Black Friday and Cyber Monday are undoubtedly two of the main reasons people all across the United States eagerly await the Thanksgiving weekend. As appealing as roast turkey and cranberry sauce is, it’s hard to beat 70% off and higher discounts.
Consumers and retailers aren’t the only ones to mark their calendars for these mega online sales. Cybercriminals and hackers do so, too.
Retail hacking is not a new trend. Over the years, as technology advanced and eCommerce took over a large part of the internet, retail cyber security breaches have become more frequent. It has been the industry most affected by cybersecurity attacks since 2019.
The online shopping frenzy due to Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals presents a prime opportunity for cybercriminals to find weak spots and gain access to secure systems. Billions worth of online transactions expected on Black Friday means millions of personal data that could potentially be stolen.
5 Ways Cyber Criminals Attack Online Retailers and Businesses
There are countless ways an expert cybercriminal can hack into or breach the defenses of your eCommerce website. Knowing the different cyber attack trends of concern can help you strengthen your cyber security measures.
Here are six popular methods cybercriminals use to compromise online retailers:
1. Credential Stuffing
Credential stuffing is one of the most common causes of security breaches. This cyber-attack method uses stolen usernames and passwords from past data breaches. Feeding these compromised credentials into a program or robot network, allows cybercriminals to try using them to login to multiple sites and accounts in a short period.
Since many people fail to observe proper password safety measures, i.e. not repeating passwords across multiple accounts, this can leave retailers open to security breaches.
E-skimming is also known as web skimming or “Magecart,” after the crime collective that popularized the method.
E-skimming involves using various methods to steal your customers’ personal information, such as their names, addresses, and credit card numbers. Malware that has been snuck into a retail website’s payment page is a popular method for e-skimmers to collect this information. Other ways include phishing attacks, social engineering, and exploiting out-of-date system vulnerabilities.
3. Website Attacks
Reports show that website cyber attacks have gone up considerably in 2020, with around half of these attacks all done against eCommerce websites. This falls in line with how heavily people relied on online shopping since the pandemic started last year.
Among the various ways cybercriminals can initiate website attacks, there are two that have been highly popular last year. These are:
- Remote Code Execution, which allows cyber attackers to take control of a computer, server, or network and make unauthorized changes remotely. This is often done using malware.
- Cross-site Scripting, which is client-side, code injection attacks. Malicious scripts or codes are placed into real web pages and can be used to steal customers’ information, change the content of your website, redirect visitors to other websites, and more.
4. Bad Bots
Bots are widely found online. Some, like chatbots, complete harmless and even helpful tasks to ensure smooth and seamless processes online. However, bad bots can cause damage and even temporarily crash your retail website. Due to this, bots are considered one of the top threats to retailers.
Automated malicious bots can perform Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks or generate fake website traffic and potentially overload or crash your website. They can also be programmed to automatically buy in-demand items in bulk, deplete your stock, and later resell the items at highly marked-up prices.
5. Retail Account Takeover (ATO) Fraud
Simply put, account takeover or ATO fraud is online identity theft. Cybercriminals gain control of and use legitimate accounts of actual customers or employees. Reports show that online retailers experienced almost double the amount of ATO fraud attacks than any other industry in 2020.
Stolen customer account login information can be used to redirect orders to other shipping locations, essentially stealing your product. This can be seen as legitimate or normal account activity and remain under the radar until your actual customer reports them.
E-commerce Security Measures to Protect Against Cyber Attacks
Improving your retail website’s cyber security measures before the big holiday shopping season is vital to prevent cyber-attacks. Here are a few ways to help secure your business against unwanted cybercriminal activity.
Conduct a Sitewide Audit for Vulnerabilities
To improve your eCommerce website’s cyber security, you must first find out what your weak spots are. Security vulnerabilities and potential cyber-attacks come in various forms and may come up in unexpected places.
As such, running security audits and searching for potential vulnerabilities is critical — especially before your Black Friday or Cyber Monday sale. If you are a solo entrepreneur or a small business owner, then it’s best to outsource this to professionals.
Hiring a team of IT or cyber security experts helps ensure that all potential weak spots in your system are identified and covered.
Use Up-to-Date Security Software
Using the latest security programs is a basic and expected security measure for any business. Constant updates can take some time and can be tempting to skip. After all, you can still use security software that isn’t regularly updated.
However, take note that the best security or anti-malware software may be rendered useless if you don’t update them regularly. Out-of-date software and patches can serve as entry points for malware and other cyber attacks.
Your security program shouldn’t be the only one you update regularly. It is also important to regularly update any website plug-ins, widgets, extensions, and third-party software. Moreover, it is best to backup your systems and files.
Add Extra Layers of Security
After covering your basic security measures, it’s time to consider additional layers of security. Some security essentials are:
- Secure Sockets Layer (SSL): a tool that prevents unauthorized access to the data that users send from your website to your database or between networked computers
- Transport Layer Security (TLS): a popularly used security protocol that is considered as the evolution of SSL; it performs a similar purpose to its predecessor
- Web Application Firewall (WAF): these are often cloud-based systems that protect your website service from malicious data that may pass through your data connection
Implement Multiple Identity Verification
Multi-step account or identity verification helps prevent hackers from easily using stolen login information to access your customers’ or employees’ accounts.
Here are three common variants of multi-step login methods:
- Two-factor Authentication (2FA): requires users to complete their login using a different personal device, such as by opening an app on their smartphone or tablet to login from their computer
- Multi-factor Authentication (MFA): similar to the 2FA, but has more than two authentication factors or additional login requirements
- Two-step Verification (2VA): the simplest of the three, a 2VA requires registered users to input a one-time pin (OTP) sent via text, email, or phone call.
Aside from adding multi-step logins, it is also important to regularly remind your customers to create strong and unique passwords for their accounts.
Ensure PCI Compliance
Make sure your online retail website complies with the Payment Card Industry’s strict requirements. This helps you maintain a secure payment gateway.
Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) requirements include the following:
- Using and properly maintaining firewalls to ensure secure networks
- Encrypting cardholder data transmissions
- Restricting access to cardholder data
- Tracking and monitoring networks with access to cardholder data
Although not required under the PCI-DSS, it is better to avoid storing any transaction data unless necessary.
Safeguard Your Profits and Reputation with Strong Cyber Security
Security breaches are potential death sentences to any profitable venture — and e-commerce retailers are no exception.
A Black Friday or Cyber Monday data breach would not only result in huge profit losses for your online retail business, but it could also irreparably damage your carefully built reputation. Instead of only hurting your sales and net margin for a day or two, a bad reputation may lead to your customers abandoning ship. It is to be expected for customers to be wary of further transactions with a brand that has become a victim of cyber-attacks.
In a 2019 consumer survey from Ping Identity, 81% of respondents said they would stop interacting or engaging with an online brand that suffered from a data breach. Strengthening your eCommerce website security — especially for the coming Black Friday weekend — is crucial. Working with a reputable and trustworthy company like Simple Plan IT is one way to ensure your security measures are up-to-date and up-to-par.
It’s not too late to shore up your cyber security. Make sure your online business’ defense measures can and will withstand any attacks from cybercriminals this Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you protect your business.