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Just What Is Ecommerce Security

by Martha Simmonds

Once upon a time, security in the retail world meant locking up securely at night and setting an alarm system in the premises. Not so in the world of eCommerce. One of the defining challenges of our times (in many more contexts than just business) is the threat of cyber-attack and sensitive data being somehow compromised.

The internet works, fundamentally, on the transfer of electronic information. So, given that this is the technology that has made the eCommerce revolution possible, security in this sphere means, again most fundamentally, the security of the information that makes the whole thing possible.

If you are running an eCommerce site, you might even envy the small business owner with nothing but a physical outlet. Things can get complicated pretty fast. For one thing, you need to make sure that access to sensitive information is secure on multiple fronts. You might be hiring GDPR and data privacy services in order to toe the line where the law is concerned and, of course, you still have your valuable physical inventory to protect too. So it’s not like you’re spared any of the traditional challenges either!

Perhaps this is the one area where eCommerce has not actually made things simpler for businesses, as there is a lot to consider here and quite a few dire consequences that could result from failing to do so. But of course, there are advantages to the whole situation too – the physical infrastructure that is needed is much less. So that’s a saving – of sorts!

Why Ecommerce Sites Are Targeted

In order to work out a comprehensive security plan for eCommerce, the very first thing you need to do is understand the threats out there as they are manifold. eCommerce sites – of any size, although especially more vulnerable smaller ones – will always be an attractive target for cyber-attacks. They simply represent the jackpot of personal and financial data, both of which you, as an eCommerce business owner, are required by law to protect. And a breach here does not just mean legal consequences.

It can be financially crippling too, as well as destroying the sense of trust that your customer base has in your business. After a breach, customers will, of course, be a bit more reluctant to hand over their personal data to your organization. In the worst cases, this could end up being the end of the line for your business.

Of course, though, many business owners are only too aware of this threat, and there is a range of constantly evolving security technologies that have been designed to make things as hard as possible for cybercriminals to penetrate your organization. There is also a lot of advice and a good knowledge of what the best practices are for protecting an eCommerce site from cyber breaches and the theft of valuable data.

However, nothing stays static in the world of communication technology and the internet – it is one of the areas of business and industry which is seeing incredibly rapid technological advancement. The only problem is that the criminals, their techniques, and the technologies they are using, are similarly advancing at a rapid pace.

Keeping Up

One of the most important things to remember is that cyber security and cyber-attack are locked in a constant arms race when it comes to development, and a constant game of cat and mouse when it comes to how they face off against each other. It would be a stretch to say that all the information and advice we can give will become obsolete in only a few years but, certainly, the imperative to remain at the cutting edge and avoid being left behind is very strong indeed.

Furthermore, when it is not the techniques and the technologies of the cyber attackers which is being rapidly developed, the criminals are constantly working to find new vulnerabilities in the security of any given eCommerce venture. As an eCommerce business owner, you need to start thinking in terms of vulnerabilities.

In fact, the whole cyber security industry is based on the identification of new vulnerabilities (just the thing that the criminals are doing) and only then deciding how best to protect them. There are security professionals entirely devoted to this task.

What Does Ecommerce Security Look Like?

So, there is a strong imperative – legal, financial, and moral – for all eCommerce business owners to engage in e-commerce security to the extent which is required. But what does it actually look like? Well, it would be impossible to give every aspect of it and every form it can possibly take, but we can certainly look at some of the most important examples of eCommerce security. These are the ones you can expect to use most often as an eCommerce business owner:

Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)

A mouthful of a name and an unwieldy acronym as it may be, a PCI DSS is nevertheless an industry standard for eCommerce, and you should certainly be using it. Often referred to as simply PCI, it is a set of rules to which you should defer. There are legal consequences otherwise. It is designed to ensure the secure transmission of credit card information online. And you will not need telling how disastrous a breach of this data can be.

ISO 270001

More code-like names, the ISO is an international body that regulates products – especially ones used in industry, where failure can be disastrous – and ensures that they work properly. The ISO 270001 covers data security, and it is a certification that proves a company has high-quality management systems, data security, and risk aversion strategies in place. You can find out how to get this certification here.

Personal Data Security

Personal data security is less uniformly regulated by a single set of guidelines, rules, or an advisory body. This is simply because it refers to all data that pertains to a single individual, such as name, address, phone number, and so on. GDPR regulations protect this to some extent although, naturally, not all this data is always the most sensitive.

The username of an eCommerce customer which is visible to all in the comments section beneath a product is naturally not a form of data criminals will be specifically targeting. Nevertheless, eCommerce businesses will have to take steps to protect this data as well.

This brief overview for the uninitiated gives a good idea of what security looks like in the world of virtual retail. It is the perfect place to get started, but you will need to do your own research and defer to the regulations and advisory bodies which are, to put it somewhat dramatically, the only real bulwark against the rising tide of ever more sophisticated cyber-attacks.

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