E-commerce businesses collect a lot of personal information from their customers. 

Think about it—if a customer has an account with an online clothing store, that store probably has their credit card information, home address, phone number, email, and birthday (for the free birthday gift, obviously).

Now imagine if your website experienced a data breach and malicious actors gained access to all of your customer’s sensitive data. 

These days, it’s not a matter of if, but rather, when. According to a recent study, hackers attack every 39 seconds. E-commerce websites are particularly vulnerable, with 75% of fraud and data theft involving them.

These attacks can be ruinous: the cost of the data breach, loss of customer trust, and potential lawsuits resulting from the data breach. 

Yet the opportunity for e-commerce threats is astounding. 

Businesses collect more personal data than ever before. Hackers have more techniques than ever before to get into your system. 

Luckily, we have more ways than ever to safeguard your e-commerce site. 

Common threats to e-commerce businesses

There isn’t one single way that hackers can sabotage your e-commerce site. Below are a few of the most common threats e-commerce sites face and the risks they pose. 

Bad bots

Bad bots are software applications that complete automated tasks with the intent to complete criminal activities such as fraud or theft.

Common bad bots include:

  • DDoS bots: disrupt a website or online service by overwhelming it with traffic from multiple sources
  • Account takeover bots: use stolen credentials to access users’ online accounts
  • Web content scraping bots: copy and reuse website content without permission

A bad bot attack can have far-reaching consequences for a business, ranging from data breaches and fraud to account takeovers. 

Cross-site scripting

Cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks are a big concern for e-commerce sites when it comes to payment processing. XSS attacks inject malicious code into web pages, which can result in data theft, account hijacking, identity fraud, account hijacking, and other issues. 

XSS attacks can happen when someone inserts malicious code into your site’s user input fields, such as forms, search boxes, and comment sections. If your website doesn’t have the proper protections in place, that input is executed as code. 

If your website is the target of an XSS attack, malicious actors may be able to:

  • Record a user’s keystrokes
  • Redirect users to a malicious website
  • Crash browsers
  • Obtain cookie information from users
  • Gain access to a victim’s account information  

Customer journey hijacking

Customer journey hijacking occurs through malware on a user’s device or malicious browser extensions. It causes unauthorized ads to pop up on your website, typically redirecting the customer to another website.

From these unauthorized ads, customers can be redirected to competing businesses or go to a website that injects malware into their computer. 

SQL injection

SQL injection (SQLI) uses malicious SQL code to manipulate a site’s backend database to gain access to stored data, such as sensitive company data or customer data. If successful, an SQLI may result in data breaches or even a hacker gaining administrative access to your database.

An SQL injection can have the biggest impact on customer trust. If a hacker can steal your customers’ phone numbers, addresses, and credit card details, you could lose your customers’ trust and never recover.

How to safeguard your e-commerce site from bad actors

The online ecosystem is evolving daily, and businesses must keep up with changes or risk being run aground. However, adapting to e-commerce security needs is a priority; 66% of CIOs plan to increase their investments in cybersecurity. 

If investing in security for your e-commerce business is on your to-do list, here are several strategies you can deploy. 

Practice defense in depth (DiD)

The DiD approach to cybersecurity requires that businesses always have multiple defense measures, as they need more than one protective element to build a resilient ecosystem.

Defense measures should include (but aren’t limited to): 

  • Antivirus software 
  • VPN solutions for remote work
  • Secure gateway
  • Firewalls
  • Patch management
  • Backup and recovery
  • Two-factor authentication (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA)
  • Intrusion detection and prevention systems
  • Endpoint detection and response (EDR)
  • Encryption solutions
  • Data loss prevention measures

These actions work together and make it more difficult for cyberattacks to succeed in the first place.

Limit your data collection practices

Many hackers focus on gaining access to your company’s database to steal sensitive data. 

One proactive way to lower risk is to minimize your data collection practices in the first place. In the event of a data breach, this will limit the amount of data that hackers can access. 

Businesses subject to the GDPR or U.S. state data privacy laws should practice data minimization. But it’s also just a data best practice. With data minimization, businesses should only collect relevant and necessary personal data for established business purposes. (And when data isn’t relevant anymore, get rid of it!) 

Scan for malware

As an e-commerce company, you likely use some pixels (okay, maybe a lot of them) to draw customers. These trackers can be a great way to leverage your digital footprint when you don’t have a physical one, but there’s a downside: pixels can present an opening for malware to sneak through to your website’s code. 

How do you scan for malware? You have several software solution options! Software such as Boltive, Lokker, and Cheq.Ai can scan your site for cookies and pixels, detecting potential malware in the process. (But remember that even smart, sophisticated software tools like these still need someone to monitor and manage them!) 

Use SSL Certificates

Ever wonder why some websites have “http” and others have “https” at the start of their URL? This little tag indicates whether or not the website has an SSL certificate. 

SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, a security protocol that encrypts the connection between a website and a customer’s server. 

An SSL certificate is a digital certificate that authenticates that website’s identity and enables encrypted connections. It scrambles the data in transit between systems, which prevents bad actors from reading or modifying the information. This also helps prevent hackers from manipulating digital cookies on your website to access sensitive data. 

Adding an SSL certificate to your website helps to secure online transactions and keep customer information, such as names, addresses, and financial information, private. 

Validate user input

XSS attacks are often carried out by inserting code into user input fields on your website. To prevent this sneak attack, implement validation on your site. 

Validation (sometimes called sanitation) means that your site checks user input against the expected format, length, and type of input. It then rejects any input that has sketchy characters or scripts. 

Sometimes, validation can lead to false positives (AKA it weeds out too much user input), but it’s generally considered a best practice. 

Use web application firewalls

Some businesses use web application firewalls (WAF) to filter out SQL injections or other online threats. A WAF relies on a constantly updated database to weed out malicious input.

Use a content security policy (CSP)

A CSP is a web security tool that helps you control what sources or types of content can be loaded onto your web pages. This helps restrict unwanted scripts, images, and other functions often used in an XSS attack. 

Track site activity

Tracking your site activity can alert you to abnormal events from bots or malicious actors. Some things to track include:

  • Sudden traffic spikes
  • Traffic sources
  • Failed login attempts
  • Abnormally high page views (which can overwhelm your server)
  • Extremely short or long website visits
  • Bounce rate

To protect your website from bots, you can use several techniques, including:

  • CAPTCHA tests
  • IP blocking
  • Web application firewalls
  • Machine learning to spot common bot behavior

Update your data security regularly

eCommerce businesses must build both data privacy and security measures into their website. While data privacy and data security have historically been siloed, companies with holistic and complementary policies to protect data will see the best results. 

You should also make regular updates to your systems. Data privacy and data security become less effective the longer you leave your systems unattended. A proactive, cross-functional approach helps you devote the necessary resources to protect your business. If you need help figuring out what your e-commerce business needs, schedule a call with us.