Every day, the digital world gets more and more dangerous which, in turn, means sensitive data stored on open networks becomes more vulnerable. We are all at risk, and so is our data. Everything from social security numbers to addresses and credit card details are potential targets.
It means that consumers put an awful lot of trust in e-tailers and ecommerce providers every time they make a purchase. They are providing highly sensitive information, which carries an enormous amount of risk for both parties. Well beyond the moral obligations, however, ecommerce companies are also subject to legal obligations as set forth by regulators. GDPR is an excellent example of a more recent, data privacy and protection policy.
When data is stolen, it can result in identity fraud, further financial theft and similar problems for the consumer. For businesses, it will create brand reputation damage, as well as legal costs and fines when laws have been broken. Not to mention, the financial loss that comes from an impending wave of consumer mistrust.
For 2017, Symantec revealed that U.S. consumers lost a total of $19.4 billion and 20 hours of their time dealing with the aftermath of cyber attacks. The total cost jumps to $172 billion when you include the rest of the world. The stats are frightening, yes, but it shows that security breaches can be incredibly damaging.
It begs the question: Just how secure are our ecommerce systems and data?
Is Ecommerce Data Secure?
A majority of retail CFOs — about 70 percent — anticipate heightened cybersecurity regulations throughout the coming years, as they should. Once the data is passed to these companies and partners, it’s important that they properly secure it, as well as maintain that level of security.
But that requires the systems and processes involved to be secure — are they?
Although it’s a rather ambiguous question, it is a pertinent one in today’s landscape. The fact of the matter is, no digital data or information is secure, at least not completely. That aside, there are ways to lower the possibility of data breaches and cyber attacks, which can help mitigate the risks of dealing in sensitive data in the first place.
Right off the bat, it’s important to note that an estimated 29 percent of all a website’s traffic is there specifically to attack it. It doesn’t matter whether a site is big or small — online platforms are always under attack, and many of those attacks are carried out by bots or automated tools. Failing to establish the proper protections and protocols will mean a data breach, no question about it.
Some of the measures that ecommerce and data providers can use to boost protections include:
- All sensitive data must be encrypted using advanced protocols especially when it’s being transferred over an open connection or stored on a remote server or system
- Traffic encryption is necessary for incoming and outgoing traffic, as is a secure SSL connection
- Proper authentication procedures must be followed and honored, so only the appropriate parties have access to the data
- Data owners — the users — must be able to access, delete and modify the information that is being collected and stored
Nearly all computer security incidents happen as a result of oversight, meaning they could have been fixed if given the proper attention. That’s what makes modern cybersecurity events so infuriating to experts. Take the massive Equifax breach, for example. Here, we have an official credit bureau — an organization directly responsible for the handling of sensitive credit data — fumbling their online security through complete incompetence, technical failure and shady behavior. All of it could have been prevented, and easily.
By acknowledging the fact that most security events happen as a result of negligence or failure to act, you immediately understand why it’s important to take data security seriously.
Ecommerce Is Here to Stay
Ecommerce and online shopping are here to stay, not only because of the incredible convenience they offer but also because of the many opportunities they provide to consumers and businesses alike. But that doesn’t mean it’s the ideal way to shop, nor does it mean doing so is entirely safe.
The best way to lock down and protect sensitive data is to establish foundational security and protection measures — not just for online platforms and website data, but also incoming data from point-of-sale systems, in-store and traditional surveys, and background customer data. This information is often collected when they visit a brick-and-mortar store or browse a site without purchasing goods.
Sadly, there is no clear answer as to how data analysts and security experts can fix modern ecommerce systems or platforms. It involves an incredibly nuanced approach that collaboratively works to protect the many disparate systems and data channels at play.
Deploying data encryption, honoring secure web and mobile connections and properly handling all sensitive data is a good start. For instance, there’s no reason to store highly sensitive data like credit card numbers, expiration dates or CVV2 (card verification) codes. They should just be forgotten or deleted from a database after a transaction is completed.
From there, it’s about authentication or who has access, what you’re doing with the resulting data, and how it’s being stored. Offering things like two-factor authentication, requiring strong passwords and sending suspicious activity alerts can help get consumers involved too.
By continually analyzing and addressing potential threats, and ensuring that all data is properly secured, you can develop an active and dynamic approach to modern cybersecurity. Honestly, that’s the best you could hope for in this landscape. Breaches and cyber attacks are going to happen, regardless.