSL software. This compromises the secret keys used to identify the service providers and to encrypt the traffic, the names and passwords of the users and the actual content. This allows attackers to eavesdrop on communications, steal data directly from the services and users, and to impersonate services and users."

Scary, right? Of course, and since Internet professionals spend more time on the Web than average consumers, they are likely more vulnerable than the typical website user. ExactTarget research indicates marketers, in particular, use their smartphones more often, make more online purchases as direct results of marketing messages and are more active on social networks. It's safe to assume they use virtual communication (e.g. chat, video calls, etc.) more often too, which were/are all vulnerable to Heartbleed. In short, digital marketers are more digital, and that means more susceptible. They have more accounts, more passwords and likely more personal information stored across the Web. And, the way they interact with brands on the 'Net, influences a lot of technology decisions within their own comapnies. They've changed the world simply by their online expectations and the technologies they implement as a result.

This security bug is certainly not the fault of average Web workers, but the information that is stored during a consumer's browsing session may be. Due to their decisions, they are storing credit card information, address books, security questions, purchase histories and much, much more. They store this information under the "user experience" umbrella. The more they know about a person, the more they can personalize their experience.

Website Magazine readers are not going to stay offline (please don't) and won't stop collecting data to improve their brands' bottom lines (please don't), but bugs like these should certainly open everyone's digital eyes to security in online security. The irony of it is, those who upgraded to latest and best encryption will be affected most by Heartbleed.

As someone responsible for a website, it's important to not only take security seriously, but also to empower customers to protect themselves. They need the ability to update passwords or preferred browsers, as well as delete credit card information, shopping history, address books and security questions. They should be in charge of this data. Even though two-step verification wouldn't have helped in the case of Heartbleed, it's also a good place to start. As someone shaping the modern Web, it's your responsibility to give consumers the security tools they need. After all, you're the one who changed their world (how they access brands and information online), so it's your responsibility to keep them safe.