If you’ve paid attention to the news over the last several years, you have likely heard about the significant data breaches that have hit major retailers, including Target and Home Depot. These attacks left millions of people with compromised credit cards and serious doubts about how much they can really trust big business. And that is what is most surprising about the whole thing, these are huge companies with vast data security teams, and they were still unable to protect their customers.
As a small e-commerce business owner with zero IT members, you may be wondering how you can possibly stand a chance in this world full of malware and cyberthieves. But there is hope.
All it takes to protect your brand and your clients is a bit of education, vigilance, and a staff that is equally as dedicated to security as their management. To get you prepared, let’s take a look at the importance of website security and what you can start doing today to protect your e-commerce business.
Why cybersecurity is essential
Make no mistake about it. Small business or not, cyber thieves will likely target your website at some point during your company’s existence. Hackers are more prone to come after small businesses because they know that you don’t have any of the staff or protections that the more established companies have in place. It has gotten so bad that one out of five small businesses will become the victim of cybercrime, and out of those, 60 percent go out of business within six months.
So why are data breaches so bad for a small business?
There are many reasons, and it starts with money. According to 2020 statistics, the average cost accrued by a company recovering from a data breach is over $8 million. When you break that number down further, you are looking at a cost of about $146 for each stolen record. Does your company have the funds and the customer base to recover after a monetary hit like that?
You also have to consider the damage to your reputation. When customers feel like a company doesn’t have their best interest at heart, they tend to go elsewhere. In fact, 19% of customers say that they would never shop with an impacted company again, even if they were guaranteed that the issues were fixed. With so much competition in the online space, reputation management is more important than ever. Customers need to know that you take their data and their money seriously, and if they find out that you don’t, they can easily move on to another company that offers a similar service.
Cybersecurity in an evolving world
You must take care of your cybersecurity issues now because as technology evolves, so will the threats, and a company without basic protections will quickly fall behind. Now more than ever, we are seeing a rise in the Internet of Things as consumers connect all of their electronic devices, from cell phones and tablets to refrigerators and thermostats. Lots of people are aware of the dangers out there and are already using programs such as Kodi VPN in order to protect their IP addresses. However, not everyone is aware of such tools.
While this evolving tech helps customers live more comfortable lifestyles, it also creates a potential goldmine for e-commerce companies, like the opportunity of product bundling. Imagine being a printer manufacturer that can advertise their product on the screen of the customer’s actual printer or a dairy company that can sell and send automatic milk refills with the refrigerator senses that they are almost out. The potential is almost limitless.
Here is the bad news: the Internet of Things has a security problem.
Most consumers don’t realize that they need to use strong passwords or update the software on their Alexa or their smartwatch, and cybercriminals know it. By gaining access to a smart speaker, hackers can then go use the Wi-Fi connection to hack into a customer’s cell phone, which then leads them to the victim’s bank accounts, resulting in any number of disastrous outcomes. If a customer uses the same password on their smart devices that they use to access your e-commerce store, they can then use that information to hack into their account via your website.
The point is that it is essential to put major attention on cybersecurity now, so you are prepared for the future. Start with the tips below.
Build your site with security in mind
No matter how your company accepts orders, you are going to need to protect your website, and most importantly, the data of your customers from prying eyes. You can do that and put potential website visitors at ease by building your e-commerce platform with security in mind. You can start by enabling Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protection on your website, which automatically encrypts any data provided by customers so it cannot be used if stolen. Not only will this help to protect your data, but with this enabled, it adds the “s” to the end of HTTPS, and when customers see that, they feel confident that they are visiting a safe site.
When you are first building your e-commerce website and money is tight, you may be tempted to use free software and plugins available online to help you get your operations up and running, but you should not install random software willy nilly.
While many popular plugins are safe and can streamline your business practices, hackers have made it a practice to pack some less secure apps with malware that can infect your computers almost instantly. While you cannot ever be 100% protected, you should research new programs thoroughly to see if they have had any issues in the past and only use software from companies you trust.
If you have the funds, it is highly recommended that you invest in cybersecurity insurance.
While it won’t make a data breach disappear, these policies can help with legal fees and expenses. On top of that, some providers will also notify your customers, help recover lost data, and assist with the restoration of your systems. This insurance can be a nice tool in your arsenal, and it can provide you with some peace of mind as well.
Beware of phishing scams
Phishing scams are still as prominent and dangerous as ever. This tactic is an email sent to a victim by a hacker that is pretending to be a figure of authority, like a bank, health organization, or an employee’s manager.
If the hacker is targeting your business, they may even pose as a vendor who needs you to update your payment information for continued service. The communication typically includes a link or attachment, and if the victim is panicked or not paying attention, and they click on either, malware is installed on their computer.
Phishing scams are just too easy to fall for, and the repercussions can be too much for your business to take, so it is important to understand the signs:
- Emails supposedly from professional businesses, but they have a non-official email address, like those from Yahoo and Hotmail.
- A plethora of spelling errors in the subject and body (a way to get past spam filters).
- A seemingly important message, but it is addressed to a vague recipient, such as “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam.”
- An email with any type of link or attachment that you were not expecting.
Security when working remotely
Part of the beauty of working on an e-commerce website is that you can pretty much work from anywhere. However, when you leave the safe confines of an office, there are more opportunities to fall for hacker tricks. The best course of action you can take is to protect your systems at all times with common sense solutions.
For instance, a hacker tactic that creates great chaos with remote workers is the man-in-the-middle threat, which is a fake Wi-Fi network set up by a cybercriminal in a public establishment that is meant to look like the free network provided by the restaurant or coffee shop.
Instead, by signing on, you connect directly to the hacker’s device, and they can steal your information. Inform all of your employees that they should ask the owner of the establishment for the proper Wi-Fi network before connecting. Beyond that, you should have a Virtual Private Network (VPN) enabled on all business devices, which masks your location so hackers cannot easily connect.
And, of course, enough cannot be said about proper password protection.
Every employee should have their own detailed password that includes a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters. The passwords should be updated every couple of months, and if an employee ever leaves your organization, their access to all systems should be revoked.
Finally, find a good antivirus program and use it to run scans on your website and programs several times a week. Update this software whenever necessary to keep it current against evolving threats. Also, put a firewall in place to help block any unwanted traffic.
In the end, a long-lasting e-commerce business is as dependent on security as it is on effective sales funnels and new customers. Take the time to protect your business so that you can focus on profits and continued success.
Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college he is trying his hand at being a freelance writer. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics but business and technology topics are his favorite. When he isn’t writing you can find him traveling, hiking or gaming.