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Ecommerce Security and Protection Plan for Your Online Store (2019)

May 8, 2019

9 Min Read
Ecommerce Security
Reading Time: 9 minutes

Needless to mention, where there is money involved, criminals follow. If you’re an e-entrepreneur, you should be well aware of the latest ecommerce security protocols.

The lack of ecommerce security knowledge against frauds contributed $2.9 billion in losses during 2014 alone and by 2018, the RSA estimated that ecommerce security breaches will double and fraud-related losses will reach up to $6.4 billion, which makes taking the necessary preventive measures an utmost priority in order to keep your business safe.

For instance, if you own a traditional physical store, you most likely must’ve hired security guards, invested in alarms and surveillance cameras to ensure that your customers can shop in a secure environment.

Similarly, an ecommerce business is no different in that regard. You must ensure that your ecommerce security is nothing less than a priority.

A secure online store promises optimal customer experience which obviously leads to an increase in sales. Moreover, it lets you build a positive rapport with your customers.

Many customers today choose online shopping alternatives over traditional shopping methods. Unfortunately, this steady rise in the ecommerce  market also means more exposure to ecommerce security violations.

If you fail to perfect your ecommerce security, you become vulnerable to these breaches. They compromise sensitive customer data and you suffer the loss of sales, customers’ trust, and your brand’s reputation.

Trust and reputation can be impossible to regain if you are a small startup. Therefore, in this article, we will explore the best practices and strategies you can implement to minimize online threats and empower your ecommerce security.

While ecommerce  businesses share a few similarities with the traditional businesses, they do differ from them in some respects. As an ecommerce  businessman, you only get one shot at getting your ecommerce security right because if your online business loses sensitive information due to the security threats of ecommerce, you will definitely lose a large number of potential customers.

For obvious reasons, customers would not want to shop from an online store which runs at the risk of losing their valuable details like banking credentials. Unless you are an ecommerce  giant you might never be able to bounce back. Ecommerce businesses don’t get the luxury of second chances, and thus, the damage is irreparable. Henceforth, it’s better to play the right cards from the beginning.

Common Ecommerce Security Threats & Issues

There are quite a few threats you need to protect your online store from. Let’s touch on a few common ones that often plague online businesses.

i. Financial Frauds

Financial fraud has afflicted online businesses since their inception. Hackers make unauthorized transactions and wipe out the trail costing businesses significant amounts of losses.

Some fraudsters also file requests for fake refunds or returns. Refund fraud is a common financial fraud where businesses refund illegally acquired products or damaged goods.

For instance, Jimmy likes to capitalize on fraudulent activities. He knows that friendly fraud is an easy medium where he can purchase an item, use it, and then refund it in order to get his money back, so he does it!

ii. Spam

Where emails are known as a strong medium for higher sales, it also remains one of the highly used mediums for spamming. Nonetheless, comments on your blog or contact forms are also an open invitation for online spammers where they leave infected links in order to harm you. They often send them via social media inbox and wait for you to click on such messages. Moreover, spamming not only affects your website’s security, but it also damages your website speed too.

iii. Phishing

It is one of the common security threats of ecommerce where hackers masquerade as legitimate businesses and send emails to your clients to trick them into revealing their sensitive information by simply presenting them with a fake copy of your legitimate website or anything that allows the customer to believe the request is coming from the business.

Common phishing techniques include emailing your customers or your team with fake “you must take this action” messages. This technique only works your customers follow through with the action and provide them access to their login information or other personal data which the hacker can exploit as per his benefit.

iv. Bots

You may recognize bots from your good books such as those that crawl the web and help you rank your website in Search Engine Result Pages. However, there are exclusive bots developed to scrape websites for their pricing and inventory information. The hackers use such information to change the pricing of your online store, or to garner the best-selling inventory in shopping carts, resulting in a decline in sales and revenue.

v. DDoS Attacks

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks and DOS (Denial of Service) attacks aim to disrupt your website and affect overall sales. These attacks flood your servers with numerous requests until they succumb to them and your website crashes.

vi. Brute Force Attacks

These attacks target your online store’s admin panel in an attempt to figure out your password by brute-force. It uses programs that establish a connection to your website and use every possible combination to crack your password. You can protect yourself against such attacks by using a strong, complex password. Do remember to change it regularly.

vii. SQL Injections

SQL injections are cyber-attacks intended to access your database by targeting your query submission forms. They inject malicious code in your database, collect the data and then delete it later on.

viii. XSS

Hackers target your website visitors by infecting your online store with malign code. You can safeguard yourself against it by implementing Content Security Policy.

ix. Trojan Horses

Admins and customers might have Trojan Horses downloaded on their systems. It is one amongst the worst network security threats where attackers use these programs to swipe sensitive information from their computers with ease.

