Would you drop a company because it was hacked? Of course not


Half of Brits say they'd ditch firms that leak their data, but experience suggests otherwise



When it comes to security, what people say and what people do are often wildly different things. 

We all know it's best not to click on links we're not sure about and to avoid opening attachments from unknown sources, and we're fully aware it's in the best interest of security to keep our laptops updated and our data backed up.

It's no different from the rest of our lives: get some exercise, eat healthily and don't drink too much alcohol. 

And yet, hacks happen and data is lost (and we continue to be lazy and tipsy and put on weight, but maybe that's just us - you look great, really).

So it's with several grains of salt (on our plate of chips, naturally) we must take the latest survey from F5 Networks, which claims 50% of Brits would never ever use a company that had been hit by hackers.

Sure you wouldn't. And you'd go for that run on Saturday morning, pass on that second piece of cake, and have perfectly backed up your data, too. 

That's what the survey of 3,000 people suggests, and F5 very sweetly believes what we say. "The study shows that 50% of consumers would not share data with, or purchase products from, a company that has been hacked in the past, highlighting the impact that poor cybersecurity can have on business reputation," the press release F5 issued IT Pro with reads.

But what we say we do, and what we actually do, can be very different. Look at eBay, Apple iCloud, Tumblr, Facebook, LastPass, and Twitter. Did they all lose half their users - or even half the users directly affected - after high-profile attacks? Not a chance. 

Other firms have been punished. Following the TalkTalk hack, the ISP shed 7% of its existing customers and lost market share with new customers. It only actually lost data from 4% of its userbase to hackers, suggesting many of those directly affected, plus a few more, did indeed march away. 

Of course, ISPs are the sort of business you reguarly reconsider: each time your contract is up, a customer decides if the price, speed and so on is worth another two years, so anyone re-signing when the hack was still making headlines would naturally have had second thoughts. 

But TalkTalk aside, it'd be difficult to find a company that lost half of its customers after a hack, no matter what people told F5 in its survey.

Ask me if I'd ditch a supplier or service provider because of a hack, and I'd probably say yes - but that doesn't mean I actually would. It would depend on the hack, on the business, on the data lost, on how angry I was about it all - and how lazy I was, and whether I was willing to spend the time sourcing an alternative that's perhaps just as likely to be hacked.

And accuracy of the survey results aside, that's okay. Walking away after a single incident gives hackers too much power and encourages companies to cover up data leaks, which hurts our individual security rather than improving it. 

We certainly shouldn't stay with a company that's continuely reckless with our data, but most of us know it's all a bit more complicated than that and understand companies may well deserve a second chance.

A company can accidentally leak data even if it puts real effort into security - just as we can be healthy and still stuff our faces with chips - so please, British businesses, don't panic from the results of this survey. You won't lose half your customers if you 'fess up to imperfect security, no matter what this survey says.