Moving your business online is a fantastic way to increase your sales. By drastically expanding your reach and visibility, e-commerce allows even the smallest of businesses to flourish. However, creating an online shop also comes with a very real, and very often overlooked, threat. The number of e-commerce shops being targeted by hackers continues to rise, and for business owners who fail to successfully protect themselves, the result can be devastating. Suffering a cyberattack could not only cause significant financial losses and even, perhaps permanently, shut down your site; it’s also detrimental for the reputation of the brand. However, by taking these five simple steps, you can quickly and easily protect your site from hackers.
The best place to start when dealing with online security is always with yourself. Ensuring that the computer from which you most regularly administrate the site, and the internet connection that you use, is secured means that the site can’t be infected or infiltrated via you. You can protect yourself from malware using anti-virus and firewall software, which in turn avoids nasty bugs getting into your site via your admin panel. To protect your internet connection, your best option is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). This is because most business owners regularly access their site when on-the-go and using public WiFi to stay up-to-date. These networks are extremely vulnerable as they leave your data flying around unprotected. Using a VPN creates a secure connection between you and the VPN server, which encrypts your data and allows you to safely connect to the internet.
Unsurprisingly, establishing an optimum level of password security is a key step towards hack-proofing your e-commerce site. Creating strong passwords is the equivalent of creating a complex locking system on your shop front. By using strong passwords when administrating the site and requiring all customers to do the same, you can greatly increase your level of protection.
Useful password requirements include:
- The use of odd characters, such as capital letters, punctuation and numbers
- Avoiding obvious choices,such as “password123” or your date of birth
- Creating a minimum length for all passwords
It’s also wise to use a wide variety of passwords for all of your different accounts to minimize the damage if one of them is intercepted. Many people reuse passwords for the ease of remembering them,but this heightens your risk of a multifaceted cyberatattack significantly.
Many business owners use ready-made platforms, such as Shopify, along with a variety of security plugins and software. However, due to the ever-growing, every-changing nature of the internet and the cyberthreats that come along with it, using old versions of programs means that previously unknown security holes may have since been discovered and exploited by malicious hackers. What once was a completely hack proof piece of software may become extremely vulnerable in a relatively short space of time. Conversely, new versions of programs are updated with security solutions for new threats that may have appeared since its predecessor was released, so making sure you’re keeping everything up to date is an important step to take.
This refers to all applications including firewalls, anti-virus, operating systems, web browsers, as well as all security plugins.
Be Stringent with Data Storage
E-commerce sites handle some of the most sensitive data available on the internet—credit card details, addresses, etc.—and thus, make them extremely susceptible to malicious hacks. As a business owner, it’s your responsibility to protect your customers’ data. As a rule, credit card information should never be stored for long periods of time. Unfortunately, this still doesn’t guarantee complete protection as certain malware can still intercept details while they are being tokenized. Having an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) seal on your site is a great way to protect this sensitive information, as it encrypts data traveling between the server and the e-commerce website. Similarly, storing all other data as salted hashes means that even if anyone manages to access the database, they will be unable to decrypt the information that is in there.
Have the Right Credentials
Some elements of internet security can be very daunting for the less tech-savvy of us, but fortunately, there are organizations in place to help you work through it. As credit card data is extremely sensitive and handling it comes with a lot of risk, the PCI-DSS (The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) has been set up to help merchants assess the security of their website. By simply completing a self-assessment form, owners can work alongside the Security Standards Council to help protect themselves from hacks. Similarly, many third-party companies will perform “penetration tests” to help you gauge the success of your security systems. Finally, as previously mentioned, displaying a valid SSL certificate is an instant mark of optimal security.
Internet security may seem over-complicated and time consuming for some, but it’s a necessary step to take. Not being properly prepared and suffering an attack could mean the end of your business or a trip straight back to square one. Taking these simple security steps is an easy way to protect your site and allow your customers to buy with confidence. If you have any more tips to protect your online business, then be sure to share them in the comments below.
Cassie Phillips is an internet security blogger for securethoughts.com, a great place to keep up-to-date on all the latest online safety tips. She loves sharing all she knows with other web users to try to improve the security of the internet as a whole!