As businesses around the globe become increasingly reliant on technology, the risk of a cyber breach is becoming a progressively significant concern for retailers in Australia.

Cyber attacks can hit any business, whether it operates as a bricks and mortar store or is based in online retailing. In the case that any information is stored online, cyber criminals or activists can potentially break through security and steal or damage important data.

One such attack was recently launched on consumer giant eBay. The online retail leader said attackers broke into its database between late February and easy March. The information potentially stolen by the intruders included customer passwords and other personal data, such as phone numbers and date of birth.

This breach may be the largest of its kind, with more than 128 million active users’ data kept on the infiltrated database.

While the financial costs of these cyber attacks can become substantial, recent reports have revealed that the reputational damage may in fact be more significant.

According to PwC’s 2013 US survey ‘Through the investor lens: perspectives on risk and governance’, investors are becoming increasingly concerned about the risk of compromising customer data or privacy.

The vast majority (94 per cent) of investors agree that risk management expertise is the most important skill that a business director can hold, above financial competence (84 per cent) and industry knowledge (87 per cent).

Furthermore, a recent report from Deloitte shows that managing business reputation is now the biggest strategic risk consideration for companies across the globe.

Protecting your retail branding from the threat of cyber attacks is a crucial step towards promoting consumer trust and a strong reputation.

“Risk management and strategy integration is fast becoming a critical component of maintaining a sustainable competitive advantage, as we see organisations move from using risk management for value preservation to also using it for enabling value creation,” Deloitte Risk Advisory Senior Manager Vanessa White explained.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to predict and protect against a cyber intrusion, due to the complexities of online technology. However, how you respond to an attack can have a significant impact on how customers continue to view your retail brand.

A fast, efficient and honest approach is more likely to result in a positive outcome, as customers prefer to be told when their information is at risk as this helps them take personal steps to protect themselves.