For e-commerce business owners, it’s about to be the busiest time of year. Not only is Black Friday around the corner, but Cyber Monday – the busiest online shopping day of the year – is soon to follow! With so much at stake in terms of your business’s bottom line, you need to ensure not only that your sales are ready to go but also that your customers are safe as they browse your digital wares.
With identity theft and malware in the minds of consumers now more than ever, let’s break down six steps you can take to protect your customers and their personal information during all of their online holiday shopping.
Assess Your Risks
First and foremost, you need to assess the risks that your organization may pose to the sensitive personal data of your customers. Do you not have antivirus software? Is your server at risk of malware attacks? If these and other risks affect your e-commerce shop, you can’t expect customers to purchase things from your online store.
Fortunately, there are lots of ways to fix perceived risks. For example, if your store isn’t very secure right now, you can implement SSL certification to encrypt traffic going to and from your site. This small step will do a lot to restore public faith in your online store. SSL certification will appear as a padlock symbol in the address bar when someone visits your shop or in the “HTTPS” part of the address.
Bottom line: be sure to do a full analysis of all the risks for your e-commerce store, so you know what to improve, what to focus on, and what to eliminate so your customer data is never at risk.
Update All Software
Next, you should update and upgrade all the software your e-commerce business uses. This includes:
- Your e-commerce store platform, such as WordPress
- Your antivirus software and countermeasures
- Your payment processor and payment gateway systems
- Your invoicing software – look for invoicing software that comes with features such as accounting tools, spending tracking, and more so you can better keep track of your holiday cash flow performance and catch fraudulent orders.
Practically all software tools let you know when they are ready to be updated. If you haven’t updated your software apps in some time, do so before the holiday shopping season begins. Updates are important because they include security patches for newly discovered malware and other viruses that could compromise your site’s security and the data of your customers.
Review Your Brand’s Vendors
Your site isn’t the only potential vector that a hacker or cybercriminal can use to get the personal data of your customers. Your suppliers and vendors, such as shippers, product manufacturers, and online service providers, can also serve as weak security points and potentially allow a breach to occur.
To prevent this, review all of your business’s suppliers and vendors by checking their online reputations. Have they had any digital breaches in the past? For instance, if you have a payment processor that recently lost a lot of customer data, it may be worthwhile to switch to a different payment processor with a better track record for digital security.
Additionally, if a supplier has recently acquired many negative online reviews, it may be time to find a new seller. Although this partnership may have offered you a way to better manage your business finances by extending the time to pay for goods via a net 30 account, you can’t take the risk of supply chain issues during the holidays.
Reviewing your vendors is your responsibility as a business owner, and it’s a good way to ensure that your customers are as safe as possible when they shop at your e-commerce store over the holidays.
Ensure Good Encryption
As touched on above, ensuring encryption is always a wise idea. One of the easiest ways to do this is by implementing SSL certification on your website.
However, you can also ensure good encryption by:
- Using an encrypted payment processor
- Using antivirus software with a dedicated firewall (that you update regularly)
Good encryption prevents customer data from being read and understood, even if it is ever acquired by a hacker or cybercriminal.
Naturally, you should also adhere to PCI standards, which will protect customer data and ensure that every payment that goes through your online store is safe and secure.
Implement Fraud Protection
Also important is implementing smart, efficient fraud protection. The more shopping occurs on your e-commerce store, the more activity you’ll see on your network. All that communication can confuse your fraud detection apps or security solutions.
With that in mind, consider using new fraud detection software or security solutions incorporating AI and machine learning technology. These technological innovations can recognize fraudulent activities like phishing scams, DDoS attacks, and more.
Implementing AI-powered fraud protection is also good for your business because you’ll lose less money and won’t accidentally fulfill orders for fraudulent shoppers, which can occur more often during the holiday season. At the same time, an intelligent fraud protection system will also ensure you don’t lose out on potential sales that could be flagged by standard security solutions.
For example, in South Korea, it’s normal for shopping malls to stay open after 11 PM, and late hours are prime time for online shopping too. While a regular security system could block these late-night transactions, AI fraud prevention software will be able to authenticate and verify the payments.
Keep an Eye on Employee Shopping Habits
Last but not least, remember to be aware of your employees’ shopping habits. Some employees will try to do all of their holiday shopping using your company network. After all, they will want to take advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, just like everyone else!
But doing this can accidentally expose your e-commerce store to new digital threats. To prevent this from occurring, be sure to continually educate your employees regarding online security practices, digital hygiene, password protection, and so on. For instance, your employees need to know how to recognize fake emails, what to do if their computer is compromised by a ransomware attack, and more.
In the end, these six steps will do a lot to maximize digital defenses for your customers and their personal data. As a responsible e-commerce business owner, it’s in your best interest to take these steps to improve the trust of your customers and avoid major fines levied by government agencies. With the right preparation, this year’s Cyber Monday sales will be highly profitable!