Ecommerce killed the retail star. Trends show that e-commerce is quickly overtaking traditional shopping models, with 2023 predicted to have 300 million online shoppers in the US alone. This statistic is excellent news for the industry and even better news for cybercriminals. There are types of e-commerce security that will become necessary for any business wishing to engage with clients online.
In this article, we will explore the different types of e-commerce security that your organization can begin to employ today.
Types of E-commerce Security Vulnerabilities
Most of the e-commerce security discussed in this article will cover one or more of the three basic vulnerabilities in e-commerce. The way we see it, there are three main avenues attackers can exploit on an e-commerce platform, and those are:
- Communication Channels
The next sections will group each type of e-commerce security into one of the three vulnerabilities.
These types of vulnerabilities arise directly from client interaction on the website. It can be challenging to protect against, but not impossible. The main threat is fraud and fraudulent transactions. The latter part is primarily due to refunds on illegally acquired products. An attacker can fake purchase and request a refund or simply purchase a product with a stolen credit card.
There are forms of protection the client can access through their bank, with some apps allowing cancelations of unauthorized purchases but sometimes they will go through. In these cases, there are some techniques that your organization can employ.
In some cases, there are opportunities to educate your client base on the dangers of shopping online and how to protect yourself. If your business uses a blog or some kind of content marketing, then you can educate your client base through emails and blog posts. This is an indirect form of security and won’t see an immediate effect, but can have a long-lasting impact on the overall e-commerce security ecosystem.
This is also the case for phishing attempts on client emails. Remind your clients via email, or whatever form of communication you utilize, that the business will never ask for personal information or credit card details outside of the sign-up process. This should also be the case for clicking on links, using a recognizable format for emails so clients know it is you that is emailing, making it obvious when a fraudster is impersonating the brand.
The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a security level that does not strictly relate to client vulnerabilities but protects mainly against fraud and secures other types of vulnerabilities. Implementing the PCI DSS guidelines is the best standard for any e-commerce organization.
Read more about PCI DSS on our blog.
Server vulnerabilities are weaknesses that come from the hosting system you use. So anything the organization runs on their side; web hosting, data storage, etc. can be exploited by attackers. There are types of e-commerce security that the organization can use to mitigate server vulnerabilities.
- SQL Injections (not a simple fix it is one of the most common attacks on the internet)
- Brute force attacks
Multi-Factor Authentication and Password Complexity
When operating an e-commerce site you must secure access to admin panels and server-side systems. Access to these elements gives attackers the easiest route to organization-wide controls, meaning financial and reputational loss.
You can secure this by utilizing multi-factor authentication on login, requiring a device or app to verify any login attempts that are controlled by a single admin. This coupled with using a more complex password (possibly using symbols, numbers, and uppercase letters) minizine, and in some cases eliminates that chance of a successful brute force attack.
Brute force attacks are a type of cyberattack where a program generates massive amounts of password guesses to force their way into a system.
You can also limit the number of login attempts as an extra layer of security.
If a vulnerability is exploited on the server-side, it can quickly escalate into a complete organizational shutdown. If no recovery plan is in place the organization may lose everything. For this reason, it is of paramount importance that backups of the e-commerce website are done regularly to ensure business continuity.
Most reputable hosting sites will backup data for you which brings us to the next security.
Choose a Good Hosting Service
Most small to medium-size enterprises probably don’t have the monetary and security resources to host their own web servers, this is especially true for e-commerce. In the best of cases, your organization makes an excellent product and is looking for a new avenue to sell it online.
This is where web hosting services come in, pick services that are known for their security, and have a good standing with their customers. This does not guarantee that your business is safe for attacks, as even the best of hosting services can be exploited, but it does start the organization off in the right direction.
This, coupled with all the previous types of e-commerce security solutions, will drastically decrease the chance that an attack on the organization is successful.
Updating server or web hosting software is vital to the security of the e-commerce platform. In most cases, an e-commerce website will be hosted by a third-party and designed by a web design platform (WordPress, Wix, etc.).
These organizations will release updates on a regular basis, and your business must ensure that the updates are applied. The updates will usually target UI updates, quality of life changes, etc., but most importantly they will sometimes patch security vulnerabilities.
If the organization is operating on outdated software, attackers can exploit vulnerabilities that have not been patched. These vulnerabilities are also publicly known by the time the update is released.
