The internet offers ample opportunity to make money online, regardless of whether you’re selling physical goods or services.
But setting up a profitable ecommerce business can be a complicated endeavor. The major stages include building an online presence, attracting visitors to your website, and then converting those individuals into customers.
In the rush to get a new ecommerce company online, you may be tempted to bypass some security best practices. However, doing so puts your entire business at risk. If you do not prioritize cybersecurity within your organization and website, there’s a good chance hackers will eventually make you sorry you didn’t take the time.
The following ecommerce security essentials give you a fighting chance to keep your company and customers safe online.
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1. Choose a secure host
As an ecommerce retail company, you are responsible for all of customer data stored on the website and servers, including the history of credit card transactions. But it’s impossible to keep this kind of confidential information secure if you cannot trust the server and platform where it lives.
To compete in the online world of retail, you must invest in a security-minded, high-powered cloud host that allows you to scale up or down based on customer traffic and sales levels. Relying on a shared data center makes it more difficult to maintain security over your data and that’s a bad thing.
If you choose a cheap and unreliable web host company, you will not only get poor speed and performance, but the security of your site could suffer as well.
2. Add SSL protection
Hosting your ecommerce website on a reliable hosting provider does not allow you to check off the box on a solid security strategy. Even if your host is as solid as they come, every time a customer enters a password or credit card number on your website, they are in danger of having that information hijacked by a bad guy.
For piece of mind for both you and your customers (and because Google will reward you in the search results), it’s important to enable secure socket layer (SSL) protection on your website. When you obtain an SSL certificate and install it on your servers, it encrypts all data flowing between the server and a customer’s browser.
Lots of people access the internet via unreliable and probably unsafe public wi-fi networks, leaving their personal information wide open for hackers to intercept. But thanks to the SSL encryption, stolen data cannot be decoded.
As an ecommerce company, you are responsible for keeping your SSL certificate updated on a regular basis.
3. Encrypt customer data
With an SSL certificate, you protect customer data from the browser perspective. But that doesn’t prevent a hacker from trying to infiltrate your back-end systems and steal information directly from the source. For this reason, it is critical to have encryption tools protecting your databases and servers.
Obviously, a web host isn’t likely to let you start installing software in their server but you should ask questions about the specific security they offer before signing up for a hosting plan. This isn’t limited to hosting provides, either. The best email marketing services make security a top priority, and this includes Constant Contact. Subscriber emails and all associated data should be kept private and secure on multiple levels.
Obviously the goal is to prevent cyber criminals from ever gaining access to your corporate network. But you should be prepared for the chance it happens. If your database tables are stored in a plain-text format, then there will be nothing to stop hackers from extracting data and stealing email addresses, phone numbers, and passwords.
4. Test for vulnerabilities
Website downtime for an ecommerce retailer can spell doom. If your customers can’t reliably load your site, then it means a loss in revenue. For this reason, you need to be as proactive as possible in looking for potential vulnerabilities before an outsider actually exploits them.
A process known as penetration testing involves hiring an outside firm to run a series of experiments where they pose as hackers. If they determine that a certain network or database exploit exists in your system, they will alert you to the issue and provide recommendations to correct the flaw.
5. Stay compliant
With internet privacy becoming a major topic worldwide, companies that store customer data online must be diligent about their methods and practices. Europe, in particular, has brought focus to this area. Legislation called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was passed in 2018.
Under the rules of GDPR, any website that is available to European users must control data in an appropriate way to stay compliant. Customers must be notified about how their data is shared and be alerted if a breach occurs. Failure to meet this standard could result in significant fines and penalties.
In addition, the industry where your ecommerce website operates may also dictate what compliance rules you must follow. For example, if your business needs to store health-related information on your users, then the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act also applies to you.
6. Back-up your data
Every ecommerce retailer needs to develop a disaster recovery plan in case of a major cybersecurity attack or outage. The goal is to restore service to your core website and servers as quickly as possible.
To completely defend against hackers, your organization must have a strict backup policy on all key databases. Best practices dictate that storage systems should be replicated across multiple global instances, so that even if your primary database crashes in one region, you can transfer all traffic to another one quickly.
7. Use real-time threat alerts
Knowledge is power. You’ve probably heard that phrase a time or two and nowhere is it more true than in the ecommerce field, especially as it relates to dealing with any of the variety of hack attempts and malware coming your way.
The sooner you know about a threat, the better, which is one reason to consider investing in a website monitoring service. While you might already feel nickel and dimed to death with the subscription fees associated with an ecommerce website, this one is worth a long look.
It’s time to invest in eCommerce security
The bottom line is this. You probably didn’t go into business to spend your days pacing the network perimeter on high alert for the next penetration attempt. You’re in it to run the business, share your passion with the world, and make a living.
A monitoring service can be configured to deliver security alerts by text or email. How much is peace of mind that security experts are standing guard worth? Your call.
As global hack attempts continue to spiral upwards in intensity, tending to your ecommerce website’s security is no longer something to be tended to later if ever.
The sheer numbers reveal that your site is probably being probed by one or more bad guys right now.
Unless you’re proactive, it’s just a matter of time until they get in. Implementing the preceding security essentials sooner rather than later would be a good idea.