Retail Cybersecurity: Protect Your Customer Information
Cybersecurity is arguably the hottest topic in the online world. With over 2,000 attempted cyberattacks occurring every day, any business with an online presence needs to be on its guard.
It does not necessarily matter what sector a business operates in; they could easily become a target. However, online retailers must be particularly on their guard, as they boast numerous characteristics that inevitably appeal to attackers.
Primarily, there is the natural appeal of money. If someone is selling online, cash is flowing into the business from consumers. Attackers would enjoy nothing more than to obtain a slice of the pie. There is also data. While most online retailers do not store payment details, instead deferring that information to third parties, something as simple as an email address and password can make a hack worthwhile.
Of course, malicious intent is not confined solely to the online world. Bricks and mortar retailers rely more on connectivity today than ever before. From up to the minute stock checks to POS systems, much of their business could potentially be vulnerable without the proper protections in place.
Crucially, offline retailers share much of the same appeal as that of their online counterparts. They are handling cash transactions, and they collect consumer information in the form of loyalty cards, email receipts, and other high-tech but potentially vulnerable rewards.
How is Retail Cybersecurity Changing?
It is understood that the easiest way to implement cybersecurity protection in a retail operation is to go off the grid. Use standalone POS without any additional connectivity, and create price labels through those old-fashioned sticker machines.
It is possible, but it is certainly not practical. A specific store might not be online, but that is the world that most customers will be accustomed to.
Instead of cutting a store off from the outside world, it is vital to embrace technology without overlooking the importance of security in the process. As such, retailers are adopting cybersecurity initiatives more commonly seen online for their offline operations – and it makes a massive difference to their business’s resilience.
Challenges for Retail Entrepreneurs
The primary challenge for offline retail is that they might simply be unfamiliar with the online world. Sure, there are stores with multiple land-based locations that also operate online. However, for smaller retailers their entire business may revolve around one or just a handful of offline sites.
They might not be online themselves, but they cannot avoid technological advancement entirely. Consumers expect contactless payments and are open to joining marketing lists as part of the checkout process. Offline stores have access to more information than ever before, and while it is a blessing for their own marketing efforts, it also makes them attractive targets.
How to Protect Your Customer Data
The rapid influx of data can revolutionize businesses when owners and managers are open-minded in taking advantage of it. However, land-based brands have the same responsibility to keep that data safe as their online counterparts. Therefore, they face the same challenges too. There are few things worse for PR than a data breach, and with such a concentrated customer base, a significant misstep can cripple a business.
Fortunately, in embracing the online world as part of an offline retail operation, store owners can take steps to protect themselves:
1. Ensure POS Systems are Up-to-Date
Some businesses still rely on mechanical checkouts. Short of being physically stolen from the store, they are pretty safe. However, the majority utilize the latest technology, and part of that means regular over-the-air updates.
Just as with websites and online stores, the majority of software updates deal with security and making a point of accepting and deploying new firmware can be a crucial tool in defending a retail business.
2. Train Well to Avoid Human Error
As worrisome as it is to think about, many data breaches occur due to human error. In the online world, the figure stands at over 90%. Assuming a store owner is not the only person to work the floor, it is vital to ensure that staff are aware of best practices according to store policy. It is equally crucial that they understand the implications of data breaches, and proper training can take care of all of this.
3. Adopt Zero Trust Access Policies
One of the biggest challenges in the business world is the fact that trusting nobody is often a great idea. In retail locations, workers are often like family to each other. However, for store owners, it is vital to assess who needs access to what.
Someone tasked with restocking shelves does not really need to see email addresses and other customer information. It is up to whoever manages that data to ensure they are prevented from unnecessary access, providing a further roadblock between a retailer and potential data breaches.
4. Monitor Network Traffic
Online retailers create vast amounts of data each day. Their offline counterparts do not produce anywhere near as much, so there is no excuse not to keep a close eye on it.
Even something as simple as monitoring a firewall for attempts to access internal systems from outside, can be enough to protect valuable customer information. Fortunately, most retail locations do not need to permit remote access or indeed any external interaction with digital information, so anomalies should be easy to spot.
Even businesses that do not specifically operate online still have an online presence and rely on connectivity to keep customers happy. So even if it is a minor consideration for owners and managers, it remains sufficient to attract attackers.
Fortunately, limited exposure to the online world means that uncomplicated defences should be more than sufficient to keep data safe and networks secure. Nevertheless, the last thing anyone should do is to assume they are immune. The tips outlined above can aid retailers in ensuring that they are prepared for anything and will not suffer from a typical online attack. To learn more, contact us to see how we can help.