Some web design services, like WordPress, offer security plugins for e-commerce platforms. Woocommerce, one of the most common e-commerce platforms, also integrates security within the WordPress plugin.
Shopify and other popular e-commerce platforms will also offer security extras as part of the services. Do the due diligence and carefully review the features and capabilities of each.
Communication Channel Vulnerabilities
One avenue that attackers might try to exploit, is the communication channels that lead to the e-commerce website. This attack can be achieved by a variety of methods and can target things like traffic via a Distributed Denial of Service. A DDoS attack can also be considered a server vulnerability. It sends a large amount of data (seen as website traffic) towards your server to overload the capacity rendering the services unusable, or incredibly slow in the best of cases.
DDoS attacks are incredibly commonplace in the cyber realms, and they can target even the best of organizations. Other communication channel threats include:
- Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)
- Bots (the bad kind)
Fortunately, cyber professionals have developed programs and systems that combat these kinds of threats; let’s take a look.
The best friend of anyone trying to control communication traffic. A firewall is a must-have security for any e-commerce platform. Firewalls act as the first line of defense against communications coming to the website or server. They are also very effective at blocking spam emails and hazardous links.
Most hosting services will have their own firewall in place, but it is a good idea to have one specifically for your website and the business computer.
Content Delivery Networks (CDN)
CDN’s are a great defense tool that can prevent a DDoS attack. Most websites won’t be able to differentiate “valid” traffic from malicious traffic, which is why DDoS attacks are so successful. With a CDN the website adds an extra layer of hosting, where the proxy servers are spread around.
These data centers are known as “points of presence” with their own built-in security. CDN providers will offer DDoS protection as an extra layer of security for its customers, it is a very popular e-commerce security solution.
It’s risky business storing credit card information on your own servers, especially if you don’t have the resources to keep them secure. Thankfully there are third-party solutions that can help with that.
Payment gateways are a third-party solution that allows a business to process payments off the website. This way of accepting payments means your e-commerce store does not have to deal with the serious consequence in the event of a hack (seriously, you don’t want to be the one responsible for leaking customer credit card information).
Two of the most popular payment gateways are Paypal and Stripe, both used extensively in the e-commerce world. This is not a recommendation to use either, but it is important that the organization employ a reputable payment gateway and one that has best-practice security as a mainstay of the business.
If you are running an e-commerce website, there is no excuse not to use the HTTPS protocol. The green padlock that appears next to the URL indicates that the website you are browsing is using HTTPS (it might not be green if you are not using Chrome web browser, but a version of it appears on most modern browsers).
Online shoppers are also becoming accustomed to HTTPS and are likely not to shop on a website that does not have HTTPS.
It is now possible to get an SSL certificate for free using Let’s Encrypt, a not for profit certification authority, making it an easy extra layer of security at no cost.
Fringe Security Measures
These security measures are not directly related to a specific vulnerability but are types of e-commerce security that have border applications.
The organization can use third-parties, NGO’s, and local governments to see if there are any “flavor of the month” scams. Holiday seasons usually show an increase in fraud, if your e-commerce knows about them, it can be one step ahead and protect itself and its customers against the scam.
Educating the organization staff is good security practice regardless of the industry, and e-commerce is no different. The kind of training might be more nuanced but a cyber specialist can tailor the staff training requirement to the industry.
E-Commerce Security Compliance
Complying with regulations is an excellent way to cover the security basics and more. Some regulations are directed to specific industries, whilst others are more general. PCI DSS briefly described above is specific to credit card processing, a great way to secure an e-commerce platform.
Other more generic data protection regulations include the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), both vital regulations to the furtherment of personal data protection.
Operating an e-commerce business is a great way to interface with customers across the globe, but there are some serious security concerns if not done correctly.
Cybersecurity professionals have been hard at work to prospect for the best types of e-commerce security. Given the increase in the e-commerce threat landscape, this is good news.
In this article, we covered three (plus one) key vulnerability areas:
- Client vulnerabilities
- Sever vulnerabilities
- Communication channel vulnerabilities
- Fring security measures (not related to a vulnerability type but useful steps to take)
In these three key vulnerability areas, we explored some of the more common threats and the types of e-commerce security solutions.
Employing all the measures above will bolster the cyber defense of your e-commerce business; get in contact with RSI Security today for full e-commerce security implementation and threat vulnerability management.