Table of Contents
- How to Protect Your Ecommerce Site From Cybercriminals
- The Cybersecurity Risks of Ecommerce
- How to Make an Ecommerce Website Secure
Ecommerce is booming and is being promoted on all social media platforms.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic pushed more people to shop from home, it was clear that ecommerce is one of the best ways you can make money online.
But that doesn’t mean that it’s without risks.
Quite the opposite in fact; it’s precisely because ecommerce has such potential to make money that it’s essential to plan carefully if you want to mitigate risk and maximize your own profits.
From malware to phishing attacks, there are many avenues of attack that you need to be aware of.
A serious data breach costs a company an average of over $3,000,000.
And with an ecommerce store universally acknowledged as such a profitable business to run, it’s also a profitable type of business for criminals to attack.
You might think your small business isn’t large enough for cybercriminals to target you, or that you don’t need to worry about common security threats in ecommerce.
But think again:
A 2020 industry survey showed that nearly two-thirds of all companies had their data potentially compromised within the last twelve months, due to a hardware- or silicon-level security breach.
It’s essential to be aware of the security risk of ecommerce and think about ecommerce safety and taking security measures in order to protect your online business.
With that in mind, the first step in security is being aware of what types of ecommerce threats are out there, so this article will give you some web security tips to help you keep your business safe.
Here’s a list of the major ecommerce shopping site security risks that you should keep in mind:
The Cybersecurity Risks of Ecommerce
Obviously, there are a wide variety of possible ecommerce security threats, but this list covers the most important ones you need to be aware of.
And they’re twice as dangerous if you run an ecommerce site.
• Brute Force Attacks
As you might expect from the name, Brute Force attacks involve cybercriminals getting your password not through theft, trickery, or some complicated hacking ecommerce website method, but by “brute forcing” the possible passwords.
Oftentimes, a computer program that’s able to automatically attempt to login with a large number of password combinations will be used until they hit the right one.
This is why secure passwords often require you to have at least 8 characters or include at least one symbol or uppercase letter.
If your password only uses lowercase letters and is just 4 letters long, a computer program could try every possible 4-letter combination very swiftly and end up with your password in short order.
After all, a lowercase 4-letter password has less than half a million possibilities so would be considered low-hanging fruit.
Meanwhile, an 8-letter strong password that may include symbols, numbers, and uppercase letters, has more than half a trillion possibilities, which would take a brute force attack over one million times as long to crack.
And you definitely don’t want a password that can be easily gotten with a brute force attack.
This may include everything from proprietary data, customer records, and credit card details to the ability to make changes to your website that you might not find out about until it’s too late.
• Code Injections
A code injection, like a SQL injection, is a way for hackers to encrypt “inject” or some malicious code into your ecommerce site, which will then end up running as if it was a command that you had given.
Generally your ecommerce website works by responding to queries and commands that you provide as the site administrator.
This often happens when your site takes user-supplied data and passes it insecurely directly to a system shell.
Because this data was not handled securely, your system receives the command in the data and treats it as a valid command.
A simple way to understand it is to imagine that your ecommerce site is a voice-activated assistant like Amazon’s Alexa, where you can make purchases by saying things like “Alexa, buy more lightbulbs”.
Now imagine that malicious hackers from a hotdog company are operating a radio commercial, and the radio commercial is just 30 seconds of a man saying “Alexa, buy more hotdogs. Alexa, buy more hotdogs.”
If Alexa hears the voice command and treats it as valid, suddenly your program has spent your money on hotdogs that you didn’t want.
If Alexa doesn’t have a way to distinguish user input from administrator input, then anyone can issue a command and take over your system.
An ecommerce site without data protection works exactly the same way.
A piece of code that is basically a malicious command can be hidden in the user input, and if your system can’t distinguish between user input and administrator input, then those commands will be carried out, no matter who sent them.
Code injections like this can often be used to query databases and send proprietary information or customer information in bulk to the hackers.
In some cases, commands could involve forcing your website to delete a lot of essential data.
• Cross-Site Scripting
Cross-Site Scripting is a way for attackers to have their own code piggyback on your website, so when a user visits your website, through web browsers like Google or other search engines, the attacker’s code that has become embedded will run automatically.
