The internet has become a great platform for small businesses to thrive. Selling online not only significantly increases your reach, but also provides a way to create smooth transactions with customers all over the world. However, this change in the small-sales market has brought with it some previously unconsidered risks.
Whilst we’ve heard about retail giants, such as Target and Home Depot, being hit by hackers, most small business owners consider themselves far too far under the radar to worry about threats to their online security. However, these cyberattacks can be just as, if not more, catastrophic to smaller businesses and almost just as likely to happen.
Why It’s Important
Just as you’d lock the front door to your shop before you went home for the evening, securing you e-commerce website is essential for ensuring the success of your business. Which the potential for so much sensitive information and transactions to be stored on the site, an infiltration would certainly be a disaster!
Figures claiming that 60 percent of small businesses suffered a data breach in the last year alone show that this problem is by no means one to be ignored. Now, with even politicians and US leaders are claiming that cyberattacks have surpassed terrorism as the number one threat to Americans, no matter how small your e-commerce business is, taking your security seriously should be an essential part of your business model.
What Could Happen
Cyberattacks come in many different shapes and sizes. One of the most common attacks e-commerce businesses face is cybertheft. This is where details that are stored within the website, such as credit card numbers, addresses and personal information, are stolen. This process can often result in fraud and identity theft as well as the more obvious repercussions such as direct theft from bank accounts.
Alongside cybertheft, a newer form of hacking is targeting small businesses: ransomware. This range of malware is an extremely nasty type of programme that locks down you computer until you pay a ransom fee. This means all business and commerce will be stopped until you’ve solved the problem. Similarly DoS (Denial of Service) and Distributed DoS attacks take down websites by overwhelming them with traffic. These are just a few of the many types of problems your business may face if not properly secured.
Who’s At Risk?
Businesses who fail to take their security seriously are not just putting themselves in potential danger. Any website that facilitates transactions and purchases stands as a point of vulnerability for customers credit card data. This is perhaps some of the most sensitive information there is on the internet and the result of not handling it correctly could be disastrous, not only for the customers but also for the reputation of the business who falls victim to the attack.
Clothing company, Target, saw $148 million losses from the damage their 2014 data breach caused to their brand. Similarly, staff members whose information is stored within the site are also at risk of identity theft if the admin fails to create a secure environment. It goes without saying that an attack from malicious hackers can destroy a small business, but it can also affect all affiliates—something that many owners fail to consider.
Fortunately, there are many ways to protect your e-commerce site from hackers. First, starting with number one—the owner—it’ important to use a VPN on the computer you administrate the site from, particularly if working on-to-go. Public WiFi connections are an easy way for cybercriminals to intercept login details and gain access to your sites administrative panel.
Next, it’s worth investing in a SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), which encrypts data between the browser and the website server. This means that card details are not visible to prying eyes once entered into the website. Other tips such as not storing sensitive data long term and enforcing complex password regulations are essential steps to protect your site.
The above methods are just a few ways you can begin to secure your e-commerce site but there are many more steps to take to ensure near-complete security. Although most website platforms offer their own inbuilt security systems it’s essential you understand all the elements of your sites security. One of the best ways to do this is to perform security reviews—annually, quarterly or monthly. Not only does this cement your own understanding, it also prepares you for the ever-changing face of online security; as the threats develop, security features develop alongside them.
For those truly dedicated to their sites online safety, completing a PCI-DSS self-assessment is a great way to test your security model and an essential endeavor for those handling credit card data. There are also third-party companies who offer penetration tests to see how well your security features are functioning.
Don’t consider your business too small to worry about threats to online security. If you process credit card data, you’re a target for cybercriminals. Take the precautions mentioned above to ensure that a cyberattack doesn’t wipe out everything you’ve worked for.
How do you protect your e-commerce site? Share in the comments below.