The holidays are right around the corner, and both consumers and shop owners are taking advantage of the internet during this period of time. Online shopping has grown dramatically in the U.S. over the years. As a matter of fact, in 2014, Cyber Monday, which is basically the online version of Black Friday, surpassed $2 billion in sales. Each year, the number is expected to increase. The reason for this is likely due to many trying to avoid the chaos of holiday shopping in person. Packed shopping malls, long-lines, and cramped parking lots? No thanks.

Now, although online shopping is making the lives of both buyers and sellers easier, cyber hackers are doing a good job of making it complicated.

October was National Cyber Security Awareness Month. In this day and age, with people flocking to the internet instead of retail shops, online security needs to be at the forefront of every company’s strategy.

What measures can retailers take to protect themselves online?

First off, retailers need to use two factor authentications for all of their sales, marketing, and e-commerce platforms. Passwords should never be saved within any files and should also be changed frequently to avoid hacking at all costs. All data within the website, both front-end and back-end, should be encrypted and hashed.

One of the simplest things that people don’t often take into consideration are the security alerts from malware and anti-virus detection programs, cyber security, and web monitoring. These programs were made specifically to warn you about the incoming cyber threats, yet most people never really seem to give them any importance. So be sure to not ignore or leave them unanswered.

With consumer shopping habits rapidly shifting online, how can retailers keep up? Is there a way to outwit hackers?

Retailers should choose a cyber security company that offers a strong security features such as separated internal admin and external customer facing areas.

Here are some other tips retailers should take into consideration.

Don’t allow guest checkouts.
Only use an HTTPS connection.
Never store sensitive data (and if you must, encrypt it.)
Enforce credit card and address verification.
Have a disaster recovery plan in place that will fully restore your systems in case of a cyber attack.

Remember, there is a big difference between IT and cybersecurity. They both play two clearly distinct functions. Never ask your “IT guy” to take care of your website’s security. Hire a security analyst to take care of that. Hackers will always be a threat to websites. So the only way to protect yourself and your company is to consistently upgrade and update your security policies and infrastructure.

What can consumers do to protect themselves online?

While most people think this is only a problem for retailers, consumers can be hit hard by hackers too.The first thing you want to do is search within a company’s website for its privacy and security policies.  This will give you the peace of mind that you are shopping on a website that has a security system in place that will safely guard your personal and credit card information. Then, be sure to verify if the checkout process is secure. Make sure the website you are on provides you with “full encryption” over the credit card transaction. Shop around, keep your receipts, and if you are concerned, do due diligence.

For more information about cyber security during the holiday season, stay tuned to our blog.