E-Commerce Data Protection: Everything Your Business Should Know

2020 has seen lots of businesses turning to e-commerce, mostly as a result of the COVID-19 virus. But global pandemic aside, moving your business online at any time can be a great way to help it grow. That being said, going online can also open your business up to a range of new cybersecurity threats.

This means you need to get an effective security strategy in place if you hope to reduce these risks. The problem is, many e-commerce business owners are not familiar with the risks or the laws around data protection and e-commerce. But get this wrong and you could land yourself in hot water – you might even find yourself facing a hefty fine.

However, before you start panicking, there are some simple things you can do to mitigate these risks. Below, we’ve created a guide on everything your business needs to know about e-commerce data protection, so you can keep your customers and your data safe.

1. The definition of GDPR and how it affects your e-commerce business

When it comes to data protection there is one key player and that’s the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) that came into effect in May 2018. These replaced the old Data Protection Act and are the benchmark for businesses across the UK and EU that are handling data and privacy laws.

With so many people now sharing their data online (for example, when purchasing goods from an e-commerce store), GDPR was set up to help protect the rights of all individuals over their own information. It was designed to give them more control over their private data and how businesses use this.

This means that all businesses collecting, using or storing data from EU citizens (or using vendors who do), must comply with these laws. If your business is found to be in breach of these laws you could be fined up to 4% of your annual turnover or as much as 20 million Euros, depending which is more. As such, your e-commerce business needs to get clued up on GDPR guidelines and make sure you’re ticking all the right boxes.

2. The key threats to your e-commerce business

Educating yourself on some of the key threats to your e-commerce business is the best way to spot the signs of a hacker/scammer and ensure you’ve got a strong security system in place. It also helps you to reduce the likelihood of a data breach. Below, we’ve pulled together a list of some of the key threats you need to be aware of, these include:

  • SQL injection – If your site stores data in an insecure SQL database you could be at risk of a malicious query injection. This can give an attacker access to the information stored within your database.
  • Cross-site scripting (XSS) – This is when a cybercriminal inserts a piece of malicious code into your e-commerce webpages but this doesn’t always impact your website. Rather it exposes your customers and visitors to malware, phishing attempts and more.
  • E-skimming – This method is used to steal the credit card information of your customers as their payments are being processed. This is done by gaining access to your site through successful phishing attempts, XSS or brute force attacks.
  • DOS (Denial of Service) – These attacks flood your servers with hundreds of requests all at once in a bid to make your website crash.
  • Brute force attacks – These attacks are when a criminal uses programs to connect to your website and attempt to hack your password and gain access.
  • Malware and ransomware – If your device or network is infected with malware or ransomware this means cybercriminals are able to lock you out of your databases and systems and hold them ransom, requesting a payout to let you regain access.

3. How to assess your exposure and vulnerabilities

The best way to protect your e-commerce website and the data stored within is to review your existing security processes and undertake regular vulnerability tests. Web application security testing should also be conducted before releasing a new site or application. Running regular assessments and testing can help you to identify any areas of weakness and fix these. You can run these yourself or hire in a security service provider to help you do this.

4. Simple ways you can boost your security and protect your data

It’s important that you get to grips with GDPR and the potential threats your e-commerce site faces, but don’t let these put you off or stress you out. As well as running regular assessments there are several other simple steps you can take to keep your e-commerce site safe and to help protect your data. We’ve outlined these below.

Choose a secure platform

The first important step is choosing a secure platform to host your e-commerce website (if you haven’t already). There are lots of helpful platforms that make creating your online store simpler, for example, WordPress and Shopify, but you need to spend some time doing research to make sure you choose the best one. Look out for those with additional safety and security features designed to help protect your data.

Use two-factor authentication

Stolen or compromised logins, whether yours or your customers, can be a big contributing factor towards security breaches. Using two-factor authentication can reduce the risk and help fend off any hacking attempts. This extra layer of security usually requires a username and password, then after this a security question or auto-generated code which is used to verify your identity. These additional measures are harder for hackers to crack.

Educate your employees

If you’ve got people working for you, it’s important that they are also aware of some of the most common threats to the site and that they know how to practise good cybersecurity. It’s also important that they know all about GDPR and how to look after your data. Therefore, regular training is important.

Use a VPN

Last but not least, public networks leave you vulnerable to hackers, particularly if people are making payments on your site. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is the best way to combat this. This gives you an encrypted connection which prevents any third party from intercepting your connection or inserting themselves between your site and server.

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