E-commerce is a monolithic industry. According to market research, spending shot up to over $600 billion dollars in 2019, up nearly 15% from the year prior. But along with all that growth, there are also risks. It’s imperative that e-commerce security threats be taken seriously by all companies operating in this sphere. Whether you’re just starting up a new business or you’ve been a player in the e-commerce sector from the very beginning, you need to stay protected.
While brick and mortar stores had mostly physical threats to worry about, that’s not true of e-commerce. Online retailers need to contend with both the basic threats posed by common robbers and thieves, along with the complex work of cybercriminals.
That leads to the question: what types of threats in e-commerce are most common?
Top 7 E-commerce Security Threats
In order to keep your company safe and set yourself for success over the short and long term, it’s important to keep track of the most common and potentially dangerous kinds of attacks that exist. Knowing your enemy’s plan of attack is the first step toward preventing it.
To that end, this guide will break down the top seven vectors of attack facing all e-commerce businesses, regardless of size or market position. We’ll also address how to respond to each individually, as well as the best way to safeguard yourself against all of them at once.
Threat #1: Malware
A portmanteau of “malicious software,” malware is a blanket term or category that comprises a wide variety of programs designed to wreak havoc on a computer.
These pieces of software include:
- Viruses – Programs that exist in order to spread themselves into and throughout various other files and programs in order to damage them, destroying or corrupting data.
- Ransomware – Programs that block the normal functionality of an individual computer or entire system until a certain action is taken (usually delivery of a ransom payment).
- Backdoors – Programs that enable attackers to bypass your regular authentication processes, paving the way for fraud and data theft.
To mitigate the threats posed by malware, it’s imperative to install a firewall and filtering software that prevents programs from being installed on your business’s computers.
Threat #2: Bots
Bots, specifically nefarious bots, are some of the most prevalent and harmful programs that threaten e-commerce businesses. Less a single threat than a vector for others, bots are often behind the installation of malware on your computer, or even the targeted phishing campaign that leads to it. Think of bad bots as an army of cybercriminals—only, they’re programs rather than humans.
Avoiding the negative impacts of bad bots is often as simple as knowing how to recognize them. Securing your site with CAPTCHA so bots can’t register accounts is one great countermeasure.
However, it’s important to note that not all bots are harmful. In fact, there are many bots that your business benefits from. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) depends upon bots understanding the reasons why your website should be ranked above others in searches.
Threat #3: Fraud
Credit card fraud, and other attempts to misrepresent identity, are not unique to e-commerce. Brick and mortar retailers have always had to deal with fraudulent activities, such as fake credit or debit cards or even illegitimate checks being used to pay for goods.
It’s even easier to do online. User profiles that save payment information create conveniences like one-click shopping for customers. But they also open up vulnerabilities: a hacker who gains illegitimate access to a user account can likewise easily make purchases in his or her name.
Shoring up your password and identity management is one key measure that mitigates this risk. Another is adding in extra security around payment, such as requiring input of a card’s unique CVV by not saving that information to the user’s profile.
Threat #4: DDoS
Distributed denial of service (DDoS) is an attack that involves hackers flooding your servers with requests. The requests come from a multitude of sources—including bots—most or all of which will use fake or otherwise untraceable IP addresses. The purpose of the requests is to overwhelm your system to the point where it becomes inoperable.
Downtime is extremely dangerous. It can incur:
- Further vulnerabilities due to security frameworks being down
- Opportunity costs of clients being unable to shop
- Long-term reputational damage
Like with ransomware, DDoS attackers will demand that you pay a sum or complete some other act before they relinquish their grip and restore your services.
Defensive maneuvers to counter DDoS attacks involve carefully monitoring incoming requests and traffic on your servers. Disallowing illegitimate traffic helps avoid an overwhelming influx.
Threat #5: Skimming
Skimming directly targets the data of your clientele. Hackers glean sensitive information, such as credit card numbers and other personal data, as shoppers enter it on your web pages. The information is stolen in real time, and can be acted upon instantly or sat upon and leveraged at a later date. Making your customers the victims is an insidious way to derail your business.
A customer whose data is stolen when shopping on your website could be less willing to continue using or recommending your e-commerce platform in the future. That reputational damage is potentially more costly than immediate refunds or other compensation.
To mitigate this threat, make sure to secure your platform and inform clientele that they should never input any sensitive data on a webpage unless it’s secured and legitimate.
Threat #6: Scraping
Similar to skimming, scraping involves trickery that gets sensitive data into the hands of people who shouldn’t be able to access it. With scraping, that data almost also relates to valuable internal metrics that companies take great lengths to hide from their competitors.
Depending on the specific types of products you sell, as well as the scale and scope of your company, the kinds of data that might be scraped includes:
- Market research
Much scraping is performed by bots, but human attackers can also carry out generalized and targeted scraping attacks. In order to prevent scraping, careful monitoring of all activity and traffic is necessary. If you notice strange activity related to internal records and documents, you need to respond quickly—freeze access and attempt to patch any vulnerabilities.
Threat #7: Phishing
Phishing is another threat that’s present not just for e-commerce companies and businesses in general, but for every personal user of a computer. It involves hackers sending emails to unsuspecting individuals, who the hacker attempts to trick into some combination of sending resources (data or money) or downloading malware.
Phishing can be either generalized and passive or targeted. In the former case, the attacker poses as a random figure anyone might know, like a temporarily embarrassed foreign sovereign who needs help getting back on his feet. In the latter case, it’s called spear phishing, and it involves a lengthy research process so the hacker can pose as someone the victim knows.
In either case, the key to stopping phishing is investing in training and ensuring that all stakeholders know the difference between emails they can trust and those they can’t.
How to Handle All Threats of E-Commerce
The best way to deal with all of the threats detailed above is to invest in premium cybersecurity assistance. And the most efficient and effective solution is one that combines all the tools and practices you need into one accessible package.
Enter RSI Security’s robust threat and vulnerability management services.
Our team of experts will work with your organization to craft and implement a cyberdefense plan that fits your needs and means. We’ll help you find the root of an issue, respond to it immediately, and recover any losses an incident may have incurred.
Contact RSI Security today to safeguard your company against any and all e-commerce security threats that pose a risk to prosperity. You’ll be amazed at how safe you can be.