Victor James

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How Security Software for Ecommerce Websites Can Protect Your Business

Launching an ecommerce business is surely an exciting experience. You get to set up your online store, attract the type of customer you want, and sell the type of products you prefer. Very few things are as liberating as owning a business, especially on an international scale.

Amidst the chaos of setting up ecommerce platforms, many business owners forget to take necessary security measures to protect their businesses. For many, it never crosses their mind until they start facing security issues. In the worst-case scenario, they lose all the customers and end up shutting the business down.

ecommerce security

I know this because I’ve been a victim of ecommerce data breaches in the past. It set me back years of hard work and a loyal customer base. I don’t want you to learn it the hard way.

I’m writing this post to educate my readers on ecommerce security. I’ll be going over the major threats, threats that not everyone can see, potential areas of compromise, and most importantly, how to fight them.

Why Ecommerce Security Should Be a Top Priority

Besides financial institutions like banks and credit unions, ecommerce businesses deal with a lot of money regularly. There is no way around it for businesses other than online payment gateways to accept customer payments.

At the same time, an ecommerce business has to deal with confidential data like credit card numbers, physical addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, and so on.

Data breaches are a major threat with the internet at large and this is not going to change anytime soon. General data protection regulation across the world requires online businesses to protect sensitive data at any cost.

Popular data security standard and regulation include the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the International Organization for Standardization.

web application firewall

Apart from the legal requirements to protect customer data, you must also think about your reputation. If your ecommerce store turns out to be the source of stolen data online, your customers will lose trust in your store. This kind of reputational damage is pretty much impossible to redeem. Again, I learned it the hard way.

The bottom line here is that you must take all the security measures in your power to safeguard your ecommerce website.

Common Security Threats that Plague Ecommerce Platforms

As time goes by, hackers and scammers are figuring out newer ways to breach ecommerce sites. The only true method of staying safe is to update your ecommerce security regularly. To do it effectively, you first need to know what aspects of your business are most vulnerable to cyber attacks.

But what are the common areas prone to these attacks, you ask? Let me explain.

Phishing Attacks

In this time and age, it feels ridiculous that phishing still exists. How is this 1990s cyber threat still around?

Well, I think it comes down to the sign ups and sign ins. It’s one of the oldest relics of the digital world and I don’t see them going away anytime soon. As long as the internet is here, the need for account creation will be here.

In case you’re not aware, phishing is a social engineering technique where scammers pretend to be a reliable site, tricking users into giving up their login credentials.

phishing attack

In more severe cases, the scammers may get access to credit card data, bank account numbers, social security numbers, and other crucial but personal data.

The best way to fight against phishing is to educate your customers. Publish content or release a series of emails explaining how they can protect themselves from Phishing attempts. You can share tips like:

  • Check link URLs carefully before clicking
  • Enable the firewall on your operating system
  • Never share personal information like credit card PINs or passwords online
  • Report suspicious emails
  • Use two-factor authentication on all accounts
  • Study the telltale signs of phishing in your free time

Malware and Other Cyber Attacks

The terror of Malware dates back to the 70s, even before the days of the dreaded phishing scams. Creeper, the first-ever malware was designed to attack mainframe computers. In the 21st century, however, malware has come a long way and it can be fatal to your ecommerce website.

Typical malware is designed to disrupt the regular operations of a system. Signs of malware infection on your computer or smartphone include slow performance, frozen accounts, random alerts from Google, Apple, or Microsoft, popups, browser redirects, etc.

Ransomware is an advanced type of malware that infects the whole system and encrypts it. In the case of ecommerce, the owners can lose access to the backend and the database, bringing their businesses to a standstill. The only way to get the data back is by paying “ransom” to the scammers.

malware attack

The worst thing about ransomware attacks is that there is no guarantee you’ll get your ecommerce site back even if you pay up. And if you do get the ecommerce company back, who’s to say that the hackers are not siphoning data?

Ransomware is a worse enemy compared to regular malware. Take steps immediately if you see any of the signs I discussed in this section.

SQL Injection

This is one of the more advanced ecommerce security threats. Due to the complexity of SQL injections, many businesses don’t even realize the security issues until it’s too late.

SQL stands for Structured Query Language, a programming language to create and manage databases. The ecommerce industry uses some of the largest databases in the world containing credit card details, customer data, credit card transactions, billing address, and a myriad of other sensitive data.

By injecting malicious SQL codes into your system, hackers can gain access to your database! In recent years, SQL injections have become more common thanks to its mass-damaging power.

