Setting down your roots in the world of e-commerce can be daunting.
From the intricacies of digital marketing and SEO to financial management and site design, you have many plates to keep spinning. And when you’re concentrating on making sales, you can easily look past the matter of online security. After all, isn’t it a fairly trivial matter these days?
So once you’ve got your business up and running without incident, you can think you’re safe. You’ve set out your stall, attracted customers, and grown a strong operation, all without anyone attacking your website. What reason do you have to be concerned?
In truth, though, you have every reason. Shockingly, 43% of cyber attacks target small businesses, with the average cost of each attack costing a terrifying $200,000. That’s a significant amount of money for any business. And while beefing up your store’s security may not provide the same rush as launching a new marketing campaign, it’s a justified investment.
Maybe you’ll get lucky and avoid any hacks — but if you don’t, you’ll be so grateful that you committed the time and money to protect your business. To that end, then, let’s dig into some of the best ways of ensuring your e-commerce venture remains safe and firmly within your control.
Invest in secure and reliable cloud hosting
Aside from being simpler and more cost-effective than on-site server deployment, cloud hosting ensures that the bulk of IT security is handled by a team of legitimate experts. A Cloud Service Provider will supply all of the tech needed to get set up from their own data center, usually with a cost-effective monthly pricing model.
For example, Cloudways provides end-to-end encryption and dedicated firewalls as standard. In the event that an incident does occur, automatic data backup can ensure that disaster recovery turnaround is speedy, reducing downtime and minimizing losses.
Before you upgrade your hosting, though, you need to carry out some research. Read through pricing plans and dig deep into user reviews to ensure you’re choosing a CSP that meets your unique needs. Think about everything from pricing to frequency of updates, but always keep security at the forefront of your mind: if you choose well, a cyber attack can go from being a major disaster to a mere minor inconvenience.
Use strong passwords and 2-factor authentication
Password protection is the frontline defense for your business. However, a recent study by leading password manager NordPass reveals just how little we seem to care about our own personal security. Below are the world’s most commonly used passwords - each of which would take under a second to crack with the type of ‘brute force’ software often employed by hackers:
Don’t make it easy for data thieves. Be sure to create a strong password using a combination of random letters, numbers, and special characters (throwing in a mix of upper and lower cases). Unfortunately, social media has created fertile ground for the misuse of our personal details. Don’t let criminals use this to their advantage. Avoid passwords that are linked to your personal life and steer clear of birth dates or pet names.
Want to go further? 2-factor authentication can require a user to confirm a single-use code sent to an authorized mobile phone or email address before logging in. Data recently gathered by Google showed that text-message authentication provided 100% protection against automated bot attacks and prevented 96% of phishing attempts.
Educate yourself (and your employees!)
Terms such as ‘cyber attack’ or ‘hacker’ tend to conjure up images of a hooded recluse illuminated by the glow of an LCD screen displaying limitless lines of scrolling green code. To operate safely, though, you need to forget about the stereotypes and form a better understanding of what cyber security actually involves.
Consider, for instance, that some of the most damaging attacks — perhaps even most of them — are achieved through social engineering without the need for elaborately-designed programs. These attacks don’t use brilliant exploits to defeat robust systems. They rely on psychological manipulation and simple trickery. They understand that it’s the people using IT systems who typically present their biggest points of vulnerability.
And if you want to defend against such attacks, education is the way to go. Phishing scams can be massively damaging, of course, but they’re easily prevented through the sharing of basic knowledge. Once your employees are trained in their identification, phishing emails can be effectively dealt with — and you don’t even need costly courses. Microsoft's free guide should suffice to equip your team with a firm foundation against malicious emails and phony websites.
You can also go a step further by creating internal procedures covering how to report suspicious behavior and ensure data integrity. This is particularly important if you’re operating within the EU due to the power of GDPR, so make GDPR compliance a serious priority.
Managing an online business is difficult enough with a safe website, so it’s important to ensure your foundations are secure. Whether you’re taking your first steps as an online startup owner, or you’re an established e-commerce entrepreneur, we hope the steps outlined above provide some good starting points for keeping your operation safe and secure. Want to take things a step further? Read up on how to keep your employees and workplace safe here.