Today’s digital technologies allow retail businesses to create in-store management efficiencies, and to connect online with customers around the globe. But those same technologies can make retailers vulnerable to cyber risks — risks that can fatally damage the overall health of your brand and business.
While in-store computer systems and consumer-facing websites are a boon for retailers and their customers, the data they collect and maintain — credit card numbers, personal addresses, and other types of sensitive information — makes them a target for cyber crime.
With this ever-more sophisticated and increasing cyber risk, come obligations —to your customers’ privacy and to keep up with a multitude of global and local regulations governing those obligations.
Despite the best intentions of a retail entity, cyber breaches can happen. Here’s a primer on cyber crime — and some tips on how retailers can mitigate that risk.
Retail Data Security Dangers in Brief
To cybercriminals, data is profit. Hackers use vulnerabilities to gain access to a system, using methods and software that are ever changing and ever more sophisticated. Here are a few terms that retailers should know:
Phishing — One of the simplest and most common cyber crimes, this relies on an employee clicking into a phony email. This then releases malicious software (malware) and allows bad actors to access the company’s systems.
Distributed Denial of service (DDoS) attack — Also employing the use of malware, these attacks overload and shut down a retailer’s website to enable access to the system and its data.
Ransomware — Software released into the system to shut it down and take it “hostage.” The cyber criminal then demands ransom (generally in untraceable crypto currency) in exchange for providing a key to “release” the system.
What all of these have in common is that they disrupt business and can cost retailers hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenues, legal expenses, fines, and reparation costs. Reparations usually necessitate not only technical and financial experts, but also public relations professionals, because of the potential damage to customer trust and brand loyalty. In all, the resourcing and the expense can be enough to seriously cripple or even shut down a retail business.
For more key cyber security terms, check out Cyber Security Terms You Need To Know.
Cyber Security Risk Management Advice for Retailers
Of course, the best defence against cybercrime is to be on the offence. Here are some tips to protect against this ever more present and growing threat:
Secure your network
Understand the regulatory landscapes
Educate your employees
Invest in cyber insurance with an expert partner