Ecommerce sites will always be a hot target for cyberattacks. For would-be thieves, they are treasure troves of personal and financial data. In addition to this, for businesses of all sizes, the cost of a breach both in loss of data and in customer trust can be hugely damaging for businesses of all sizes.
Ecommerce business owners are all too aware of these issues and are increasing their security measures. The VMWare Carbon Black 2020 Cybersecurity Outlook Report found that 77% of businesses surveyed had purchased new security products in the last year and 69% had increased security staff.
In this constant game of cat and mouse, as online retailers add increasingly innovative technologies to their sites to stay competitive, cyber attackers are equally honing their skills and finding new vulnerabilities to exploit. The best way to stay ahead is to be aware of ecommerce security best practices and the types of attacks to be on the lookout for.
The frequency and sophistication of cyber attacks has skyrocketed in recent years. Ecommerce security refers to the measures taken to protect your business and your customers against cyber threats.
Let’s look at some terminology and common acronyms you should know:
PCI DSS (often referred to as just “PCI”) is an industry standard that ensures credit card information collected online is being transmitted and stored in a secure manner.
ISO is an international standard-setting body that creates requirements that guide businesses in making sure their products and processes are fit for purpose. One of their standards, ISO/IEC 27001:2013, covers data security. Achieving this certification means a business has high-quality management systems, data security, risk-aversion strategies, and standardised business practices.
Personal data or personal information refers to any data that can be linked back to a specific individual. At its most simple, this includes names, email addresses, and phone numbers, but it can get a little bit more complex as well. Any data set — even scrubbed of specific names or numbers — that can identify a particular person is considered personal data. Protecting personal data is particularly important when it comes to data privacy regulations like GDPR (more on that later).
Utilizing SSL helps to authenticate and encrypt links between networked computers. Once you have an SSL certificate for your ecommerce site, you can move from HTTP to HTTPS, which serves as a trust signal to customers that your site is secure.
MFA, 2FA, and 2SV are sometimes used interchangeably — and they are similar — but there are differences between them. In addition to entering a username and password, all three of these methods require at least one further method of identity verification of a user logging in to a site — like your ecommerce store.
Here’s a high-level explanation of the differences:
A DDoS attack refers to a disruption of server, service, or network traffic by overwhelming it with a flood of traffic. This resource on Cloudflare, which offers more detailed information on DDoS attacks, compares it to a traffic jam. Imagine trying to pull out into a major roadway (those are your customers and legitimate traffic) during rush hour — all those cars are the compromised traffic, blocking customers out of your store.
Malware, or “malicious software”, is software that attackers install on your system. Ransomware is a type of malware that locks the victim out of their system, or prevents access to data, until a ransom is paid to the attacker. Here are a few symptoms you may experience if your system becomes infected:
The concepts of compliance and cybersecurity are often used interchangeably — and in some ways, they are related, but there are some important differences.
Compliance refers to the ability to meet a specific set of standards set out by governments or private institutions, and there can be legal repercussions for not complying. However, meeting those compliance standards does not necessarily mean your ecommerce site is fully secure. Note that there are many compliance standards that your business may be required to meet. We are only discussing several of the major, cybersecurity-related regulations.
Any business that manages credit card transactions must comply with the PCI-DSS requirements around the protection of cardholder data, no matter their revenue or credit card transaction volumes. These data security standards are defined by the PCI Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) and enforced by credit card companies.
GDPR is a relatively recent law enacted in the European Union to ensure the protection of European Economic Area (EEA) citizens’ personal data and privacy. It doesn’t just apply to businesses in the EU; if you sell products internationally to any of these citizens, you will need to comply with GDPR as you handle any of their data.
After GDPR was implemented in the EU, the state of California began to move toward implementing its own data protection law. The deadline for businesses working with or employing California residents to comply with CCPA was January 1, 2020. The spirit of CCPA is similar to GDPR in that it is dedicated to protecting the data and privacy of private citizens, but there are a few important differences. While this is the most recent and farthest-reaching data protection standard in the US, at least 15 other states have some type of personal privacy or data protection standards.
The types and methods of cyber attack are broad and varied, and it would be almost impossible to delve into them all in one blog post. But there are some that rise to the top as the most important to know about for strong ecommerce security.
Phishing is a type of social engineering, and refers to methods used by attackers to trick victims — typically via email, text, or phone — into providing private information like passwords, account numbers, social security numbers, and more.
