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As an eCommerce business owner, winning over the trust of your prospective customers is of paramount importance. After all, it can either make or break a sale. With this in mind, one of the key eCommerce security objectives should be to protect customer data no matter what it takes.
That’s not to say that individuals don’t have to take any kind of measures to protect their personal data and that the burden of doing so always lies on the companies they do business with – to the contrary! Personal data protection is a two-way street.
Everything considered, though, individuals can hire data removal services such as Incogni, which will contact data brokers and request that any personal information is removed from their databases. In comparison, eCommerce stores have a much harder job to fulfill their end of the bargain. More on this as we move down the list of eCommerce security measures that business owners can do in this regard.
With the onset of data-protection regulations such GDPR and CCPA, eCommerce business owners are under increased pressure to protect customer data at all costs. Failing to do so, and severe repercussions can follow, along with the kind of fines that are steep enough to shut down your entire operation.
But what is the correct plan of attack and what cyber security measures should you have in place?
9 eCommerce Security Tips & Recommendations:
What is the correct plan of attack and what cyber security measures should you have in place?
Below, you will find our recommendations on the security eCommerce stores must have and how to protect customer data in 2022:
1. Implement Encryption
If you’re storing personal information in a database, you must take the steps necessary to make sure it’s encrypted. An example of this would be storing credit card data one or more of your customers have opted to store on the server for convenience and future purchases.
As secure as you think your server is, a data breach can happen at any time. If the database where you store personal and payment information doesn’t have an extra layer of protection such as encryption, everything will go straight into the hands of malicious third-party actors in the unfortunate event of a breach. A thief can then misuse it to commit all sorts of crimes, including identity theft and bank fraud. Bottom line is, you need encryption.
2. Use Two-Factor authentication (2FA)
Two-factor authentication (or 2FA for short) is an additional layer of defense you should be using to keep your accounts safe, particularly those with administrative privileges. Think of it like this: at any time you type in your password, someone might be listening, trying to record your keystrokes as you make them (keylogger malware is a great example of this). Your password, while still an important part of your cyber defense, is therefore not enough.
By implementing 2FA, the server will ask for additional confirmation to make sure it’s truly you at any time a login request is initiated. This usually comes in the form of a randomly-generated code that gets sent to you through an SMS message, an email, or via a dedicated 2FA app or physical hardware key.
The idea is that, even if someone were to steal your password, they would also need to have control over another one of your smart devices or accounts to get in. While by no means impenetrable, 2FA is usually more than enough to prevent such a malicious login attempt.
3. Maintain a Strong Password Policy
Just because you’re using extra measures such as 2FA doesn’t mean that you should forego all precautions as they relate to crafting a strong password. As a general rule of thumb, for a password to be considered of acceptable strength, it needs to be:
- At least 8 characters long
- Contain uppercase and lowercase characters
- Contain numbers
- Contain special symbols
In addition, you should not re-use your eCommerce passwords anywhere else on the internet. Period. The reason being is, you have no control over another webmaster’s web real estate and you don’t know what security measures they have (or don’t have) in place.
In other words, their website can get hacked at any time and any details stored on the server, including every user’s login credentials, can get stolen and leaked in the process.
If you’re working with a team of employees that help you manage your eCommerce store, make sure they understand the risks involved and educate them about essential cyber security principles if need be. Anyone who handles sensitive customer data should receive proper training on the subject.
4. Scan Your eCommerce Store for Vulnerabilities Often
There is no such thing as a website that’s 100% hacker-proof, even if you follow the best cyber security practices. Even at this very moment, there might be a vulnerability right underneath your nose.
Every once in a while, it’s good to hire a penetration testing company to see if there are any holes you need to plug. In essence, this is a group of white-hat hackers specializing in detecting and reporting vulnerabilities, making it possible for webmasters to patch them up in time before anyone can exploit them.
5. Have a Data Breach Plan
Whether you’re a large eCommerce enterprise or a small business owner, you’re never immune from the risk of sustaining a data breach. Therefore, you should plan for the worst so you can respond to a potential disaster without delay. This is going to be instrumental when it comes to protecting your customers as well as your company’s reputation.
Since crafting an incident response plan often requires the services of an experienced cyber security consultant, it’s a good idea to hire one if you haven’t already. Together, you will be able to craft a rock-solid plan on how to proceed in the event of a breach and how to mitigate the damage.
6. Never Grant Access Permissions Unless Absolutely Necessary
Think twice before granting high-level access privileges to someone. If that individual does not require them to do their job, then you’re opening yourself up to unnecessary risk. And if there’s no other way but to grant them, monitor that person’s actions and take away their access rights as soon as they’re done working. To be extra sure they haven’t done anything they shouldn’t have, it doesn’t hurt to check the logs they’ve left behind as well.
7. Only Collect What’s Essential
While it may be tempting to get to know your customers more for marketing purposes, you have to ask yourself whether doing so is worth the risk of having their personal data stolen. Besides, asking for too much of it during registration could discourage someone from opening an account on your eCommerce store in the first place, which is another reason why you should think twice before collecting any kind of personal data.
The best practice is to only collect what’s essential and forego the rest. To illustrate an example, you’re probably going to need their physical address and credit card number if they want to order something. However, unless you’re trying to verify they’re of legal age, you don’t need a scan of their personally-identifiable document.
8. Use The Secure HTTPS Protocol
Remember what we’ve said about the importance of instilling the feeling of trust in your customers? Seeing the padlock icon in the URL bar tells them your server is using the secure HTTPS protocol, meaning they will be more willing to share sensitive user data with you. Without this, you could be leaving mountains of money on the table.
The reason is that modern-day internet users are educated to know the importance of only entering their sensitive information on websites that are secure.
In case you’re trying to rank in Google, using the HTTPS protocol is an important ranking factor. If your website doesn’t meet the criteria it will be pushed down the search results and stomped on by your competition. Just get an SSL certificate or install Cloudflare – this way, your website will switch over to HTTPS by default.
9. Keep Your Software Up To Date
Last but not least, you should keep your software up to date, including any extensions or plugins you may have installed on your eCommerce platform. The reason being is that hackers often prey on unpatched websites that are full of cyber security vulnerabilities which makes them easy to exploit and break through the security mechanisms.
On that note, any kind of nulled or pirated plugins or software you may be using is a big no-no from the cyber security perspective as well, so make sure to keep it legit. Even certain free plugins can be a cyber liability, especially if the developers have abandoned the project and are no longer releasing updates for them. Therefore, it’s better to stick to premium plugins and software only.
eCommerce Security Tips & Recommendations Summary
eCommerce security is multi-faceted, but protecting customer data is fundamental from multiple viewpoints and it goes beyond regulatory compliance. In the competitive world of eCommerce, you don’t stand a chance unless your customers perceive you as trustworthy.
Therefore, make sure to re-read the tips we’ve laid out for you as many times as needed and employ the security measures necessary to avoid a potential disaster.