This could even redirect the user away from your site to a similar-looking copy, in some cases.
In other cases, it won’t interfere with the operation of your website, because attackers want your website to appear unaffected so more and more users will activate their malicious code.
That includes not only any information the user typed in an input field, but saved information from payment gateways like PayPal, and any cookies as well.
Attackers can steal those cookies and then impersonate the user from any IP address at a future point in time.
Cross-Site scripting can also allow the attacker to redirect the user to a cloned site where the attacker can extract additional sensitive information and credentials, or carry out other attacks on the user’s computer.
• Customer-End Vulnerabilities
Just because you are focused on ecommerce security doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider customer-end vulnerabilities as well.
You can have the world’s best internet security tools and plugins in place for your website, but if your customers all get hacked, you’re still going to have problems.
Maybe you know everything there is to know about how ecommerce portals make shopping cart checkout secure, and you have secure pages with everything encrypted.
But your customers all chose “123“ as their password, which means that hackers are easily able to log into your site with your customers’ personal data.
You might think that this is your customers’ problem and not yours.
Likewise, if customer data is stolen from your website and used for nefarious purposes elsewhere, it could severely damage your company’s reputation.
The PCI DSS Council (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard Council), have a list of 12 important requirements to assist businesses with their own procedures to prohibit credit card fraud and ensure a positive customer experience.
• DDoS Attacks
Short for “Distributed Denial of Service”, DdoS attacks basically mean that attackers will spam your website with thousands of simultaneous logon attempts, or tens of thousands, or however many are necessary for your site infrastructure to become completely overwhelmed and crash entirely.
Although a DdoS attack doesn’t usually steal data or run malicious code like many cyber attacks, that doesn’t mean it’s not something to be concerned about.
A DdoS attack will often take your website offline for an extended period of time.
During that timeframe you’re not making any money, and losing out on lots of business – not only your average profits over the duration of your site being down, but also the future business from potential customers who tried to use your site, couldn’t get it to load, bought from a competitor instead, and will now become regular customers of your competitor.
One of the most common types of online attacks is “Malware”, which is short for malicious software, and covers any type of nefarious program ranging from password-stealing spyware to computer-locking ransomware.
Malware is a risk to be uploaded directly to your website, but more often malware is passed along through infected files.
If you’ve ever been told not to open random files you get in email, malware is the reason.
(Also, I really hope you’ve already been told that.)
With the malicious software now running in your operating system, you might have your customer data copied, financial information stolen, or even have your entire system either erased or temporarily locked down until you pay a ransom.
• Zero-Day Exploits
Zero Day exploits are named for the fact that they happen zero days after a new upgrade or version of a program.
Because the hackers identify and exploit the vulnerability so soon after the program version’s release and wide adoption, cybersecurity experts who try to stop hackers haven’t yet had time to put defenses in place.
Patches are usually released to deal with the vulnerability – an essential reason to keep all your patches up to date!
– but until the patch happens a zero-day vulnerability is one of the ecommerce shopping site security risks that you need to be aware of.
Phew, that’s a lot of security threats in ecommerce!
But don’t let that scare you off; any profitable business has its risks, and ecommerce is no different.
You can protect your business with these important web security features:
How to Make an Ecommerce Website Secure
When it comes to cybersecurity, ecommerce safety and security demands that your business has a plan in place, even before growth hacking.
This means a multi-pronged approach to common threats in ecommerce, where you put in place technical solutions, policy solutions, and clear communication.
We’ll talk about technical solutions and policy solutions in a minute, but first, let’s discuss why communication is important.
You want to protect your ecommerce website’s data and money from being damaged.
But your reputation is just as important.
A company with repeated data breaches will lose customer and investor confidence, and soon find their stakeholder base looking for alternative websites with better security.
That’s why it’s essential to be pro-active when it comes to communication with your stakeholders.
You want to make sure that your commitment to strong cybersecurity is a message that you are sending out clearly in all forms of communication, from email updates to webinars.
Show customers that you care about security vulnerabilities by encouraging them to take safety precautions in their online transactions.