BigCommerce Note: BigCommerce will never send you an email with a link to update your store or your login credentials. If you receive an email, phone call, or text from “BigCommerce” in which personal information is requested, contact customer support directly for validation.
When your device or network becomes infected with malware or ransomware — a type of malware — you may be locked out of all your important data and systems. Downtime is expensive, but regular backups of your site data can help keep this from being a devastating blow to your business. By not clicking on suspicious links or installing unknown software on a computer, you can be better protected against attacks.
You may be at risk if your ecommerce site insecurely stores data in a SQL database. If not properly validated, a malicious query injected into a packaged payload can give the attacker access to view and even manipulate any information in a database.
E-skimming refers to a method of stealing credit card information and personal data from payment card processing pages on ecommerce sites. Attackers gain access to your site either via a successful phishing attempt, brute force attack, XSS, or third-party compromise, then capture in real time the payment information your shoppers enter into the checkout page.
The compliance standards mentioned above aren’t going away. In fact, trends in privacy concerns indicate that we should expect more regulations in the future as people of all ages are increasingly concerned with where their data is going.
This Data Breach Investigations Report dives deeper into trends in retail cyber attacks. Payment information is shown to be the prominent target, and ecommerce attacks continue to rise as point-of-sale breaches and card skimmers are, overall, declining.
If a security breach of your ecommerce site leads to a loss of customer data, the associated fines — and the hit to your brand reputation — could be devastating.
According to the 2020 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, 37% of credential theft breaches used stolen or weak credentials. It’s worth the extra effort to make sure you, your employees, and your customers implement good practices for strong passwords:
“Do not use any form of the default admin name provided. Attackers write scripts that run day and night trying over and over to log in to the admin panel; if you’ve used anything similar to “admin”, they are more likely to crack it.” -Jason Simmons, CEO, Dead Soxy
Whether you’ve got one computer in a home office or a headquarters with a full networked computer system, make sure your connected devices are cyber secure with antivirus software, firewalls, or another appropriate method of protecting against threats.
One of the best ways to avoid malware infections is to avoid falling into the phishing traps. Never provide any level of personal information unless you have verified the identity of the recipient. Additionally, no legitimate organisation will ever ask you to share your password.
Never click links in suspicious emails, as they may take you to a webpage that is made to look like a familiar login page but serves instead to steal your information. Also, do not ever download any attachments that you were not already expecting.
There are a few ways to distinguish phishing attempts from legitimate emails; here’s what to look for:
It may feel like a burden at times, but using 2-step verification, 2-factor authentication, or multi-factor authentication gives you further assurance that you and your authorised users are the only people logging into your store. Considering the potential consequences of a breach, it’s worth it.
When it comes to storing data, the bottom line is to never hold on to more than you need to optimally conduct your business. However, in deciding what exactly that means for you, there are a lot of factors to consider.
Particularly with the growing number of data privacy regulations, it’s important to carefully establish your own business’ philosophy to balance customer experience, business convenience, and security.
“Always keep your customers’ critical data separate from other information by segmenting your network. Deploy firewalls and conduct audits to ensure that all of your security measures are functioning the way they are supposed to.”
Shane Barker, ShaneBarker.com
Security is a continuous cat-and-mouse game. Attackers identify vulnerabilities; software engineers patch them. If you are using a SaaS ecommerce platform like BigCommerce, updates to your software are taken care of automatically. With on-premises ecommerce solutions, however, your business is responsible for implementing any updates, bug fixes, or vulnerability patches to the software that powers your store.
“With our previous ecommerce platform, there were ongoing security updates that we had to manually install which would always “break” something else. We had to create a secondary sandbox site to test security updates prior to uploading to our live site. As you can imagine, this was not ideal.”
Billy Thompson, President, Thompson Tee
Secure HTTPS hosting, which requires an SSL certificate, will help secure your website. It’s also a boon for your marketing department because Google penalises websites with HTTP in organic search rankings. HTTPS sends a positive trust signal to your shoppers — particularly the digitally savvy.
If you are breached and lose access to your data, you are going to want a backup to help you get your business back up and running as quickly as possible.
Take an inventory of all the third-party solutions you’re running within your store. Make sure that you know what they are and assess your continued level of trust in that third party. If you’re no longer using them, remove that integration from your store. The idea is to allow the smallest number of parties to have access to your customers’ data, while still driving your business forward.
