Politics and Business

Securing Your Online Retail Store

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It is estimated that up to 29% of the web traffic on your e-commerce site consists of bots that are testing for weaknesses to exploit. The online e-commerce industry is growing exponentially, and cybercrime is at an all-time high. These attacks are not just being carried out on large online corporations; your e-commerce site is a target.

As you focus on making your online business competitive, security should be one of your key concerns. If you are not proactively taking steps to protect your business, then it is only a matter of time before one of those attacks successfully breaches your security. Read on to find out 12 tips that you can implement to secure our e-commerce business.

1. Choose the right hosting service

Anyone who has ever established an online presence knows one thing: There are countless options to choose from when it comes to web hosting. It is tempting to take advantage of the industry’s competitiveness and opt for the cheapest service available. Never do this for an e-commerce site.

Most of the cheaper alternatives do not place a lot of emphasis on security. While this might be OK for a personal blog, there is too much at stake for an e-commerce website. Shop around to find hosting services that are dedicated to an e-commerce website’s need.

Try to avoid shared hosting as much as possible. Don’t be afraid to pay a little extra for a virtual private server (VPS). It offers much better security and increased bandwidth for your clients. A managed cloud hosting service is also better suited for e-commerce vendors since it has its own dedicated team of security experts working around the clock.

2. Make the HTTPS switch

Until quite recently, HTTPS was only used by the online banking industry and e-commerce payment portals. The increased targeting of e-commerce websites by hackers has now made HTTPS adoption a necessity. To get HTTPS for your e-commerce website, you first need to purchase an SSL security certificate from your hosting service, or a third-party vendor. HTTPS encrypts all the information coming in, and going out of your e-commerce website.

Data is most vulnerable when being transmitted online. With HTTPS encryption, if your data ever gets intercepted, your security will not be compromised.

HTTPS is also a requirement for any website that seeks PCI DSS compliance. PCI DSS is a security standard set by the major credit card companies (including VISA, MasterCard and American Express) to ensure that vendors secure their clients’ card information. PCI DSS compliance not only increases the security of your e-commerce website, but the certification also gives clients more confidence to transact with you.

3. Choose the right e-commerce platform

Not all e-commerce platforms are created equal. You should take this into consideration when you are shopping around for the right platform for your online store. As with most internet-based service providers, you will have a lot of options to choose from. Some of the factors that should guide your decision-making process include:

  • Is the e-commerce platform well reviewed by users and industry experts?
  • Does the e-commerce platform have adequate security measures to protect you from hackers and scammers?
  • Does the platform regularly provide updates to its system?
  • Does the platform have an easy to use interface?
  • Is the platform trusted by major brands?

Your e-commerce platform is the foundation on which your business will be built upon. Most of the more popular platforms handle major e-commerce functions such as payment processing. This means that if you make the wrong decision, your online business will not succeed.

4. Secure your admin area

As the business owner, you will have access to the website’s admin area. This is a powerful space from where major changes to your website can be made, and; hackers know that. Never forget that there is a human element to website security. You can have all the necessary security systems in place only to be punished for human error.

The first thing you should do once your e-commerce website is up and running is to change the log-in credentials for the admin area. Change the username from the default ‘admin’ to something that hackers will not easily guess. Don’t use your name, or your business name as the username.

To prevent your login details from being intercepted online, invest in a good VPN (Virtual Private Network). This will hide your network activities from any online snoopers. You should also ensure that your admin area can only be accessed from trusted IP addresses that are within your home or business network.

5. Ensure your customers secure their accounts

Just as there is a need for the admin area to be secured on your end, your customers should also ensure that they secure their accounts. If a customer with a weak password has their account compromised, the will most likely blame your ‘weak’ security, rather than the oversight on their end. The online retail marketplace is very competitive, and any negative publicity can negatively affect your business.

Ensure that your platform promotes the usage of strong passwords when clients are creating accounts. There is a reason why Google, Facebook and other big online businesses require passwords to have lower and upper case letters, numerals and unique characters. Such passwords are almost impossible to crack. Follow this example to ensure that clients have strong passwords.

You could go the extra step of putting in place a two-factor authentication system during logins. This ensures that once a user logs in with their password, a unique one-time code is sent to their phone or email. Without this code, users would not be able to log into their account, thus increasing account security.

6. Use security plug-ins on your website

If there is one factor that will be a recurring theme throughout this guide, it will be that you can never have too much security on your e-commerce website. There are literally millions of hackers all around the globe who are using different techniques to find security soft spots on e-commerce websites. Security plug-ins are one of the tools that you can use to further secure your online business.

