Ecommerce Security: A Beginner’s Guide for 2023
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Most of us don’t want to even think about the possibility of someone breaking into our home. It’s scary and violating. So we buy locks and security systems to cut down the risk of someone breaking in.
But we often ignore the risk of someone breaking into our online world, which is a very real threat. And this goes double for ecommerce store owners who are responsible for others as well as themselves.
If you feel the whole online security thing is a little intimidating, don’t worry. We’ll talk you through what security for ecommerce websites is, why it’s important, the main threats facing your ecommerce store, and how you can begin to protect yourself and your online store.
What Is Ecommerce Security?
Just as you would secure a website to protect it from malicious activity, online stores also need protection – even more so, because they handle payment details, logins, addresses, and may fall victim to fraud more than a non-ecommerce site.
Ecommerce security is simply protecting your online store, its assets, and your customers’ data from unauthorized access, theft, and damage.
This includes protecting all sensitive information including credit card numbers, names, and addresses.
It should be a top priority before, during, and after the building of your ecommerce website.
Advice from the Experts
Top Tip: Ecommerce security isn’t just your responsibility. Don’t be afraid to question what steps the businesses that you buy from have taken too.
Why Is Ecommerce Security Important?
There are many reasons why ecommerce security is important. They generally fall under these categories:
Protecting Customer Data: Customers trust online stores with credit card numbers, addresses, contacts, photographs, and other personal information. If this data is breached, it can lead to financial loss, identity theft, and damage to your reputation.
Legal Consequences: Ecommerce stores that do not take security seriously may face legal consequences and be held liable.
Financial Loss: You can lose a lot of money, and not just from people stealing it. Investigations, legal fees, and customer compensation cost money, especially if your insurance denies coverage because of neglect.
Damage to Reputation: With a security breach, it can be hard or impossible to regain customer trust. Would you stay with a company that breached your data?
You’re also open to things you might not have thought about, such as the news reporting on you and your data breach – like the story below reporting on GoDaddy’s three-year breach – or horrible people holding you or your business to ransom unless you meet their demands.
The Main Ecommerce Security Threats
Here are five of the most common security threats:
We all get fake websites, emails, text messages or posts, and DMs on social media that try to get you to answer questions, or take an action like click on a link. These phishing scams try to trick you into accidentally entering personal information or downloading malware.
Phishing attacks can lead to financial loss and identity theft. They can damage your credit rating too.
There are a few ways to identify this attack. First, treat any link people post to you with a hint of suspicion. Channel your inner Benoit Blanc and investigate. Ask:
- Is this a legit website? Open a new tab and Google it – don’t follow any links in the original message.
- Is that email address format the official one? Typos in the address are a dead giveaway!
- Have you done a reverse search on that phone number?
Always be cautious of unsolicited emails or messages, especially those asking for personal information.
Malware is software designed to damage or gain unauthorized access to a computer system. Malware can be delivered through email attachments, links, or infected or dodgy websites and their “customer support.”
Malware can crash your servers and take your website offline indefinitely. You get the financial loss and liability plus you might be forced to spend a ton of money fixing the problems.
If you want to identify malware attacks, use antivirus software to detect and neutralize it. The software should be excellent quality and updated as often as needed. Many of the best ecommerce website builders come with layers of security built-in to help protect against attacks – and you can also install extra apps for added peace of mind.
Sometimes attackers will try to trick you into installing malware yourself, via phishing, so always be cautious of emails, links, or websites.
SQL Injection Attack
SQL injection attacks are next-level. A hacker finds a vulnerability in a website’s code (usually in input fields and search boxes) then injects their own SQL commands into the website’s database to access sensitive data.
They can exploit your customers’ information (opening you up to those legal and financial liabilities) or manipulate your database to alter or delete data (which can destroy your business).
Identifying an SQL requires some technical know-how. Regularly scan your website for vulnerabilities and patch any identified issues. Use prepared statements to prevent SQL injection attacks.
Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) Attacks
These are similar to SQL, but while SQL attacks a server, an XSS attacks people who use the website. XSS injects malicious code into a website, which then kicks in and works in the user’s browser.
The attacker then steals sensitive information, such as login credentials or credit card numbers from unsuspecting users. The attacker can use this information to make fraudulent purchases or sell it on the dark web to other malicious actors. Yikes!
