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Why your e-commerce business needs cyber security talent

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As online retail sales increase, so do cyberattacks.


By U2B Staff 

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Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, online retail therapy has become a major trend, but as retail sales increase, so do threats in cybersecurity. According to the Global Information Security Survey by Ernst and Young, customer information is the most valuable type of data, targeted by most attackers. The threat to cybersecurity and privacy is increasing and 59% of organisations have faced a significant incident in the past 12 months.

The National Retail Federation’s 2020 Consumer Holiday Survey found that 60% of consumers say they plan to purchase holiday items online this year and 91% plan to take advantage of free shipping. These consumers expect to spend US$998 on average, on items such as gifts, food, decorations, and other holiday-related purchases.

Consumers all over the world have benefited from the shift to e-commerce. It’s a convenient, reliable, and ultimately a safer alternative in the midst of a pandemic. While simply adding to cart and checking out has been helping businesses get by, the explosive growth in online activity presents lucrative opportunities for cyber criminals alike. 

E-commerce holiday sales are expected to generate between US$182 billion and US$196 billion this season, a year-over-year increase of 25% to 35%, according to Deloitte’s annual forecast. Overall holiday spending, on the other hand, will top out at $1.15 trillion with a relatively flat increase of 1.5%.

Cybercrime is exceedingly dangerous to both online businesses and consumers. Businesses are at risk of suffering a loss of reputation, loss of customer data and trust, business disruption, and financial damage that is oftentimes hard to recover from due to legal fees. 

Meanwhile for customers, experiencing an attack could lead to financial loss, identity theft, stolen credentials, and theft of medical data along with other types of private and sensitive information. 

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The effects of attacks on cybersecurity systems are very real, very present, and expected to escalate as we enter the holiday season. It is important for online retailers to protect their data by being aware of the threats they are up against. Here are key cybersecurity threats retailers need to cautious of, highlighted by the team at NordVPN:

Magecart/E-skimming 

Web-skimming, or magecart, is an attack where malware infects online checkout pages to steal payment and personal information of shoppers. Magecart is a very common type of attack in e-commerce and is attributed to 7 to 12 attack groups, who are behind the theft of millions of online shoppers’ credit card information.

Overall, there have been an average of 425 Magecart incidents per month in 2020. In many cases, attackers deploy social engineering tactics, such as sending shoppers a bogus promotion for a site. When shoppers respond to the fake offer, they enter their personal data on a page that is actually a skimming scam.

The Gocgle’s malicious campaign, which hit hundreds of shopping websites, demonstrates how hackers used Google’s legitimate tool for impersonation in order to compromise the code and steal valuable information.

In November 2019, Macy’s confirmed there was a credit card-skimming Magecart malware on its checkout and wallet pages just as Black Friday and the holiday shopping season approached. Macy’s indicated that the malware allowed a third party to capture customers’ data on the pages if they input their credit card information and clicked “Place order.”

Third-party vendors

The fact that there are multiple third-party vendors that support online sales further exposes retailers to possible threats. Cybercriminals often target third parties because they’re the weak links in the supply chain. On average, e-commerce sites use 40 to 60 third-party tools and intend to add three to five new third-party technologies each year, amplifying the risks.

Outdated or fake plugins also add to the risk package. When used on companies’ websites, these compromised plugins can lead to the spread of malware.

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Open-source vulnerabilities

Open-source software uses code that anyone can view, modify, or enhance. And while it has been hugely valuable to e-commerce businesses, it also carries a number of cybersecurity challenges.

“Open-source software is popular because it is often free to use or can be modified to suit the individual needs of a business. But this popularity means that any vulnerabilities found in the code can be a massive problem across a huge number of websites. Add the changes COVID-19 has brought, and the problem has intensified even more. Companies should really start making technical improvements to their websites fast if they want to avoid a potentially catastrophic breach. If they continue using unpatched, open-source software with vulnerabilities, they’ll leave themselves open to attacks,” commented Juta Gurinaviciute, chief technology officer at NordVPN Teams.

Other cybersecurity threats

Other security threats to e-commerce sites include phishing, ransomware, SQL injection, DDoS attacks, and cross-site scripting (XSS). “The minute retailers see unusual traffic patterns, they should assume an attack designed to slow the site down, take it offline, or steal data is underway,” Gurinaviciute added.

How can you protect your e-commerce site?

E-commerce security is never a done deal. Threats and hacking methodologies evolve at an alarming rate, so maintaining awareness and a security-focused mindset is a key to staying secure. Layering multiple solutions for business security is one of the best ways to keep an online business safe against cyber-attacks.

  • Implement Zero Trust: It’s essential to enforce zero-trust solutions that restrict third parties to information the website has authorised them to access while blocking access to consumers’ private and payment information, also known as “least privilege.”
  • View your site as a customer: Too many businesses only see their website as it appears on the server-side, instead of viewing it from the customer’s browser perspective. The browser page is what customers “see” when they shop, and these pages are subject to compromise. Therefore, you need to assess what you’re doing to protect your pages once they leave the webserver.
  • Implement firewalls (including web application firewalls): This ensures the connection is secure and passwords are strong, implementing multi-factor authentication, using intrusion detection systems, and constantly monitoring and updating web platforms.