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Keeping your retail business safe from the cyber grinches

Dec 16, 20226 mins

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Credit: iStock

It’s not just retailers looking forward to the holiday shopping season; it’s also a time of plenty for cunning cybercriminals. While security and IT teams are working harder to manage online traffic spikes, maintain corporate operations and much more during this busy period, bad actors are taking the opportunity to launch targeted attacks.

There are many actions merchants can and should take to improve their cybersecurity, safeguard their brand, and provide their customers with a safer shopping experience over this busy shopping season – and beyond. And even though it might not be feasible with the holiday shopping season already in full swing to make major changes to your security strategy or implement new technology, there are still many things that retailers can do using existing resources to anticipate threats better and avoid disruption.

Attackers prioritize our online world

To build more convenient and individualized interactions with customers, retailers continue to adopt and expand their use of cloud-based (usually multi-cloud) workloads, including loyalty programs, e-commerce websites, microsites and mobile apps. Yet, mistakes will certainly happen and gaps will invariably appear as merchants move swiftly to meet market needs by delivering new digital experiences for customers. This gives cybercriminals a chance to profit.

System intrusion, for instance, is an attack strategy frequently used in the retail sector. It’s typically a component of a malware campaign or a data-capture feature used in attacks of the Magecart variety. These attacks use flaws or stolen credentials to obtain sensitive data from online payment forms, including passwords and credit card numbers. The likelihood of malware attacks employing a “capture app data” capability is seven times higher in the retail sector than it is in other sectors, as detailed in the Verizon 2022 Data Breach Investigations Report.

Gaining insight and control over your possible attack surface, swiftly patching vulnerabilities, and putting robust API security rules in place are all important steps in securing brand assets powered by the cloud. Retailers can also profit from a holistic cloud visibility solution that offers a simple dashboard for tracking workloads across multiple clouds.

Building a secure, digital in-store shopping experience

The experience of in-person shopping keeps evolving. Retailers are making the most of digitally driven efforts that seek to give customers a more individualized and frictionless experience. The retailers gain from these initiatives because they now have more ways to influence the buyer’s journey, as well as more opportunities to learn about potential and recurring customers. This is known as “the marriage of physical and digital,” and retailers are doing everything in their power to bring the online experience to the traditional brick-and-mortar stores.

Merchants have used a variety of strategies to win over consumers’ hearts and dollars. Some businesses have made investments in tablet-based Point-of-Sale (PoS) systems or AI-enabled order kiosks to make it easier for customers to explore, order and purchase goods. Others have experimented with augmented reality that enable customers to use a product or service prior to buying it. It’s all connected by an array of IoT devices, including sensors, beacons and various types of digital touchpoints.

Due to the quick growth of retailers’ digital footprints, though, physical branches now require more connectivity, dependability and security measures than they did in the past. Retailers wishing to converge their networks are increasingly using secure SD-WAN solutions, next-generation firewalls (NGFWs), and Wi-Fi and wired access. This set of technologies scales swiftly when used as a part of an all-encompassing SD-Branch solution, allowing bandwidth-hungry “always on” applications and technologies to function reliably and securely. In a highly competitive industry, it is crucial for merchants to act quickly to meet customer demand and foster loyalty.

Protecting your brand

Over the past 10 years, e-commerce platforms and customers’ web experience have seen significant development. Retailers are aware that customers desire a smoother checkout process, easier ways to browse and more customized experiences. And in order to make it all work, customers are willing to provide their data. It has been much simpler for merchants to quickly launch new websites due to the popularity of content management systems (CMS) and content delivery networks (CDN). However, it can be challenging to distinguish between legitimate websites and those that scammers have built to deceive naive consumers.

A number of bogus websites appeared during the holiday shopping season last year. One was a well-known power tool website that fraudsters impersonated. Orders placed on the phony website were fulfilled with counterfeit goods. Attackers will likely keep creating fake retailer websites and social media profiles to trick customers into giving them their credit card information and make quick cash.

Attacks of this nature not only have the potential to cost potential customers money, but they also negatively affect one of the company’s greatest assets: its reputation. Even if they are unable to identify the source of the attacks, companies must take extreme care to safeguard their customers from them. A Digital Risk Protection Service (DRPS), which offers proactive monitoring and risk analysis of a brand’s online assets and provides a view from the bad actor’s viewpoint, is one of the best ways to block such attacks. With the help of DRPS, security teams have a better chance to thwart threats before they can develop into actual attacks.

Securing the season for all

During the busiest shopping season of the year, malicious actors are always innovating new methods to take advantage of brands and their customers. They won’t be able to ruin the holidays, though, if merchants continue to be cyber-aware and take a preventative approach to security this season. To protect your customers – and your brand:

  • Make the most of your existing alliances and security technology
  • Proactively monitor your assets
  • Inform staff about good cyber hygiene practices
  • Encourage staff and customers to report anything unusual.

By implementing these measures for brand and customer protection, you and your customers are likely to have a much more joyous holiday season.

Find out more about how Fortinet protects retailers against cyber attacks and threats to help retailers secure digital transformation initiatives.