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Why Data Privacy and Security Are Big Issues For eCommerce

Why Data Privacy and Security Are Big Issues For eCommerce

Privacy and security are emerging issues in eCommerce. Consumers are concerned about the unauthorized access to their data and the growth of eCommerce depends on the security and privacy policies put in place to gain the trust of consumers. 

eCommerce sites are an obvious target and many of them are not sufficiently safeguarded against the threat of cyber attacks. If you’re the owner of an eCommerce store, it is up to you to make sure your customers are protected. If you fail, you are vulnerable to breaches and can compromise sensitive customer data which may lead to the loss of trust, sales and your brand’s reputation. 

Cybercriminals can use various techniques to access the database of your eCommerce store where you store valuable customer information. This is one reason why it is so important to have a backup service for your business. With a backup, you can restore an earlier version of your website and minimize your downtime.

When it comes to data privacy, legislation such as GDPR is in place that requires you to justify why you need data from your customers. You have to explain how you are going to use it and if a breach occurs, you need to inform your customers within a certain time period. 

Some threats to your eCommerce store

One of the tactics cybercriminals use when targeting eCommerce stores is to inject code into a website. All payment information submitted by a customer goes straight to them. The customer is unaware of the problem until he or she finds suspicious activity on a bank account. This happened to British Airways passengers when credit card data was ‘skimmed’ using malicious JavaScript. 

E-commerce store threats British Airways website malicious JavaScript data privacy

Hackers also use bots to scrape websites for inventory information and pricing information. They can use this information to change pricing and more which results in declining sales. 

DOS (Denial of Service) and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks flood your servers with so many requests that your website crashes. 

Brute force attacks attempt to figure out your password by using programs to establish a connection to your website and then use every kind of combination to crack it. 

Adam Clark, a freelance writer, says that he had no idea hackers could find old user names and passwords on the dark web. He used the same user names and passwords on all sites he accessed, including eCommerce websites, until he found that someone had stolen his identity. Identify theft is one of the most common cybercrimes. 

Assess your exposure

No one has an unlimited budget to address privacy and security issues and so you need to assess how best to use your resources. Risks can be addressed in the following ways to prevent consumer information from falling into the wrong hands. 

Install an SSL certificate

SSL certificate 8 things you need to know about HTTPS for data privacy

You are vulnerable to attack if you’re using outdated HTTP protocols. Most modern browsers will display a message in such a case, warning a user not to proceed because the website is insecure. Having an up-to-date SSL certificate and HTTPS protocol is crucial if you want to get traffic today. 

Secure your payment gateway

If you have credit card numbers stored on your database, it is a liability for you. It puts sensitive information in your care on the line because it is vulnerable to hackers. 

Many eCommerce stores use third-party payment processors, such as PayPal, to handle payments because they have very secure environments to take care of customer data. 

Data going from the browser of the user to the server of the payment processing is encrypted if you’ve installed an SSL certificate. It prevents hackers from stealing payment information if you accept payments through a third-party processor or gateway. 

Use firewalls

You can use a web-app firewall to monitor traffic and stop any malicious attempts if your server resources are exhausted. It can help to protect your website against threats such as cross-site scripting and SQL injections.

A firewall offers selective permeability so you can only allow trusted traffic in and you can also customize its settings to block incoming traffic from countries you do not ship to. A firewall must have built-in DDoS protection and meet the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards.

Secure your servers and admin panels

Most eCommerce platforms come with default passwords. They are very easy to guess and you need to change them if you don’t want to be hacked. It is important to use strong passwords and to change them frequently. You can use a password manager, such as 1Password, to help you generate strong passwords and store them in an encrypted database.  

Comments on your blog or contact forms are often an invitation for online spammers. They leave infected links and wait for you to click on them which not only affects security but your website speed. 

Keep all plugins and software updated

If the plugins on your site aren’t regularly updated, hackers will be able to find their way in as they are always looking for vulnerabilities in popular eCommerce plugins.

Hackers will use bots that can find websites using outdated software and plugins and it can become a serious liability. Free antivirus/antimalware solutions are pretty limited and it is better to opt for paid versions.

Although you can do it by following a simple process on CMS platforms like WordPress, automating the detection and removal of malware can enhance your site security and save you time. Automated solutions use sophisticated algorithms to detect malicious transactions and they will review your site files and automatically apply security patches. 

Use multi-layer security

If you use several layers of security, you can better protect your site. Two-factor authentications, for example, require a user name and password combination as well as a code sent to a user’s email or an SMS sent to a mobile number. Biometric data is also increasingly being used to improve security. 

Backup and restore important data

If you employ an automatic backup service, your data is backed up automatically, even if you forget to do it manually. If your files are automatically backed up, you can restore operations speedily if your database is breached. The more downtime you have, the more the costs add up.

Use eCommerce security plugins

Using a security plugin is a simple way to protect your website from bad bots, code injections, SQLi, XSS and many other types of attacks. 

Opt for a solid eCommerce platform

It is important to use a secure eCommerce platform that offers great security and updates regularly. eCommerce platforms have tools that can safeguard you against the most common threats and provide you with frequent updates. 

Train your staff

Your staff needs to be aware of how important it is to protect customer information. They should never share login credentials and personnel who have access to confidential customer information need to be carefully selected and trained.

They may be targeted by cybercriminals and fall for phishing attempts. They release information to them because their requests appear to come from legitimate business owners. Once employees leave your company, you need to make sure they don’t still have access to your systems. 

Educate your customers

Lapses in security may come from your clients. It is worth trying to educate them about the risks associated with unsafe practices like using weak passwords. Explain to them what constitutes a strong password with a good combination of numbers, letters, and symbols that make it hard to guess. 

Teach them how phishing works so they are less likely to click a suspicious link in an email that claims to come from your business. Cybercriminals may report that suspicious activity is happening on their account and they need to supply certain information so they can fix it. 

When you’re educating them, don’t make them feel as though you’re trying to get them to jump through all kinds of hoops to stay secure or they may just leave your website.

The bottom line

Handling data is an important part of running an eCommerce website today. All the security breaches and fraudulent uses of data have made customers more concerned about their privacy and security. They want to know that you take it seriously and that you understand the threats. 

You need to be aware of the threats and assess your risks so you can take appropriate measures. If you’re running an eCommerce store, you can’t afford to take any privacy or security risks because you are unlikely to be given a second chance if customer data is compromised. 

Investing in eCommerce security is even more important than marketing or web design today. Keeping your systems up to date, training your staff and backing up your databases are some of the best ways to reduce the risks of a breach and ensure your store keeps running efficiently. 

Guest author: Alice Jones is a San Francisco, CA-based writer, editor and journalist. She is a master’s degree holder from the University of San Francisco and is currently working with a leading digital publisher. Her field of work is in business management, finance and economics.

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