Cybersecurity best practices for E-commerce merchants

17 Sep 20205 min read

Global retail E-commerce sales are expected to reach $4.13 trillion this year as online buyers converge on their preferred platforms to buy essentials, luxuries, and everything in between. As online retail continues to gather speed, E-commerce platforms are being targeted by cybercriminals looking to hack sensitive customer information and scam unsuspecting people. According to the FBI IC3 2019 Internet Crime Report, global E-commerce merchants reported a loss of over $3.5 billion to cyberattacks. This is why online merchants must secure their E-commerce websites and establish robust security measures to safeguard their data.

So, how can you protect your E-commerce platform and protect customer data?

Know the areas of your platform to fortify

E-commerce merchants need to keep tabs on several channels, including:

Admin side access

Admin portals shouldn't be easily accessible from just about any IP address.

Ensure you lock down cPanels so only permitted IP addresses can access your servers. Next, check if directories have the correct permissions. For example, you'll need to remove all 777 permissions that allow virtually anyone to read, write, and modify files.

Want to take it a step further? Install panel notifications for unknown IP log-in attempts that will alert you and other admins of any suspicious activity.

Get a reliable VPN

Financial transactions over public networks are vulnerable to Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) attacks where malicious users attempt to intercept information being transmitted.

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) offers the best security in situations like these. It encrypts connections to secure offsite servers, eliminating the threat of third-party users who may be trying to intercept your data transmissions.

If you are looking to save costs opt for SSL-based VPNs, these are relatively affordable and still offer similar security specifications.

Infrastructure security

Hackers are employing increasingly sophisticated tools to attack and phish information from online businesses. This means you can't prevent malware attacks by simply installing anti-virus software.

It may be time to invest in powerful application firewalls that let you block communications from unknown domains, and help regulate incoming and outgoing traffic.

Similarly, plugins also help to watch out for and deny unauthorized access to your infrastructure. These tools offer selective permeability that grants permission only to trusted users.

User data

44% of organizations reported over 500,000 customer records stolen over last year alone.

This is cause for concern as losing personal and financial information of your customers can be the reason for a lawsuit and mar your reputation as a responsible business, discouraging others from visiting your site or buying from you.

This is a liability you want to avoid. As a best practice, you should never store customers' credit card information on your servers. In the event of an attack, this leaves their information unprotected and exposed to misuse.

You might expect clients to get frustrated by re-entering their payment information time and time again. However, they'll be more than understanding of this once you take the time to explain that this is crucial to protecting them from fraud.

Likewise, guide your employees on how to manage sensitive customer information, and ensure they adhere to mandated security protocols, like non-disclosure of users' personal data via email.

Workspace security

Online retailers can (and should) secure their SaaS and cloud-based workspaces against data breaches. Given that your employees access and manage sensitive company data on the cloud, centralizing this information can shield you from data leaks and theft.

To add to that, requiring employees to people to use multifactor authentication can prevent unauthorized access to corporate apps and files - thus strengthening your workspace security.

Personal training

Simply put, one of the safest ways you can avoid malicious attacks and protect your business is to monitor your site for any suspicious activity.

You can leverage monitoring software that tracks user activity in real-time and notifies you of irregular behavior (in the case of cookied users) as well as questionable transactions.

Security measures to implement

E-commerce cybersecurity measures

Internal audit

Regular internal audits can help you investigate red flags and identify phony profiles. They also highlight potential threats to your online business, such as customer information scrapping, malicious attack footprint, business logic abuse, and more.

Some areas you might want to reviews include:

  • Security perimeter
  • Consumer activity
  • Data integrity

3rd-party audit

Conduct an inventory of any third-party solutions you run within your business. Continually assess their performance, and if you're not using them, remove their integrations from your systems.

Ideally, you should aim to allow as limited access to your data as possible. If you're not sure where to start, external auditing services can help you assess the value of your inventory - and where you can eliminate threats.

Employees training

More than 80% of reported security risks are made up of phishing attacks - which are also widely recognized as the top data breach threat to organizations today. It's also one of the easiest ways that malicious users can access your database and misuse both customer and employee data.

If employees can recognize suspicious emails, they'd be less likely to give up sensitive information in the wrong hands. According to Barracuda Networks, spear-phishing emails were up by 667% in March alone.

Educate your staff about security best practices and inform them of how to defend themselves against spammy emails and phishing links left in comments on your website. Urge them to alert these IDs to management, who can then take action to identify and eliminate the threat.

Disaster recovery

In the event of a data breach, the best security measure you can take is to make frequent backups of your E-commerce website and mission-critical data. This way, it becomes easier to retrieve information from your hosting provider and restore normalcy to your platform as soon as possible.

Ensure you have a plan in place for managing customer concerns and securing your business during this time, as you'll need to reassure customers you have things under control.

Plan testing

As an added safety precaution, perform regular vulnerability scans across your E-commerce website and assess security gaps that hackers can exploit. This is crucial, especially when you're testing out new features and functionality before updates go live.

Key takeaways

Research states approximately 445 million cyberattacks have occurred since the start of 2020.

It only takes one successful attempt to access your database - and your entire business is compromised. Protect your brand and your reputation by evaluating your security measures and consider how each can be optimized to fortify your business against external threats.

Ultimately, offering your clients robust security in the face of data threats will help you build their confidence and gain their loyalty.

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