There’s no doubt that the online retail market has been growing, spurred on in no small part by the Covid-19 pandemic. And the upcoming holiday season promises continued opportunities – and challenges. 2020 has definitely been a wake-up call for today’s retailers, and those that have survived owe their success to their ability to adapt to the rapid changes in the market. However, this success has also brought with it a significant increase in unwanted attention, and cyber criminals, using an ever-more sophisticated arsenal of methods, are continually seeking to exploit gaps in retail cybersecurity protection.
As the holiday shopping season approaches, and 2020 comes to an end, it is imperative that retailers continue to be aware of some of the major challenges they’ll be facing as the new year approaches.
The Growth of eCommerce
While it might be stating the obvious, the defining feature of this holiday season will undoubtedly be a major consumer preference for online shopping and eCommerce. Because of the Coronavirus pandemic, social distancing and lockdowns, 2020 has seen a huge spike in eCommerce. As a result, Deloitte’s Annual Holiday Retail Forecast predicts eCommerce sales will grow between 25-35% year-on-year, compared to 14.7% in 2019.
As a result, businesses are increasing their focus on their online presence, which of course only increases the emphasis on and adoption of ecommerce. This means that there will be continuously growing pressure on retail’s critical business operations and functions needed to support the spike in online spending. Supply chains, fulfilment and distribution, call centres, websites, payment process – the list is long! – must equipped to handle the increased traffic and demand. To address these challenges, retail and supporting logistics organisations need to invest in strategic technologies, specifically reliable, secure network solutions, to digitise their supply chain.
It’s always a major concern for a retail business to suffer a cyberattack, especially if the attack causes the company’s website to go offline, leaving it wide open to more vicious attacks such as a malware infection. Lost sales and frustrated customers are obviously a nightmare scenario for any company at any time of the year; however, this concern becomes much more serious for retail businesses during the holidays.
Companies that fail to give enough attention to cybersecurity are the most likely to be targeted because criminals actively search for vulnerable systems. After scanning the internet for known vulnerabilities in web applications, hackers zero in on any company found to be vulnerable, using that vulnerability to access the company’s IT network and install the code. Stolen credit card information will then be sold to other criminals.
Ransomware is currently the most popular cyberattack method targeting retailers. In a typical ransomware attack a target organisation’s network is penetrated by hackers, often by sending a phishing email to employees that contains malware, or sometimes through exploiting a vulnerability in the organisation’s network.
The malware enters the network, and the attackers conduct reconnaissance and further activity to achieve the right access they need to execute the ransomware. Once this is done, the organisation’s network is encrypted and effectively made unusable until either a ransom is paid, or the organisation reverts to backups to bring their network back online.
More worrying is the recent trend toward ‘double extortion’, where the attackers threaten to leak stolen data onto the internet. The intention of double-extortion ransomware attacks is to shame target organisations into paying a ransom, even if the appropriate backups are in place to mitigate a traditional attack.
Thinking About Retail Cybersecurity – A Clean Network Is a Secure Network Solution
In such a turbulent operating environment, retailers must take the necessary steps to ensure they mitigate the risk of data breach resulting in financial, operational and reputational damage.
You can help mitigate these threats by practicing good network hygiene. Some useful tips retailers can apply today to lower the risk of a successful cyberattack include:
- Employ the most recent patches for all hardware, internal and external software, network communication protocols, and database security protocols.
- Sanitise user input to prevent injection attacks.
- Prioritise patching for the threats most relevant to your organisation. Look out for the most-exploited vulnerabilities and ensure that internet-facing servers and systems are up to date.
- Work closely with your IT security team to fully understand the latest threat intelligence and potential vulnerabilities and mitigation techniques.
- Enforce multifactor authentication (MFA) for employees, whether onsite or working remotely.
One way to combat the broader attack surface created by digital transformation initiatives and mitigate the threat that cyber incidents and human error pose is to institute a comprehensive layered security approach. MSPs such as Syscomm provide the most complete collection of layered security tools for building a barrier between their clients’ networks and cyber criminals.
Evolving Customer Expectations
Changes in what customers want and expect are happening faster than many could ever imagine was possible. Retailers need to be aware, not only of seasonal trends, but any sudden shifts in customer shopping behaviours, as evidenced by the events of 2020. The most effective way to approach this problem is to always strive for innovation.
Successful retailers have been busy expanding their services outside of the traditional bricks and mortar footprints of their business sites. Such changes include secure outdoor payment and POS device support, curb side collection, and temporary distribution centres – these kind of blended cross-channel customer experiences will only increase throughout 2021 and beyond. However, in order to rollout these new services, retailers and their IT teams must deliver secure, reliable infrastructure solutions able to cope quickly with such innovations in the shopping experience.
The retail sector has been revolutionised by developments in the digital world, opening up a whole new way to access consumers and improve operational efficiencies, off and online. However, such changes have resulted in a much higher level of dependency on the internet and their IT systems for everyday operations, including point of sale, stock management and supply chains.
As retailer’s needs and goals continue to evolve, the underlying network infrastructure has never become more important. Retailers must have agile, flexible, and secure network solutions that support their mission critical requirements and meet the needs of their unique systems, services and brands.
Implementing technologies by turning to a trusted IT partner such as Syscomm to help you understand where your business is and where it’s going, can ensure success long after the holidays have ended.