The holiday season is, unfortunately, a time you can expect higher volumes of attempted fraud and cyber crime. Everyone is really busy, and there are huge spikes in traffic on ecommerce sites, making anomalous behavior more difficult to protect. Attackers know this — and see it as an opportunity.
Here are some things you can do to ensure website security through the holidays:
“The holiday season is the time when a good majority of ecommerce cyber-attacks take place, taking advantage of the holiday rush. Retailers should prepare for this in advance and conduct a thorough security check before the holiday season starts. This should include checking for malware in point-of-sale systems and improving the security of web servers.”
Shane Barker, ShaneBarker.com
Your holiday security audit should also include an examination of who has access to what:
“Make sure to review admin-level accounts and privileges for your store, marketing software, and other tools. Disable or delete unused accounts. Update permissions to reflect the actual workflows for particular users.”
Jordan Brannon, President, Coalition Technologies
A steep spike in shoppers is often accompanied by an increase in fraudulent activity. According to the TransUnion Holiday Retail Fraud Survey from 2019, 46% of customers are concerned about being the victim of fraud when shopping this holiday season.
“Another form of cyber risk and one of the biggest risks to ecommerce brands today is the chargeback scam. Attackers acquire credit card information along with credentials and go on a spending spree. The retailer gets an order and ships it, not thinking twice about it. Only to receive a chargeback at some point in the future because the charge was marked as fraud. The retailer can’t argue and is forced to refund the order and the goods are long gone. This is even compounded more with loyalty programs and gift cards.
"This type of cyber fraud is very hard to prevent. After losing 1000s in merchandise we started using the Eye4fraud.com app for BigCommerce. The app tells us in real time if each order should be shipped or not and offers a guarantee for any chargeback.”
Jason Simmons, CEO, Dead Soxy
Make sure you and your team are prepared for common threats — including having a clear process for verifying the identity of customers who request any changes to their orders or accounts.
It’s good advice to get your store pretty much locked down for the holidays and not make too many changes to it, just to avoid the extra risk that that can entail. However, that general guideline does not apply when it comes to security, and patching your site for any vulnerabilities. This is mostly applicable if you have an on-premise ecommerce solution (BigCommerce merchants can breathe easy!). You need to have a tried and true plan for site updates if they become necessary to ensure the security of your business and your shoppers.
Each and every part of the BigCommerce platform is built with security in mind. Our multi-tenant SaaS ecommerce platform helps to lower your total cost of ownership; your organisation is not responsible for maintaining servers, installing updates or patching the servers when security vulnerabilities are discovered.
Best-in-class SaaS applications like the ones BigCommerce uses offer robust layers of security as well as the rigorous fraud prevention, information security standards, and compliance frameworks. Updates and security patching are handled by the SaaS provider, taking some of the burden off of its users.
With a move to Google Cloud Platform, BigCommerce’s security benefits have only increased, providing merchants with additional security measures including best-in-class protection against DDoS attacks.
In addition, BigCommerce maintains PCI compliance on behalf of merchants and is ISO 27001-certified by the international standard outlining best practices for information security management systems.
“PCI requirements, complexity, and cost are increasing constantly. Mitigating this virtually requires a shift to SaaS.”
Jason Greenwood, Director, Solutions & Delivery, Moustache Republic
BigCommerce takes both security and privacy very seriously, baking both into the way we build our products and interface with customers. We go a step further and put boundaries around how we interact with a merchant’s data.
Our merchants’ data and customers belong to them and only them. To keep your customers’ payment information as secure as possible, sensitive payment data is encrypted in transit and does not come to rest on BigCommerce’s infrastructure.
Developing good ecommerce security is vitally important to the success of your business. You can’t afford to lose your customers’ trust by exposing their personal data. By using a SaaS platform like BigCommerce, you get the benefits of spending more time growing your business — and less time worrying about security monitoring and maintenance.
This doesn’t mean there’s nothing for you to do! Practising good password hygiene, staying mindful about clicking links and downloading attachments from your email, and regularly reviewing your third-party integrations are particularly important, even for merchants on our secure SaaS platform.
By following the tips in this post and staying aware of what’s happening in the cybersecurity landscape, you can provide your customers with a shopping experience they can trust.
Read more about security in SaaS with this technical deep dive.
This material does not constitute legal, tax, professional or financial advice and BigCommerce disclaims any liability with respect to this material. Please consult your solicitor or professional advisor on specific legal, professional or financial matters.