For retailers, these last 10 months have been the calm before the storm, as it is apparent now that criminals have been quietly busy over that time period. With the recent Target and Neiman Marcus point of sale (POS) breaches, the need for tight security from retailers has become painfully obvious. We are at cyber war and the bad guys are winning. These recent attacks should be a wake-up call to other retailers.

First, be aware that there will be future data breaches. There will certainly be more companies who come forward to acknowledge their data was compromised in similar attacks as happened with Target and Neiman Marcus. If your company’s information has been compromised, understand that the breach itself is not the end of the damage that can be inflicted on both your company and your customer. Rather, it is just the beginning.

Cyber criminals use the information they obtain, including credit card numbers, phone numbers and email addresses in continued attacks. Credit and debit card numbers have a relatively short shelf life as once the breach is public knowledge, banks send out new cards to replace the compromised accounts. That other data though- the email addresses and other personal identifying information- can be sold off, making your customers susceptible to future phishing attacks. Adding insult to injury, these phishing attacks are often disguised as helpful customer service emails coming from the very retailer that was breached in the first place.

Who deals with the aftermath? Well the consumer does if their personal data has been stolen. The theft of personal data and a year of free credit reporting seems an unfair exchange for shopping at a favorite store. The days of companies shifting the responsibility of dealing with this aftermath to consumers should be long over. So what can retailers do to protect consumer data and their reputation? One thing they can do is secure their email channel with DMARC so consumers aren’t the victims of phishing attacks after their personal credentials have been stolen.

We encourage every company to take a page from the site. This organization of leading banks, e-tailers, online payment companies and social networks has developed an email authentication standard called DMARC that strikes at the root cause of the incidents. With the rise of e-commerce, spammers and phishers have a great financial incentive to compromise user accounts. DMARC helps email senders and receivers work to better secure the email channel, protecting users and brands. This measure is a no-brainer and leading companies in Financial Services and Social Media have already taken that step.