While most popular e-commerce platforms come with their own security features, supplement them by adding your own reputable plug-ins. These can usually be applied at the website hosting level. As with any security feature, carry out thorough research to find the products that best suit your business.

Installing these plug-ins is, however, just the first step. You should always ensure that you look out for updates and install them as soon as they are released. An updated system is more secure against the ever-evolving threat of online hackers.

7. Don’t store client card details on your site

In physical retail outlets, business owners try to limit the amount of cash at hand because cash is what robbers target. In online stores, hackers target data, with card details being one of the most sought after types of data. Just as a shop entrusts its cash with a bank, you should ensure that customer card details are stored by reputable third-party services.

If a data breach occurs, and credit card fraud is committed, you will be most likely liable to lawsuits. Depending on the amount of cash lost, this could well end your business. Never expose yourself to this type of risk. There are numerous card payment processors that you can use to ensure that customer card details are never stored on your servers.

If you must store these details, then security should be your biggest priority. Consult with industry experts on the best measures that you can put in place to ensure that your servers are never breached.

8. Have a bot detection and DDoS protection system

It is estimated that up to 50% of all online traffic comes from automated bots. While not all bots are built for nefarious purposes, they are a go-to tool for hackers and scammers. While most security efforts are concerned with hackers, you should never forget to protect yourself from competitors using unethical business strategies.

Your competition could have bots that scan your page, mining pricing details and clogging up your bandwidth. A bot detection system could put a stop to that, freeing up your bandwidth for valuable customers.

Man businesses have been crippled by DDoS attacks which use a bot army to completely clog up your bandwidth. Luckily, most reputable hosting platforms will offer you DDoS protection, usually at some additional cost. This security investment is worth it, as a DDoS attack can shut down your e-commerce website for weeks.

9. Regularly back up your website

There is no single security measure that can guarantee your website’s security with 100% certainty. Always be prepared for the worst case scenario by regularly backing up your website. Most reputable hosting services have a RAID system that stores all data on multiple disks. This ensures that if the main server is breached, or malfunctions in any way, there are backups that can be brought online at a moment’s notice.

Every single second that your website is offline costs you money. Not only are you missing out on potential sales, but you are still incurring the cost of maintaining your online infrastructure.

Apart from regularly backing up your website, you should put in place a content delivery system (CDS). This creates multiple copies of your website on different servers. This not only increases the ease of access enjoyed by your clients, but there will always be a copy of your website online at any given point.

10.Run regular vulnerability scans

In any form of warfare, it pays to think like the enemy. Hackers will be constantly testing your website for any vulnerabilities, and you should do so as well. Any vulnerabilities identified should be immediately fixed, before they are exploited by hackers.

Some e-commerce platforms and security plug-ins offer vulnerability scans. If your provider(s) don’t have this service, there are numerous reputable third-party options to choose from. If you run a larger web retail operation, or if you have been targeted by hackers in the past, consider hiring a white-hat hacking security firm to truly test your defences.

11.Have a multi-layered first line of defence

The two biggest security threats facing an e-commerce website are hackers and scammers. Your first line of defence should address both threats. To prevent hacking, you need an effective firewall. A hardware (physical) firewall is preferred since it creates a cut-out point between your internet connection and your router. This does not mean that a good software or web-based firewall is not useful, it’s still better than having no firewall.

You should also have in place a geo-location antifraud system. These scan through your transactions and flag any suspicious activity that might be linked to credit card fraud. Such systems work by identifying IP addresses that have previously been linked with fraudulent activities. They are not perfect systems, but the can help you weed out a significant chunk of fraudulent activities.

12.Constant vigilance

One of the reasons why hackers successfully breach security systems is their persistence. Most online business owners will focus on security at the launch of their business, but their interest generally tapers off. You should not make this mistake. Constant training through the likes of an online CS degree and other programs is a must. You should be relentless in your efforts to secure your e-commerce website.

Update your security solutions regularly, and keep an ear out for any new products getting into the market. Never forget to use a VPN when logging into your admin area and ensure that all your employees are well versed in the security countermeasures that you have in place. All it takes is one slip-up to undo years of work. Maintain constant vigilance.

When considering the cost of recommended security measures, think about the potential losses you can suffer if your site is breached. A single breach can cause your e-commerce site to be considered unsafe by potential clients. It might even lead to expensive lawsuits if consumer data is stolen. By following the tips provided in this guide, your business and clients will be safe from most (if not all) online security threats.

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