And then prove that your online store is secure and reliable by following these essential cybersecurity policies and procedures.
• Use Firewall and Antivirus Software
When it comes to ecommerce security, you need a multi-layered approach to deal with the various malicious threats to your system in real time.
A Firewall protects you from unauthorized network traffic connections from outside your private network.
Antivirus software, like Saas (software as a service), helps prevent cyber threats launching from files on your computer.
• Invest in Secure Ecommerce Platforms & Hosting
Given the various expenses in setting up an ecommerce website, you might be tempted to cut costs wherever you can and just buy the cheapest platform and web hosting company that you can find.
But doing so will likely cost you more money in the long run.
What should you look for in a hosting platform?
First of all, the same things your stakeholders will look for in your business – clear communication that security is a priority.
SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) protocols, trustworthy security certificates, and strong security credentials.
You want a platform that updates frequently to address any vulnerabilities, regularly monitors their network to look out for potential threats, and has plans in place for you to mitigate potential threats such as DdoS attacks.
• Use HTTPS on All Areas of Your Site
If you’re building an ecommerce site, you’re probably already aware that it’s essential to have HTTPS hosting on any pages where customers are entering their payment information.
HTTPS stands for HTTP Secure, with an SSL certificate used for encryption of all data that identifies the site you are giving your data to is the actual site that it says it is.
Most customers won’t feel safe entering credit card information on any page lacking that security lock icon certifying your company’s digital signature to vouchsafe their personal information.
Your ecommerce site should be using a web server that has HTTPS hosting on all of your pages, to make sure that no cybercriminals are stealing any of your customer information.
• Use Role-Based Access Control
While technical solutions are an important part of any ecommerce security solution, if you want to know how ecommerce portals can make online shopping secure, the other half of the answer is policy solutions.
One of the most essential policies for any ecommerce business owner is role-based access control, especially for larger online retailers.
The theory behind this is very simple:
Every employee can only access the data and systems relevant to their job.
In practice, this means that your customer service staff would have access to all customer transaction history, but not your product database.
If you hire a contractor to work on your product database, you don’t give them access to your customer history.
Every employee only gets access to the systems and information they need to do their job.
There’s no reason that every employee at your company should have access to your full system including any stored credit card data or intellectual property.
• Be Cautious With Customer Data
Naturally, one of the biggest ecommerce shopping site security risks is the possibility of having a big trove of customer data stolen.
Cybercriminals are looking for anything they can sell for money, so the more information you have stored, the bigger a jackpot raiding your company will be – and the worse off your customers will be if there is a data breach.
That means while saving a customer’s shipping address and phone number to save time might be a good idea, saving customer credit card numbers won’t save much time but will create a much bigger information security risk and vastly raise the odds for online fraud or even identity theft.
• Back Up Your Data
While you don’t want to hold on to sensitive customer data, you very much DO want to hold onto your important data that allows your business to run.
Malicious attacks hacking ecommerce websites can destroy your data, whether through a virus that erases the data, or just ransomware that denies you access to it.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to protect yourself is to back up your critical data regularly, so that if the worst does happen and your data is attacked, you can resort to your backup.
So you definitely want to back up your data. However, there are a few ways to go about it.
• Local backups such as external hard drives or USB sticks involve backing up all your files to a physical object that you have on hand.
These physical objects are very secure as long as you have them in hand (since nobody else can access them), but can also be easily lost.
• Cloud backups are more commonly chosen for ecommerce businesses, since it can be automated on a regular schedule, is easier to restore from, and doesn’t involve keeping track of any physical media.
Many services will offer regular cloud backups, at a cost.
• Full backups will copy over your complete data set, and if you’re doing local backups, that’s generally your option.
This is better for restoring things, but can take a long time to do frequently and eats up storage space.
• Incremental backups are available with most cloud backup solutions, and only backup data that has changed since the previous backup.
This is one of the main advantages of cloud backups, since it allows all backups after the first to take less storage space, and to happen much faster.
Hopefully this article has helped you navigate the security risks of ecommerce.
It may seem like a lot to keep in mind, but overall the important thing is simply to use best practices to protect your business, to ensure that your ecommerce business not only lets you make money, but lets you keep it!