25.10.21

TOP 4 cyber risks in retail and e-commerce

Retailers and e-commerce business owners will always be targets for cyber attacks. A lot of the personal and financial data of buyers passes through them, being of great value to fraudsters. During the pandemic, the risk of being drawn into fraudulent games has increased significantly because many merchants move their business online. Now no one is protected from hacker attacks, leaked customer and supplier data, and infrastructure failures. Let's take a look at the most dangerous threats for the online trading industry.
Cyber threats for retail and e-commerce businesses
1.Interruption of the sales process due to attacks on the website
Online stores are trade platforms open to a wide audience, including hackers. They are more vulnerable to cyber attacks than any other business entity, especially in quarantine restrictions, when people tend to buy and sell online. Considering that the success of a site depends on incoming traffic, any disruptions in its work entail serious problems.

Hacker manipulations with the website can be aimed both at misleading employees and customers of the store and completely disabling the resource. It is done with a clear goal: to gain access to valuable data from the business and its customers and extort money to stop the attack. Here are some examples of such attacks.
Cyber attacks that can interrupt the sales process:
DDoS. The site receives plenty of requests from numerous sources with untracked IP addresses. As a result, access to the site is reduced, and the network is overloaded with fake traffic, which prevents potential buyers from entering the store and placing orders. This is one of the most powerful attacks that seriously disrupt traffic. Fraudsters play with a carefully thought-out strategy and aim to obtain a ransom to stop the attack.
Spam. The store receives emails with links that redirect to unsafe websites. Such spam messages can arrive via email, social networks, comments on the website, blog, or contact forms. It reduces the website's security, speed, and overall performance, affecting consumer confidence.
Denial of Inventory. The website is attacked by bots that block the client's access to the inventory. They add items to the cart but do not follow through with the purchase or payment process. As a result, users lose the ability to buy or pay for goods in the online store and move to competitors.
Malicious software. Scammers develop and implement programs to manipulate corporate and customer data, redirect users to other websites and place annoying ads on pages. Among the varieties of such software are viruses, spyware, Trojan horses, and ransomware. For example, the latter completely blocks access to files, requiring the store to pay.
It is not a complete list of attacks that e-commerce platforms are exposed to. However, all of them may cause a significant impact on the performance and security of the website, ruining the store's reputation in the market. Next, we will consider some severe attacks aimed at the store's data and customers.
2. Leakage of customer and supplier data
Data leakage is one of the central problems for e-commerce. Online stores constantly deal with a large amount of customer data: from the name, date of birth, and phone number stored in the client's account, to financial data processed when paying for goods. In addition, the system may store information about suppliers and specific conditions for working with them as well as important marketing information. For example, about the loyalty program and upcoming promotions.

It is not surprising that online stores, especially popular and profitable ones, attract scammers: gaining access to a large database is an opportunity to hit a big jackpot for them. The list of malicious data capture techniques and tools is long and growing. The most common attacks on data include phishing, MITM, SQL injection, and so-called brute force attacks.
What cyber attacks target online store data:
Phishing. The fraudster contacts a customer or store employee and introduces himself as a trusted person. He prompts the user to open an email, follow a link, or download a file — all of this contains malware. If a fraudster plays his role so well that a person is manipulated, confidential information (including accounts, passwords, credit data) is at risk.
MITM. A website is exposed to a so-called "man-in-the-middle" attack when a fraudster gains access to a store's conversations with customers, for example, when using vulnerable WiFi. By intercepting the Internet connection, a hacker can contact the website and introduce himself as a buyer as well as gain access to its data (page history, password, bank accounts, credit cards).
SQL Hacking. The brunt of the attack falls on the request forms through arbitrary SQL injection. If the DBMS is vulnerable and has errors in coding, the fraudster can read and write local files as well as execute any commands on the server. This method is "older" than others but is still appreciated by cybercriminals since many databases have vulnerabilities.
Exhaustive search (brute-force). With the help of special programs, the hacker enters all possible passwords to access the system or tries to guess the key (this method is called an exhaustive search for a key). This attack is cryptanalytic and is suitable for decrypting almost any data (only theoretically protected cryptosystems are invulnerable). Often used when there are no other weaknesses in the system.
Of course, the risk of data breaches is not only related to cybercrime. Important information may be disclosed by store employees either accidentally or purposely for personal gain. So, competitors may receive important data about suppliers, customers, partners, pricing policy, marketing and advertising campaigns, or information about planned events, which should not be disclosed earlier than expected.
3. Use of customer payment data by third parties
Due to the specifics of the business, online stores work primarily with electronic payments. It is the easiest, most convenient, and fastest way to make financial settlements with clients for the goods they have purchased. But is it safe? Yes, but only for those who took care of their security in time. Then it is more difficult for the fraudsters to find weak points in the website and take over the data.

In addition to the above methods of attacking data, web skimming is actively used. Fraudsters inject infected software on the pages of online checkouts, receiving the personal and payment information of the store's customers. The most famous web skimmer is Magecart. In 2019, Magecart committed several high-profile thefts of card data.

Stolen data is usually used to buy goods. In this case, the shipping and billing addresses are different, so the store owner has the opportunity to track the fraud. For example, by implementing a system for address verification. It is more difficult if a fraudster steals the customer's identity to obtain a new credit card or issue a fake refund request.

Also, there may be problems with gift cards. Criminals use bots to brute force the numbers of gift cards or coupon codes. The data found is used to buy goods at discounts and promotions or are put up for sale on special online services.
4. Disruption of the technical infrastructure
Technical difficulties are often caused by cyber-attacks and the introduction of infected software. For example, the store's stability can be at risk if an open-source platform is used. Despite all the advantages for e-commerce and free access, such software is vulnerable to third-party interference.

However, cyberattacks are not the only reason. For example, the website's operation largely depends on hosting and the correct work of servers. So, if the store uses external web hosting, there may be bandwidth and storage issues. If the traffic is regularly exceeded, the website can crash, and such servers are prone to downtime.

In addition, during holidays, when the online store sends a lot of letters to customers (on average, 3 letters per order), there may be interruptions in the work of the mail server. It happens due to restrictions on the number of emails to send during the day. It is also worth mentioning the limits on the number of orders available to the user for placing.

So, online stores are most vulnerable to cyberattacks, which can lead to interruption of sales and data loss. It lowers the company's chances of attracting and retaining customers and affects its reputation in the market. That is why it is so important to take measures to ensure the safety and stability of the website.
We recommend:

  • Implementing strong and unique passwords;
  • protect devices (antiviruses, firewalls, etc.);
  • do not contact a person without confirming their identity;
  • do not follow links from suspicious emails and advertisements;
  • use two- or multi-factor authentication;
  • keep customer data separate from other information;
  • remember to back up essential data;
  • regularly search for vulnerabilities and risk areas;
  • check third-party integrations and plugins for security;
  • switch to secure HTTPS hosting (with SSL certificate).
Store employees must follow basic safety rules and encourage their customers to do so.

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