Why You Should Prioritize Your Ecommerce Security?

Security issues in ecommerce is not something online businesses can neglect. In fact it should be a priority for most online stores so their customers are able to enjoy a smooth and safe shopping experience. Your ecommerce security lets your customers protect themselves from cyber-attacks and fraud. The better your security protocols are, the better your brand will uphold its reputation and earn the trust of the customers.

Ecommerce Security Solutions

Ecommerce  stores with ideal security have some features in common. They don’t economize on robust hardware; they don’t rely too heavily on third-party apps or plugins like adobe flash. Let’s further breakdown these features so that you do not have to face any security issues in ecommerce.

1. Switch to HTTPS

Using outdated HTTP protocols makes you vulnerable to attacks. I strongly recommend that you switch to HTTPS which displays the trustee green lock sign that says “secured” next to the URL bar on your customer’s computer. HTTPS protocols not only protect the sensitive information users submit, but their user data as well.

Since HTTP protocols are mostly defunct now, most modern browsers display a message warning the user from proceeding further because the website is insecure. Not just that, some browsers outrightly block the user from accessing the site.

Another benefit you get from upgrading to HTTPS is higher ranking on Google’s search page since Google considers HTTPS as a ranking factor.

Before you make that switch, you must purchase an SSL certification from your hosting company. Having an up-to-date SSL certificate and HTTPS protocol has become the standard, so it’s crucial that you obtain them if you wish to get any considerable traffic.

2. Secure Your Servers and Admin Panels

Most ecommerce platforms come with default passwords that are ridiculously easy to guess. And if you don’t change them you are exposing yourself to preventable hacks. Use complex password(s) and usernames and change them frequently.

You can go one step further and make the panel notify you every time an unknown IP attempts to log in. These simple steps can significantly improve your web store’s security.

3. Payment Gateway Security

While it may make processing payments more convenient, having credit card numbers stored on your database is a liability.  It’s nothing less than an open invitation for hackers where you put your brand’s reputation and your customer’s sensitive information on the line.

If you fall victim to a security breach, and hackers get their hands on credit card data, all you can do is to say goodbye to your business because the heavy fines will force you into bankruptcy.

In order to save your business from this terrible fate, you should never store credit card information on your servers and ensure your payment gateways security is not at risk. Additionally, you can use third-party payment processing systems to carry out the process off-site. Popular options include  PayPal, Stripe, Skrill, and Wordplay.

When it comes to ecommerce recommendations, you must obtain a Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) accreditation.

4. Antivirus and Anti-Malware Software

Hackers can use stolen credit card information to place orders from anywhere in the world. An antivirus or an anti-fraud software can help you with this serious ecommerce issue. They use sophisticated algorithms to flag any malicious transactions to help you can take further action. They provide a fraud risk score which can help proprietors determine if a certain transaction is legitimate.

5. Use Firewalls

Another effective ecommerce recommendation is to use firewall software and plugins that are pocket-friendly yet effective. They keep untrusted networks at bay and regulate traffic that enters and leaves your site. It offers selective permeability and only allows trusted traffic in. They also protect against cyber threats such as SQL injections and cross-site scripting.

6. Secure your website with SSL certificates

Secure sockets layer (SSL) certificates are files that link a key to transactions on different paths on a network. These certificates are associated with credit card details and transactions to regular queries. SSL certificates encrypt data to protect it from interception in between different destinations. The information you send from your end to the server is secure.

If you want to conduct any type of business on your site, you require SSL certificates, so that every process that takes place on your site is secure. Besides, it provides you with a certificate of ownership so hackers can’t use your site as a counterfeit for phishing.