According to experts, hackers use 3 different types of SQL injection to breach ecommerce security.

  1. In-band injection
  2. Inferential injection
  3. Out-of-bank injection

Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)

This is similar to SQL injection where hackers inject malicious code into the system. But unlike the previous threat, cross-site scripting or XSS is targeted at the client side (front-end) of your ecommerce website.

In simple words, a cross site scripting XSS attack will run scripts on your website front-end to disrupt the ecommerce website security. This is most damaging on message boards or forums where readers initially visit to know about your online store.

E-Skimming

Anyone with an experience of credit card fraud will know exactly what I’m talking about. In the real world, scammers install specialized devices on ATMs and POS terminals to capture not only the credit card details but also the PIN! This is known as skimming.

The digital version of skimming, known as e-skimming, is not as common just yet. But with the increasing number of online transactions, it might become one of the common ecommerce security threats in the near future.

E-Skimming is slightly different from real-life skimming. Instead of devices, hackers install malicious software on the credit card provider websites to capture the PIN when you buy from an online business.

This is one of the emerging website security incidents, pushing ecommerce businesses to use even more security tools.

DDoS Attacks

Distributed Denial of Service or DDoS attack is quite common these days. This is more annoying than damaging in most cases. The idea here is that the attackers send a massive influx of traffic to your ecommerce websites, overloading the server capacity very quickly.

As a result of the increased load, the actual users and potential customers can’t access your online store. You may not lose any data or money during a DDoS attack but you can surely miss out on a lot of sales during that period.

Brute Force Attacks

Also known as brute force tactics, it’s a clever technique of guessing the login credentials of a website. Although brute force attacks sound dangerous, they’re typically unsuccessful. But it’s only possible when your ecommerce security is on point and you have a valid SSL certificate installed.

The better encryption you use, the longer it takes for brute-force hackers to succeed. The best encryption we have right now is Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) which uses a 256-bit key. It’s speculated that even the fastest supercomputer will need years to guess the right key. Financial institutions and VPNs commonly use AES to protect sensitive data.

Thankfully, you don’t need a bank-grade encryption on your ecommerce website. A standard 128-bit or 192-bit SSL certificate will get the job done.

Internal Risks that Most Businesses Ignore

So far, I’ve only listed external threats that can harm your business reputation. But there are internal pain points too!

Employee Negligence

No matter how much you try, employee negligence is going to be a major issue. It takes years for a business to build a team that sticks to the company through thick and thin.

Before that happens, it’s possible that one of your employees may forget to update the security codes in time, leading to the loss of sensitive information from your site.

In severe cases, you can lose your PCI compliance!

Internal Sabotage

No, I don’t watch too many action films. Employee sabotage is very real and it happens more often than you think. It’s more common in small areas where multiple businesses compete with each other. It’s possible that your competition plants a mole in your chain of command to disrupt your operations.

Of course, I would recommend you vet someone properly before hiring them. On top of that, keep important details like passwords and databases to yourself.

Remember, a secure platform functions best when it’s autonomous. Too many cooks often spoil the broth.

Best Practices to Secure Ecommerce Platform

Now that you know about the common areas of security failure in your online store, you’re ready to prevent them. Pay attention to this section because I’m about to share the best practices to boost your ecommerce security.

Always Update Your SSL Certificate

All ecommerce sites need proper encryption. If your ecommerce website doesn’t have it yet, get one immediately. Avoid free SSL certificates as they’re only good for websites that don’t have payment gateways connected to them.

But installing the secure sockets layer certificate is not the end of it. You also need to keep it updated to make sure no third party can steal payment card information from the database.

Invest in Secure Hosting

As long as you’re using reputable ecommerce software like Shopify or BigCommerce, you don’t have to worry about hosting. They even offer a web application firewall to protect your ecommerce platform. A website application firewall filters the oncoming HTTP traffic and scans for malicious software.

But if you’re using something like WooCommerce on your WordPress site, secure hosting is crucial. When planning your ecommerce store, make sure you set an adequate budget for the hosting.

Bluehost and Hostinger are reliable choices for your website’s security as they have a proven track record of powering e-commerce.

Stay in Compliance with the GDPR and PCI DSS

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and PCI DSS are two of the most common security protocols an ecommerce website must comply with. You should also inquire about local regulations. For example, a business based in California must be compliant with California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).

