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Managing a Business, Security & Privacy

Avoid e-commerce cyberattacks this holiday season

The holiday season is finally upon us, and as an e-commerce merchant, you have every reason to be excited. For starters, economists from Deloitte forecast that e-commerce sales will grow by 12.8 to 14.3% this holiday season. 

But just as you have prepared your marketing campaigns to take advantage of holiday sales, you need to take steps to protect your store and customers from cybercriminals. Any cyberattack can lead to loss of revenue and valuable data and leave a serious dent in your store’s reputation. 

Cyberattacks tend to increase over this period because shoppers are more vulnerable and can easily be dubbed to fall for phishing scams as they look for holiday deals. Making matters worse, some e-commerce business owners, often overwhelmed by sales and marketing, give their website security a backseat.

Learn how you can shield your customers from cyberattacks with six strategies you can adopt to protect your e-commerce site from hackers this holiday season.

1. Get SSL/TLS certificates to encrypt data

When customers sign up to shop in your e-commerce store, they trust you with their most valuable data — from names to addresses to financial information. By taking steps to ensure private data is kept confidential, you will maintain that trust. To reassure your clients of your commitment to protecting their data and privacy, be sure to use Secure Socket Layer (SSL) or Transport Layer Security (TLS).

An SSL/TLS certificate is a security protocol that keeps sensitive and personal information protected through encryption. If your e-commerce store lacks this certificate, browsers may warn potential customers from transacting on your platform. Additionally, cybercriminals will also notice vulnerability and could devise ways to exploit you.

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2. Encourage the use of two-factor authentication 

Two-factor authentication (also known as 2FA) is a security method that requires account owners to verify their identity again after logging in using their username and password. Adding 2FA to your site will provide better account security for your users. 

After username and password combos, 2FA is a second line of defense that can safeguard user accounts when there is a security breach and their data has been compromised or even when someone guesses their password. It can be used to alert users whenever someone attempts to log in to their accounts, and they can take immediate steps to prevent damage by alerting your store or changing their passwords.

One form of 2FA utilizes SMS as an extra verification layer after users have typed in their name and password. Others require security questions. You can also require an authenticator app like Google Authenticator or Duo or other systems.

2FA authentication can help reduce fraudulent transactions, which often occur when scammers access users’ accounts. This will make it more difficult for scammers to log in since they don’t have the account owner’s phone or can’t answer security questions. Two-factor authentication can also show customers that you care about their security and are taking extra steps to keep their accounts safe, making your site more trustworthy.

3. Practice attack surface management 

Attack surface management helps prevent data theft, fraud, ransomware, and other threats your site faces. This is the process of continuously monitoring your e-commerce web systems for vulnerabilities to ensure you mitigate potential cybersecurity threats. It allows you to identify any weaknesses within your e-commerce store and gives you time to fix them before cybercriminals can exploit them.

Apart from staying one step ahead of cybercriminals, attack surface management also allows you to:

  • Maintain and back up your customer’s data securely 
  • Consistently patch and update your systems to make your site more secure 
  • Set parameters that encrypt data and keep your client information private 
  • Keep an eye on and retire outdated devices, security equipment, and expired services 
  • Set up authentication protocols and access controls to prevent internal security breaches
  • Meet compliance requirements 
  • Keep payments secure 

As the holiday nears, ensure you have invested in the right attack surface management software and start exploring vulnerabilities. Attackers will likely wait until the peak of the holidays to launch their offenses when you are busy and have let your guard down.

4. Audit access levels

Running almost all websites today requires that you give third-party applications access to your system. You may also grant access to your web developer or other people to update your code and content. 

As much as you try to be careful with access to your systems, you need to ensure that you haven’t introduced holes in your website security by performing an access-level audit.

Auditing the access levels allows you to grant and revoke user permissions and control what they can view and the actions they can take. It will enable you to assign specific duties to everyone on your team and allow them access to only what they need. For instance, the data your sales team will need differs from the data your IT team will need. Therefore, you can prevent your IT team from accessing sensitive information or vice versa. 

You should also regularly review which apps you’ve granted access to. Are there services (plugins in particular) that you no longer need? Delete anything that is no longer necessary. 

Additionally, you can prevent internal cybersecurity threats when you assign specific duties and monitor how your team uses your system. You’ll be able to see who compromised or was used to compromise your systems.

padlock with books

5. Prioritize cybersecurity education

Cybersecurity awareness is one of the best ways to prevent cyberattacks. Cybercriminals often exploit people’s ignorance to meet their goals. By educating your team and customers, you can avoid most of these attacks from happening.

To educate your customers, run a campaign that encourages them to use stronger passwords and not reuse them, and explain how to identify legitimate emails and offers from your store. 

You can offer this education by sending emails or writing a blog post. For example, you can share an article on how to avoid falling for phishing scams that can lead to the loss of data or how they can identify legitimate invoices from you. You should look for invoicing templates that come with features such as customization that allow you to differentiate yourself from scammers.

If you have employees, especially non-IT staff, consider reminding them occasionally that they’re vulnerable to phishing as well. Warn them against clicking on suspicious links, using work computers for personal browsing, or failing to update their work devices in time. 

6. Remain alert to prevent and deal with cyberattacks 

Cybercriminals don’t sleep, and you shouldn’t either if you want to avoid losses and safeguard your store’s reputation. One attack has the potential to expose you to serious monetary losses and legal battles and could run you out of business. Whether you run a big or small e-commerce business, you can’t afford to ignore cybersecurity.

In addition to the tips discussed above, you should also:

  1. Back up your data regularly, and refrain from sharing your customers’ personal or financial data with third parties.
  2. Report any attacks. Let your customers know when their data has been compromised and immediately inform law enforcement agencies of any cyberattack. 
  3. Use an additional firewall to protect your site from unauthorized traffic and DDoS attacks.
  4. Choose a reliable e-commerce platform that can guarantee your and your customer’s cyber safety. 
  5. Hire extra hands to keep an eye on your site security and report any mishaps before they get out of hand.

Stay safe — and sleep soundly — this holiday season

All of these tips are pretty simple to implement and can prevent future headaches by preventing the most common website hacking efforts and other security issues. Avoiding downtime and security issues can also save you a lot of time and money.

Be sure to check out our Guru Guide on website security as well as Namecheap’s SSL and other website security options

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Gary Stevens avatar

Gary Stevens

Gary Stevens is a web developer and technology writer. He's a part-time blockchain geek and a volunteer working for the Ethereum foundation as well as an active Github contributor. More articles written by Gary.

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