7. Employ Multi-Layer Security

You can fortify your security by using various layers of security. You can use a wide-spread Content Delivery Network or CDN to protect your site against DDoS attacks and malevolent incoming traffic. They do so by utilizing machine learning to filter out the malicious traffic from regular traffic.

You can also use two-factor authentication to squeeze in an additional layer of security. Two-factor authorization requires a standard username and password combination as well as an extra code that is sent as an email to the user or as an SMS to their provided phone number. This ensures that only the user can access the service even if their username and password are at risk.

8. Ecommerce Security Plugins

Security plugins are a simple way to enforce security protection on your website. They provide protection against bad bots, SQLi, XSS, code injections and hundreds of other severe attacks. One of the most secure, easy to implement, feature rich security plugin is Astra. It helps automatically secure your site and virtually patch software by preventing malicious requests from ever reaching your website.

9. Backup Your Data

Data loss due to hardware malfunction or cyber-attacks is not uncommon. And if you don’t backup your data regularly, you are at the risk of losing it for good. You should do it yourself and not trust anyone else to do it for you. Employ automatic backup service so that even if you forget to do it manually, all your data will be backed up automatically.

You can go one step further and make a copy of the backup, so you will have a contingency plan available if you lose your original backup. Another option is to choose a managed ecommerce web hosting service that automatically creates backups for you, like Cloudways.

10. Stay Updated

The importance of regularly updating WordPress core, security tools, and plugins can be stressful, however, install security updates and patches as soon as they release because hackers can use bots that identify which websites use outdated software. That makes outdated software a serious liability.

11. Opt for a Solid Ecommerce Platform

It is important that you choose a secure ecommerce platform that regularly updates itself and offers top-notch security. Ecommerce platform tools safeguard you against common threats and frequently provide you with updates. PrestaShop, Magento and WooCommerce are some popular choices.

12. Train Your Staff Better

Your staff should be aware of laws and policies pertaining to the protection of user information. They should not share login credentials, and you should review the personnel who have access to sensitive customer information.

Once your employee tenders their resignation, expunge their details and revoke all their access to keep them from committing a cyber crime against your business.

13. Keep an Eye out for Malicious Activity

If you don’t want any malicious attack to go under the red carpet, you should keep your eyes open for any suspicious activity. This can save you a lot of trouble – not to mention revenue – since you can potentially catch a fraudulent transaction before it can take place. You can utilize special monitoring software that tracks the activity in real time and notifies you of any questionable transaction. For instance, a scammer using different cards to place multiple orders, or orders where the person using the card isn’t its holder.

14. Educate Your Clients

Some lapses in security don’t happen at your end but your client’s. They might be using weak passwords or they might deliver sensitive information on phishing sites and in the hands of hackers.

You can solve these ecommerce security threats by educating your customers. Educate them about the risks associated with unsafe security practices. You can demand strong passwords and introduce them to how phishing works.

Strong passwords require a good combination of characters, symbols, and numbers that are near-impossible to brute-force or guess. You can also keep users away from creating profiles with weak passwords. You can also adopt the two-factor authentication system in case they are using weak passwords. Or if the user submitted information is sensitive and susceptible to hacking.

Give these approaches due consideration because some customers might consider them a hassle and might just leave your website altogether. Do ensure that you aren’t making your customers jump through unnecessary hoops.

Or you can bypass this whole process and simply let them sign up via Facebook or Google which offer world-class cyber security.

To Sum Up,

It is a smart approach to be aware of the threats that are present in your immediate environment online. You should also be aware of how you can protect yourself from these ecommerce threats and prepare for them.

As we’ve established earlier there’s no room for mistakes. One critical failure will cost you your business. Therefore, the best approach is to invest in ecommerce security as much as you invest in its marketing or web design. It would be money well spent!

If you have any more tips or tricks concerning ecommerce security, do let us know in the comments section below.


Disclaimer: This is a guest post by Abhi Chitkara, Author at Astra Web Security Blog. The opinions and ideas expressed herein are author’s own, and in no way reflect Cloudways position.

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Saud Razzak

Saud is the WordPress Community Manager at Cloudways - A Managed WooCommerce Hosting Platform. Saud is responsible for creating buzz, spread knowledge, and educate the people about WordPress in the Community around the globe. In his free time, he likes to play cricket and learn new things on the Internet. You can email him at m.saud@cloudways.com

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