Ensuring compliance with these ecommerce website security protocols will not only protect your ecommerce store but also ensure credibility among your customers.

Monitor for SQL Injections

Among all the security breach measures ecommerce sites go struggle with, SQL injections are perhaps the most damaging. Looking out for cyber attacks on your data should be part of the routine health check for your ecommerce site.

Thankfully, most modern ecommerce solutions come with an intrusion prevention system including regular SQL checks. In case the software you use doesn’t offer it, you can find free online scanners that can help identify malicious SQL injections.

Ensure Secure Payments

At the end of the day, scammers are after your money. Even if it seems like they’re after sensitive information, the plan is to sell the data to third parties.

If money is the primary motivation here, it only makes sense for you to protect the financial details of your customers. Using PCI-compliant payment gateways and keeping in touch with the Payment Card Industry may help you ensure secure payments for your customers.

For international businesses, the safest bets are PayPal, Google Pay, Apple Pay, Mastercard, and Visa. All of these payment vendors have a long-term history in online shopping and they’re very common among users.

If you run a local business, however, you need to get your hands on statistics that identify the most popular payment methods in your area. You can then add the safest bunch to your website.

Use Strong Passwords and Multi-Factor Authentication

This may sound too obvious to many of you but it’s fascinating how many people still use their birth date or phone as passwords. If you want proper website security, don’t do it.

A password should be something no one but you can guess. Use such a combination of information that only you know. Believe it or not, simply boosting password security can eliminate a lot of potential data breaches.

Along with strong passwords, you should consider multi-factor authentication. Of course, the most common practice is using two-factor authentication. If you’re using a complete ecommerce software package, it should already come with the two-factor feature.

Update the Theme and Keep the Security Software Patched

Launching a website also comes with the responsibility of updating it. Every time there is a new update released by your provider, install it! It’s especially important if it’s a security patch.

As I already said, hackers are getting more advanced by the day and industry leaders in cybersecurity are trying their best to keep up. You certainly don’t want to stay behind in the race, do you?

Secure Your Third-Party Logistics

Unless you’re using ecommerce software that also offers fulfillment, you’re most likely using a third-party logistics (3PL) service to handle the shipping. The service may include warehouse management, inventory, retail distribution, and lots of other components depending on the nature of your business.

shipping and handling

Believe it or not, the 3PL can turn out to be a source of website security breaches. Choose your vendor wisely. I recommend reading real user reviews on forums before striking a deal.

Apart from the 3PL, you may also interact with vendors and contractors for inventory purposes. You never know what their intentions are so tread them lightly and never share critical data like your password with any third party.

Don’t Store Confidential Data

Sure, you can get PCI compliance and all the other fancy ecommerce website security features in the world. But you can’t guarantee 100% security for a web page.

For this reason, I recommend business owners do not store any data in the first place. Although it means the customers will need to enter their payment information and shipping address over and over again, it’s a better output than losing the data to scammers.

Don’t Forget Backups

A modern web host will keep everything in the cloud and implement any changes you make. When life is this easy, it’s only normal for you to forget about backing up the website content.

But you shouldn’t. Regular backups can be a lifesaver in case something goes wrong. Imagine a ransomware attack on your site and losing access to it. If you have a backup, you can simply restore it, change the passwords, and call it a day.

If you don’t have any backups, however, you’re looking at building the business from the ground up. It’s not a pleasant thought, is it?

Invest in a Content Distribution Network

A Content Distribution Network or CDN is an advanced measure to build customer loyalty all over the world. The idea is simple. You route the content of your website via different servers depending on the location of the traffic.

For example, if your business is based in the US and someone in Europe is trying to access it, the site load speed time will be longer. But if you use a CDN to route the data through a European server, the customer can expect blazing-fast loading speeds!

FAQ

How do I secure my ecommerce website?

Ecommerce website security starts with choosing the right software stack. Research the best options and see how they protect sensitive information as well as general customer information on your ecommerce site.

What security is required for e-commerce?

The primary areas to secure an ecommerce business is payments and customer data. Using PCI-compliant payment methods and using a content delivery network with proper encryption is a great place to start.

How can e-commerce prevent identity theft?

If customers can associate your business with identity theft, say bye to your business. It’s one of the worst things that can happen to a business. To avoid such consequences, focus on the security measures I’ve discussed in this blog.

What are the 6 dimensions of ecommerce security?

The 6 dimensions of modern-day ecommerce security are integrity, non-repudiation, authenticity, confidentiality, privacy, and availability.

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