Digital Retail & Technology

Cybersecurity Strategies for Digitally Evolved Retailers

March 29, 2022

This article is provided by Reshift Media, a Canadian-based digital marketing and development organization specializing in retail businesses.

It is common to assume that a cyber-attack won’t happen to your retail business… until it does. Retail is high on the list of industries that are prone to cyber-attacks and have more data breaches overall than other sectors.

As a retailer, protecting your customers, as well as your own business, is paramount. While there are several ways to handle threats to cybersecurity when they happen, much of it comes down to pre-planning to avoid attacks in the first place. Investing in cybersecurity has skyrocketed, and 66% of Canadian organizations expect their cyber budgets to increase this year, compared to 56% in 2021.

Consumers want to feel secure when they make a purchase, especially as e-commerce sales are on a steady incline. However, current reports have found that 62% of consumers do not feel confident that their personal data is secure with retailers, which can often lead to feelings of poor customer satisfaction, especially for retailers who do not follow or display secure measures. With extremely personal details like names, addresses, and credit card information involved in the purchasing process, fine-tuning your cybersecurity strategies as a retailer is key to ensuring there is peace of mind for everyone involved.

Below we have listed some of the strategies to keep in mind when forging a cybersecurity path for your retail business.

Update software

Just as you would keep up with the latest software on your personal computer, the same should apply to any software and operating systems that you use as a retailer. Older versions of software are easily vulnerable to cyber threats, and as new updates and patches come along with new security features, it is important to install the latest and greatest versions to avoid affecting your entire business.

Remember, you may often need to manually update software, as it is not always an automatic process. Frequently checking what needs to be updated will help ensure your software never becomes out of date.

Keep employees cyber-aware

Latest reports have found that 56% of security incidents resulted from insider employee negligence (i.e., clicking on phishing links, malware attacks, lack of password protection, etc.). In fact, it costs organizations almost $15.4 million a year to deal with insider threats, which has significantly increased over the years.

One of the most important things retailers can do is train employees about cybersecurity, so that everyone in the organization is aware of the threats that can impact customers and businesses. The majority of data breaches begin with compromised passwords, and one of the leading reasons for this is by sharing and reusing passwords.

Networks that contain a great deal of information are targets because hackers can obtain data more in one place. When the passwords protecting this information are distributed to different individuals within a business, such as a number of employees, there is more of a risk involved that it could be compromised. This is why planning and monitoring who has access to what system should be planned with care, and two-factor authentication should be added wherever possible.

Engaging in regular cybersecurity awareness training to educate employees on what the most popular threats are, what to look for, and how to avoid them within your specific business, can help strengthen your efforts, which translates directly to the comfort level consumers have when making purchases.

Use data encryption

There are various types of customer data that retailers have access to including personal and transactional data, location data (i.e., IP address), browsing habit data, and profile data (i.e., demographics). All of this data has its own threats, and securing each type is important.

One way to do so is through data encryption, which adds protection while data is transported from one location to the next. E-commerce retailers, in particular, host a slew of data, such as credit card information, login credentials, and more. One way to help secure this is by implementing an SSL Certification on their website to ensure there is encryption between the website and the consumer’s browser. Not only are there benefits for the retailer, but it also gives peace of mind to the consumer that the website they are making purchases and saving information on is secure.

Use multi-factor authentication for transactions

Implementing multi-factor authentication processes when customers perform transactions, such as reCAPTCHA requests, can not only ensure that checkouts are secure, but it can also give customers peace of mind that there are steps in place for added security. Often just noticing these extra steps are enough to comfort customers when they are inputting sensitive information.

For e-commerce retailers, including multiple identification processes, such as requiring customers to input an extra passcode before logging into their account, can be another way that helps illustrate the website they are on is safe, which also helps retailers know that this is a real customer and not a malicious user or bot. 

Secure self-service kiosks

As a result of the pandemic, more retailers have implemented buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) strategies, which has resulted in more technology in physical stores. For instance, kiosks have been a popular choice among retailers, as they can assist in finding items, the checkout process, and more.

Kiosks and other point-of-sale machines can be subject to attacks, as customer credit or debit card information could be stolen if a fraudulent machine is used unknowingly to the retailer. One way to help prevent this is by using anti-malware on each terminal within your store and implementing network segmentation, which divides a network into multiple segments so that each one can act as its own smaller network. This can help limit the spread of the attack or data breach, which can help retailers gain better control over the situation.

Have a recovery plan in place

While many cyber-attacks can be prevented, it is always a good idea for retailers to have a recovery plan in place, so that if it does happen, you can be prepared. Some of the key steps in your plan should include:

  • How to stop and eliminate the breach.
  • Determine if there is a great deal of damage that has occurred from the threat and who is involved (i.e., do customers need to reset their account passwords, has credit card information been stolen, etc.).
  • Analyze how the attack might have occurred and then update and secure the software to prevent it from happening again.

Cyber-attacks can be overwhelming, but putting a solid protection plan in place from the jump will help ensure you and your customers’ information stays safe.

About Reshift Media

Reshift Media is a long-time partner of the Retail Council of Canada. The company is a Toronto-based digital marketing and development organization that provides leading-edge social media, search and website/mobile development services to retailers around the world. Please visit www.reshiftmedia.com to learn more.

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