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July 13, 2022 • by Alexandra & Andrew

Digital Security for eCommerce: How to Prevent Info Leacks and Cyber Attacks

Business
E-commerce development
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Ecommerce platforms experience over 2200 cyber attacks every day — that’s about 39 cyber attacks per second. And during the pandemic, the malicious actors behind these attacks became more creative, incorporating advanced methods to breach security and defraud businesses.

 

In response to this spike in digital insecurity, businesses have started investing massively in eCommerce security to prevent data loss and avoid going under.

 

In this article, we’ll explore common security threats facing eCommerce platforms. Continue reading to discover how you can best predict, prevent, and recover from cyberattacks.

 

 

Common security threats to eCommerce platforms

 

Here are the common cyber threats that eCommerce and retail platforms must watch out for.

 

 

Financial fraud

 

The easiest and most common cyber attack in eCommerce is financial fraud. The perpetrators don’t need any special equipment; rather, they exploit loopholes in a company’s security perimeter to defraud unsuspecting business owners of their hard-earned money.

 

Some financial fraud examples include:

  • Credit card fraud — when a criminal steals credit card info and sells that info to bidders on the black market.
  • Chargeback fraud — when a criminal asks for a refund for a disputed transaction in the name of the original purchaser.
  • Interception fraud — when criminals order stuff with your card and intercept the package before it gets to you.

 

 

Malware

 

A “malware” is any malicious software that invades your network and wreaks havoc on your business with or without your knowledge.

 

Some common malware attacks include:

  • Viruses — like the Trojan Horse virus that downloads onto a computer disguised as a legitimate program.
  • Spyware — this refers to software that enables a perpetrator to transmit and access data from your network without detection.
  • Ransomware — malware that prevents you from accessing your network until you meet the demands of the perpetrators. The WannaCry cyber attack remains one of the most famous ransomware attacks in recent memory.

 

 

Bots

 

A bot is an automated device/entity/account passing off as a human. According to research by Kount, a subsidiary of Equifax, bots account for over 40% of internet traffic — and if you’ve ever used Instagram or Twitter, you know full well that they are a menacing plague.

 

 

Spam

 

Attackers can use spam content to promote their illegal activities on your site, thus harming your business’ reputation. In other cases, attackers can use spam to target potential phishing victims.

 

According to DataProt, spam accounts for 80% of all emails sent — and they cost businesses $20.5 billion annually. And besides that, search engines will penalize your domain for having spam content, leading to further reputational and financial damage.

 

 

Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)

 

This form of cyber attack involves injecting malicious JS code into an eCommerce site with the aim of making it vulnerable to further attacks.

 

Source: Imperva

 

Anytime someone views the affected page, the malicious script becomes active and transmits session cookies to the attackers. From here, they can gain access to your users’ data.

 

 

Phishing

 

Cyber attackers often target their victims through email and SMS messages. They’ll pose as legitimate companies and convince you to share your login details with them, or on their website.

 

More sophisticated phishing attacks use an advanced social engineering technique to target highly-placed individuals within an organization. This is called spear phishing.

 

 

DoS and DDoS attacks

 

DoS (denial of service) and DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks target specific eCommerce platforms, rendering them unusable while the attack lasts. As the name suggests, a DDoS attack denies users access to your online store — especially impactful during a promo you’re running or over the holiday season.

 

 

SQL injection

 

If you don’t have enough firewall protection on your SQL database, attackers can inject malicious queries to gain access to sensitive information.

 

 

Brute force tactics

 

The motivation behind any brute force attack is to guess the password to your platform’s admin panel. Attacks use automated attacks to guess your password repeatedly in the hopes of striking gold. And if your password is weak, you might as well hand over the access codes on a platter to the perpetrators.

 

 

E-skimming

 

E-skimming involves the unlawful acquisition of personal data and credit card info from eCommerce websites. The attacker gains access to your site — usually through brute force or phishing attacks — and embeds malicious code to help them steal your credit card data in real time.

 

 

Why care about security?

 

As the owner of a small business, you might be wondering why you need to invest in cyber security. After all, perpetrators surely won’t be interested in your singular website in a gigantic sea of other eCom businesses, right?

 

Well, hold your flying horses — here are the reasons why caring about cyber security isn’t just important; it’s essential for eCommerce websites.

 

 

Reputational risks & many lost customers

 

The stigma of being associated with a cyber attack will keep customers away from your website. Let’s be real: nobody wants to shop at a compromised online store — and can you blame them?

 

When cybercriminals attacked Travelex with ransomware in 2020, the company had to pay $2.3 million to restore operations to normal.

 

While the saga lasted, several Travelex users jumped ship to other foreign-exchange kiosks. To this day, the company is trying to shake off that stigma.

 

 

Loss of commercial data

 

An SQL injection attack can wipe all the data in your business database without a trace. If your business relies on data — like most modern eCommerce platforms — any data loss or breach can disrupt operations for a long time.

 

Estee Lauder suffered a malware attack that exposed over 440 million customer records. Although the cosmetic giant recovered from this loss, small businesses might struggle to stay viable after such a massive breach.

