There’s no doubt that technology is both the blessing and the curse of modern life – and modern consumer PR. Ronn Torossian says the latest brand to learn this lesson the hard way is Home Depot. The home improvement giant certainly benefits from allowing customers to pay with plastic, as do most retailers. But the company has released a statement saying as many as 56 million payment cards “may have been” compromised due to a “massive cyber breach” of the businesses’ payment network.

That’s a lot of frustrated home improvers. The breach, which now holds the dubious title of “Worse than Target,” has consumers reconsidering the convenience versus risk associated with plastic payments.

According to the report, Home Depot said “customized malware” may have been present on its network as far back as April 2014. They discovered the breach on September 2. Worse, the company had to find out about the breach after industry watchdogs publicized information from banks associated with the network. That set off a firestorm of questions Home Depot was woefully ill equipped to answer. Now, weeks after the fact, the company’s PR team has released its first lengthy statement.

The report did stipulate that only brick and mortar stores were affected. According to the release, no online buyers were put at risk. While Home Depot claims the malware has been removed and is no longer a risk, consumers are still concerned. Now two major US retailers have been successfully infiltrated, so smart money says more will fall sooner rather than later.

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These entirely valid concerns should trigger next steps for every major American retailer that accepts credit or debit cards. First, they should step up their protection and detection efforts, not leaving it to outsiders and banks to catch the digital bad guys. Second, the companies need to redouble their communication efforts to assure their customers of the safety of their networks. Details aren’t necessary—the average consumer wouldn’t understand them anyway. But simple and clear reassurances are necessary. Because the next big box store to get hit may trigger plummeting consumer trust that would take years to fully recover and if it did they would have to do something drastic to recover. If they end up in this situation, to work towards regaining the trust of its consumers, they might want to consider using a company that offers cybersecurity. There are many companies that offer this, however, one example would be Fraud Watch International (which can be found at These services can be used to help outsource their cybersecurity needs to ensure that this won’t happen again. Otherwise, the industry might see an unfortunate decline and this is something which businesses don’t want to happen. So it is better to make sure that things like card transactions are secure when people are making a purchase at a store.

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Ronn Torossian is the Founder & Chairman of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently owned PR firms in the United States. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth and vision, with the agency earning accolades including being named a Top 50 Global PR Agency by PRovoke Media, a top three NYC PR agency by O'Dwyers, one of Inc. Magazine's Best Workplaces and being awarded multiple American Business Awards, including a Stevie Award for PR Agency of the Year. With over 25 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected public relations executives. Throughout his career he has advised leading and high-growth businesses, organizations, leaders and boards across corporate, technology and consumer industries. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications. He has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly in the media and has authored two editions of his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations," which is an industry best-seller. Torossian's strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, a Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, and a recipient of Crain's New York Most Notable in Marketing & PR. Outside of 5W, Torossian serves as a business advisor to and investor in multiple early stage businesses across the media, B2B and B2C landscape. Torossian is the proud father of two daughters. He is an active member of the Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and a board member of multiple not for profit organizations.