As with the SQL you might want to leave identification up to the experts. But if you’re a bit of a techie, regularly scan your website for vulnerabilities and patch any identified issues. Use input validation to prevent XSS attacks.
DDoS stands for “Distributed Denial of Service,” and it floods a website’s server with so much traffic that it can’t handle the load and crashes. Like when the doors to Walmart open Black Friday.
A DDoS attack can be a major headache. It can cause the site to crash and be unavailable for hours, or days, which means customers can’t make purchases or access their accounts. You lose money and customers flee pretty fast. If your store is down for too long, your search engine rankings can tank.
To spot a DDoS, use a DDoS protection service to detect and prevent attacks. If you monitor your website’s traffic, you’ll be able to respond promptly to any unusual activity. Many of the best ecommerce hosting providers come with DDoS protection built-in so that you don’t have to deal with it on your own.
Advice from the Experts
Top Tip: Your business insurance might include security-specific insurance, but double check. Ensure it covers what you need.
Ecommerce Security Best Practices
There are best practices for security for ecommerce websites, and it will help you to know them.
But bear in mind doing all these yourself untrained is not as secure as a professional doing this for you. In fact, 95% of cyber breaches come from simple human error. But most people can’t afford to keep a security team on staff 24/7, so this is at least a good start.
1. Use Secure Passwords
Let’s face it, we’ve all been a little lazy at some point or another with our passwords. That should stop. We know they’re really important and it’s so easy to sort it out!
Passwords should be at least 12 characters long, and a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. You can use a password manager to generate and store secure passwords. Use two-factor authentication (2FA) for added security.
2. Implement SSL/TLS
SSL/TLS is a security protocol that encrypts data transmitted between a web server and a user’s browser. It’s very important because implementing SSL/TLS ensures that customer data is secure when transmitted over the internet.
It’s not the most difficult thing to do, but it’s not for straight-up beginners either and takes a little time. Get an SSL/TLS certificate from a trusted certificate authority (CA). Install the certificate on your web server. Use HTTPS for your website.
Find Out More
- Most good web hosts come with basic SSL certificates automatically – check out our list of the Best Free SSL Hosting Providers for our top picks.
3. Regularly Update Software
It’s no shock that updating your ecommerce store’s software is extremely vital. Regularly updating your software, including your operating system, web server, and ecommerce platform, can patch security vulnerabilities and prevent security breaches.
It’s fairly easy to do (though the specifics will range from software package to software package). Enable automatic updates for your software, and regularly check for updates and install them promptly.
Find Out More
WordPress sites can be prone to attacks when you forget to keep up with software, theme, and plugin updates. Our full guide on How To Secure a WordPress Website gets into the specifics of how to keep your WordPress site safe.
4. Use Both Antivirus Software and Firewall Protection
These are both absolutely necessary. Antivirus software stops viruses from harming your system and a firewall is a security measure that monitors and controls network traffic to prevent unauthorized access to your system.
In both cases, make sure you have the best software you can afford – not all brands are created equal! Good antivirus software should include malware detection, email scanning, and web protection.
It’s not too hard to install anti-virus software or implement a firewall on your web server. Configure the firewall correctly: Set up the firewall to block unauthorized traffic and only allow traffic that is necessary for your business operations. This includes setting up rules to block traffic from suspicious IP addresses, limit access to specific ports, and restrict traffic to authorized users.
Make sure they’re always updated. Also run regular scans – don’t just wait for the updates because things can slip through before developers are aware they exist.
5. Back Up Your Data and Monitor Your Site
It’s important and easy. Back up your data for a quick recovery from a security breach or system failure. Regularly monitoring your website traffic can detect unusual activity and prevent security breaches.
Use a backup service or software, which makes it all so easy. Store your backups offsite, in a secure location. Use a website monitoring service or software to monitor your website traffic. You can set up alerts for unusual activity.
Advice from the Experts
Top Tip: If this sounds like gobbledygook, there are a huge variety of dedicated courses you can take to learn these best practices.
Of course we don’t like to be reminded that nasty things can happen to the business we’re passionate about. But owners of ecommerce stores must implement these best practices to protect against threats in ecommerce security for websites.
It doesn’t matter how small your business is – why take the risk when you don’t need to? Familiarize yourself with these solutions and you’ll be on your way to making your ecommerce store more secure for the future.
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