 

 

Risks of legal action

 

Experiencing a cyber attack on your eCommerce platform will harm your business, but the ensuing lawsuits from affected customers will take you to the cleaners — and possibly put you in debt.

 

If your legal team can prove that the breach did not result from negligence on your part, then you might survive the legal process unscathed.

 

Even though Equifax somehow went scot-free after exposing the data of over 143 million people, your business might not have a formidable legal team to pull you out of a similar debacle.

 

 

Permanent business closure

 

Sometimes the cost of fixing the business’ reputation and restoring operations might be so high that the only option would be to close up shop permanently.

 

After the Heritage Company suffered a ransomware attack, the company’s CEO decided to pay the ransom to recover the decryption key. Unfortunately, the company had to let go of all 300 employees before closing permanently.

 

 

How to secure your eCommerce platform

 

Here are tips for securing your eCommerce platform from potential cyber threats.

 

 

Pick a proven and up-to-date eCommerce platform

 

Shopify, WooCommerce, and Magento use advanced encryption to secure user data. These platforms also offer plugins that allow you to protect your sensitive data from unauthorized access.

 

 

Pay attention to the backend architecture

 

Use multi-layer security to protect your eCommerce website’s backend architecture. Some of the features that can bolster your backend defense include:

  • A web application firewall
  • Geo-location restriction software
  • Spam detection and irregular activity detection software
  • A content delivery network (CDN) to deliver your content through caching

 

 

Choose https over http

 

All eCommerce websites transfer files via HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol). But there is one problem: this transfer protocol is not secure. If you are using HTTP, you absolutely must switch your domain to the more secure HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure).

 

HTTPS combines HTTP and Secure Socket Layer (SSL) / Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocols. And most importantly, it adds extra strata of security to the information shared between your server and the browser.

 

 

Choose a secure host

 

When choosing a website hosting service, you need to make sure they follow security regulations as well as provide standard anti-malware features. Some things to look out for when choosing a hosting provider include:

  • SSL certificate
  • Firewall
  • Automatic updates
  • Spam filters
  • PCI compliance
  • Domain privacy
  • DDoS protection
  • Malware detection
  • SSH and other access controls

 

 

Establish “strong password” rules

 

 

If you are using passwords like “1234” or “adminpassword,” you might as well roll out the red carpet for hackers. Such weak passwords take just a few minutes or hours of brute force attacks to crack.

 

Source: PatternDrive

 

You need to create strong passwords that contain numbers and special characters as well as a mixture of lowercase and uppercase letters. Use the graph above as a guideline to teach all site admins the importance of increasing the password difficulty.

 

 

Implement 2-factor authentication

 

Two-factor authentication (also known as two-step verification or 2SV) is an extra layer of security distinct from your primary password. This security feature requests a unique one-time password that is usually sent to the email or phone number attached to your account.

 

Depending on your business’ size, you can also use the Google or Microsoft authenticators as alternative security checkpoints.

 

 

Secure the admin panel

 

Your admin panel is the beating heart of your eCommerce platform — this is where all the data is stored. With that in mind, you should secure it like a Swiss bank vault.

 

Start by providing individual access credentials to authorized users based on privilege — literally called privileged access management (PAM) in the cybersecurity community. This will help you figure out the source of the breach if it is internal.

 

Next, you need to change the default admin settings. And don’t forget to choose a strong password. Most importantly, use advanced plugins to receive notifications when someone tries to log in from a suspicious IP address.

 

 

Automate data backups

 

Always create an automated schedule for backing up your data to a different server. If you are worried about storage, you can use cloud infrastructure to back up your data. And cloud tools like AWS and Azure provide additional security as well as unlimited storage space, usually for a subscription fee.

 

 

Educate your staff

 

The best way to prevent cyber attacks is to inform your staff about things to expect, including ways to spot fraudulent phishing emails. Since most cyber attacks use social engineering to find the weakest security link in your organization, educating your employees will limit the frequency and probability of these attacks.

 

 

Be careful when installing plugins

 

Not all plugins in the library are there to protect your site from hackers. Some malicious plugins inject dangerous code into your site’s infrastructure, from which they can gain backdoor access to your admin panel.

 

So, always vet every plugin or third-party integration before installing it into your eCommerce platform. To be extra secure, use only plugins recommended by the platform.

 

 

Schedule regular website health checks

 

Always conduct regular health checks for your eCommerce website to ensure everything is running like clockwork. If you don’t have time to conduct these checks, you can entrust them to professionals.

 

For example, a penetration tester can help you spot vulnerabilities within your business infrastructure. Alternatively, you can use tools like Google’s Webmaster Tools and Screaming Frog to deeply analyze your eCommerce website.

 

 

Final Thoughts

 

Cybersecurity threats and eCommerce platforms are inseparable. As online business continues to blossom and extend to many areas of life, hackers and criminals will look for ways to cash in as well. And the easiest way for cybercriminals to infiltrate your platform is through spyware, ransomware, and brute force attacks.

 

By choosing the best eCommerce security practices, you can protect your business from malicious actors. You will also keep your reputation and bottom line intact. And most importantly, consumers will continue shopping on your platform with peace of mind.

 

 

Written by

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Alexandra

Marketing Manager
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Andrew

Head of Dev Department

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