How to Protect Your E-Commerce Website in 9 Steps
With online sales increasing rapidly every year and projected to hit 4.5 trillion in 2021, it’s no wonder more people than ever are opening their own e-commerce store. Unfortunately, with this rising popularity has come an increase in fraudulent activity. According to a report by Experian, 57% of online businesses experience rising fraudulent losses every year.
That’s why data protection is more important than ever. If you have an online store or are thinking of launching one, you need to ensure your site security measures are robust enough to protect the data of your customers and your business.
This isn’t something you can put off until later — site security should be a huge consideration from the start. The nature of an e-commerce website means that sensitive data is regularly exchanged, from credit card details to home addresses. The consequences of an e-commerce data breach can be profound. Apart from losing money and sales, it will inevitably take a hit on traffic and customer trust.
Read on to find out to keep your e-commerce site safe and secure.
1. Choose a Web Host with Good Malware Protection
While it’s always a good idea to take extra precautions when it comes to virus and malware protection, a good hosting provider will take care of this behind the scenes, too. Before picking a web host, make sure that it has an effective firewall system implemented and that they frequently scan, test, and update their security systems. A good web host should also be operational 24/7 and provide 24/7 support, should anything go wrong.
Meanwhile, there are some measures you can take to keep your site safe from malware and viruses depending on your CMS, from cPanel’s built-in virus scanner to WordPress plugins like Wordfence and All In One WordPress Security and Firewall. You can also opt to use free website security scanners like VirusTotal or Sucuri.
2. Create Your Store with a Secure E-commerce Platform or Plugin
After you’ve sorted out your hosting, you’ll need to think about which e-commerce platform or plug-in you’ll use. We recommend doing this rather than attempting to code an e-commerce store completely from scratch, which will be highly complicated and expensive, and that’s before you even start thinking about security measures. With an e-commerce platform or plugin, you’ll have everything you need to manage your sales and operations right out of the box.
One of the great things about e-commerce platforms and plug-ins is that they typically have the necessary security measures built-in, so there’s less for you to worry about from that standpoint. They also come with a variety of integrated payment system options, so you need not worry about directly dealing with sensitive user data.
With an e-commerce platform, you can either purchase hosting with the platform, or point it to a third-party web host (such as Namecheap). If you use the WordPress CMS, we recommend the WooCommerce plug-in. It’s free to use and easy to get started. With WooCommerce you should also add an extra layer of security, such as the Jetpack plugin. Platforms like Shopify act as CMS in of themselves, with various security plugins available, too.
For more information on the different platforms available, check out this article on getting started with e-commerce.
3. Get an SSL Certificate
It’s 2020 and all websites should have a secure, encrypted HTTPS connection. This goes double for e-commerce stores. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, information sent over an encrypted connection is rendered unreadable to potentially malicious third parties. So, an encrypted connection between your e-commerce store and a visitor’s browser ensures that information sent between the two is safe while in transit.
From a trust and safety standpoint, this is crucial for e-commerce stores, which by their very nature handle the exchange of sensitive data. Before a potential customer hands over their personal information, they’ll want to be sure you’re the real deal and that this information will be safe.
You can create an encrypted connection between user browsers and your site by installing an SSL certificate. These powerful digital certificates use the TLS protocol to connect via HTTPs. You can tell when a site has an SSL certificate when you see a padlock symbol in your browser address bar. Recently, Google Chrome and other major browsers have started to issue “Not secure” warnings to users when they try to visit a website without an SSL certificate.
There are various types of SSLs to choose from, depending on the number of domains and subdomains you own, and the level of validation you need. For e-commerce stores, we recommend choosing an OV (Organization Validation) certificate. This means that the issuing Certificate Authority will carry some background checks on your company to confirm you are who you say you are. Then, when a user clicks on the padlock, details about you and your organization will be displayed, which should give them the peace of mind to carry out their transaction.
4. Keep Your Software and Plugins Up-To-Date
We cannot stress the importance of software updates enough. It may not seem like a big deal, but older versions of software and plugins often have security vulnerabilities that have been addressed in the latest version. As a result, older versions can leave your site more susceptible to hacking attempts. Depending on the CMS you use, you may be able to set it to update automatically, while for others you’ll need to check every so often. WordPress users can check for core software updates by navigating to the “Updates” section of the dashboard.
5. Enforce Password Hygiene
You might think the idea of anyone using “password” or “123456” as a password is a joke, however, both of these were among some of the most popular passwords in 2019. The danger of such passwords is that they can be cracked very easily. If you or anyone else running your site has a habit of using weak passwords, your site data is one step away from being compromised.
Whether it be admin passwords or website user passwords, you need to implement a sitewide strong password policy. A strong password should fit the following criteria:
- It combines uppercase, lowercase, numerical, and special characters
- It’s at least 10 characters long
- It doesn’t contain personal information
- It isn’t used across multiple sites
- Nobody else knows it
Take the stress out of coming up with unique passwords and keeping track of them all by using a password generator and password manager.
6. Enable 2FA
Consider bringing an added layer of security to your website logins by enabling two-factor authentication (2FA). 2FA basically adds an extra step to logging in to a website, with the user providing a piece of information that only they would have access to: for example, a one-time passcode sent over SMS, or hitting a button in an authentication app. Many e-commerce platforms and plugins have 2FA add-ons available. You could also use an authenticator app such as Duo Mobile or Google Authenticator.
7. Backup Your E-Commerce Site Regularly
As a saved copy of all the coding and files that make up your site, a backup is a crucial safety net for getting your site back online should anything go wrong. Many web hosts and e-commerce platforms do perform occasional backups, but it may not be enough if you make frequent updates to your e-commerce website. This is why you should find a third-party plugin or service for backing up your site. For example, BlogVault for WooCommerce or Rewind for platforms like Shopify or BigCommerce will both keep your site backed up.
8. Limit the Storage of Sensitive Customer Data
When it comes to collecting and saving sensitive customer data to your website database, you should avoid what isn’t absolutely essential. Less is more when it comes to keeping customer data safe, especially if at some stage your website is compromised. Particularly when it comes to e-commerce websites and credit card information.
This is why we recommend using a third-party payment gateway rather than storing credit card information on your site, especially small and medium-sized businesses that likely don’t have the same kind of security and IT resources as a larger enterprise.
Payment gateways, such as PayPal, Stripe, and Skrill work by processing the payment between buyer and seller in a secure fashion. Customer credit card information is saved to the payment processor rather than your site, which means e-commerce stores don’t have to deal directly with sensitive data. You will be charged a small amount for each transaction, but it’s a small price to pay to ensure your customers’ credit card information remains safe.
9. Implement a KYC Solution
If your e-commerce store deals with sales of a sensitive nature, you may want to consider implementing a know-your-customer (KYC) solution. KYC adds an extra layer to the transaction process, allowing the store to verify the identity of a potential customer before they make a purchase. This may not be a necessary step for many types of online stores, but if you’re concerned about fraudulent transactions, it could make for added peace of mind. Find out more about Namecheap’s KYC solution Validation.com here.
Securing your e-commerce site may at first seem complicated, but it doesn’t need to be. The nine steps outlined in this article are easy to implement and will improve your overall site security in no time at all, so you can focus on attracting customers and boosting sales.
To learn more about making your e-commerce store the best it can be, check out our blogs on how to make your e-commerce store succeed and the best WordPress themes to choose.