A woman is assaulted, a man is robbed, a house is burglarized, a store is broken into. Every time something like this happens, we jump to the aid of the victim. The police show up, witnesses come forward, people lend a helping hand, and the nightly news reports on it, often showing the pain and suffering that the victims are experiencing. When the police are interviewed, they appeal to the public to protect each other, to keep a lookout, and to help where they can. When experts go on air or in print to give advice, they talk about how to protect oneself and keep safe.
What don't they do? They don't blame the victim. In fact, the opposite happens. If anyone dares to say anything like, "Well, they shouldn't have gone down that alley...," or anything like that, all of us are ready to jump up in the victim's defense.
And yet when Target and Neiman Marcus got hit by a band of criminals who came wearing digital masks, entering these stores through digital doors that they broke down, everyone blamed the victim: "They should have...," "Why didn't they...?", "I can't believe they let this happen," "I won't shop there anymore." These are the running sentiments we are hearing in numerous interviews in new channels and news papers around the country.
Open disclosure: I have been interviewed in some of these reports. While not blaming Target, I also did not do what needs to be done, and that is talk about what the real story is. This is the story of criminals who were cyber-savvy and decided to steal valuable information from Target and Neiman Marcus as well as their customers. They committed criminal acts that carry federal prison sentences in not just the United States but numerous other countries around the world. And yet we aren't talking about the hackers -- the criminals -- who did this. We aren't talking about how we can all band together to at least try to stop these folks by keeping our systems up to date with the latest security updates and the latest anti-virus and anti-phishing software. We aren't talking about how these criminals use vulnerable computers of the everyday shopper who hasn't kept up-to-date with security as a way to hide their tracks when they hit retail stores to steal valuable information. Talk about a double whammy!
So now is the time to do just that. Target and Neiman Marcus will do what all victims do: They will be more vigilant, they will learn to protect themselves and their "family" better, and they will feel horrible about the pain they have caused others. They are already doing that. But just as importantly for all of us good citizens, we must work together to combat the criminal element in society. So let's remember that Target and Neiman Marcus are victims, just as thousands of other businesses and millions of other consumers in this country are victims. They are victims who need our support, who need to know that we will stand by them through this crisis, just like we stand by the woman who is assaulted, the man who is robbed, and the store whose windows are smashed and burglarized.
Hemanshu (Hemu) Nigam is an online safety, security, and privacy expert and CEO of SSP Blue, an online security consultancy. Hemu was the former Chief Security Officer for News Corporation, Fox Interactive Media, and MySpace, and was an executive at Microsoft. He is also a frequent contributor to CNN, HLN, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, CBS, HLNTV.com, and abcnews.com. To sign up for SSP Blue's Weekly News & Info, please click here, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter. See also Hemu's personal site.