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E-commerce Website Security: 5 Best Practices to Protect Your Online Store

Jack Danielson
Jack Danielson

A secure e-commerce platform is the foundation of a secure online store. Here are five security tips to help you protect your e-commerce site.

The e-commerce industry is one of the most lucrative targets for cybercriminals, which is why it's critical for online retailers to be aware of the risks and take the right steps to secure their sites. Check out these five best security practices to safeguard your online store, prevent e-commerce fraud and retain the confidentiality of your customer data.

 

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Security tips to protect your e-commerce business

Here are five things you can do to keep your online store safe.

1. Choose a secure e-commerce platform.

As they say, get the basics right and the rest will fall into place. The first step to build a secure e-commerce website is to use a secure platform. There are so many open-source and proprietary e-commerce platforms available that choosing the best one for you can be difficult. No matter which platform you decide to use, though, ensure that it has extensive security measures in place and maintains PCI compliance. Run PCI scans on your server to validate whether you are compliant or not.

Also, make sure that you are running the latest version of the software. Whenever there is a new patch available, install it immediately.

2. Implement SSL certificates.

SSL is the de facto standard for securing online transactions. The SSL certificate authenticates the identity of users and encrypts data both on the store and in transit. SSL is essential to establish secure connectivity between the end-user systems and your e-commerce website.

For tech-savvy buyers, the padlock icon and "HTTPS" in the address bar is a prerequisite for providing their personal details and credit card information. If the consumers believe that a vendor is doing everything possible to secure their transactions, they are more likely to do business with it.

3. Consider two-factor authentication.

Stolen or compromised user credentials are a common cause of web security breaches. There are multiple 'phishing' ways to steal or guess valid user credentials and compromise the security of your online store. That is where the need for a proven user authentication mechanism arises; it's a foundation for securing your online store from hacking attempts.

Many e-commerce sites implement two-factor authentication (2FA) as an extra layer of security. This is a security process in which a valid user needs to provide two means of identification; one is typically the username/password combo, while the second is usually an autogenerated code sent to the user's verified phone number. Hackers might crack the password, but they cannot steal this code, which usually expires after a short duration.

4. Use a virtual private network.

When you are dealing with customer data, and financial transactions in particular, you need to be extremely careful on public networks. Data transferred over public networks is vulnerable to interception by malicious users. A VPN service is useful in such a situation. It gives you an encrypted connection to a secure offsite server, which prevents a third party from inserting itself between you and the server.

If you are concerned about the costs of a traditional VPN service, consider an SSL-based VPN, which is cheaper. OpenVPN is a popular choice, as it offers an open-source, community-based edition that you can use for free.

5. Educate your customers and employees.

Users need education on the laws and policies that affect customer data. Educate your clients as well as your workforce on your information security practices. Let them know how you protect customers' credit card information and what they should do on their end to keep the financial information secure. Highlight your organization's best practices for data security, and tell them not to disclose sensitive data over email, text or chat communication.

Your employees must also be trained on the actions necessary to keep the customer data safe. Direct them to adhere strictly to mandated security protocols and policies to protect your business from potential legal consequences. [Read related article: What Is GDPR, and Why Does It Matter for Your Business?]

What is e-commerce security?

E-commerce security protects your company's data and system from cyberattacks and from access or use by cybercriminals and malicious bots. It keeps your online business secure and protects your consumers' and business's private information. [Read related article: How to Assess the Cybersecurity Risk of Your Small Business]

The importance of security in e-commerce

As an e-commerce business owner, you must ensure that all customer data is handled safely and securely. E-commerce security can be a tricky subject, but it is your responsibility to protect your website from being hacked and sensitive customer data from being stolen.

Consumers want to work with a business they can trust. When they enter their personal information, like their credit card number or other banking details, in a form on your site, they expect it to be well protected. If your business is compromised and customer information is exposed, consumers are less likely to do business with you in the future.

However, this isn't just about your customers. If your site is compromised by hackers, you'll have to pay to fix the security breach. This can include paying for a forensic investigation, data recovery services and credit monitoring for your customers.

Your business must also maintain a certain level of security compliance to meet the proper legal standards for an online business. If your company does not adhere to those regulations – such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), which is the standard you must follow when accepting credit card payments – you may be fined or subject to other penalties. [Read related article: Is Your E-Commerce Business Overlooking These Security Basics?]

Potential e-commerce security threats

With the proper safeguards in place, you can shield your business and consumers from online threats. Here are a few common threats you should be aware of.

Phishing

Using email, text and even phone calls, hackers try to trick store owners into providing personal information like passwords, banking information and Social Security numbers. They usually pretend to be an organization of authority that's just "checking" or "updating" information it already has.

It's never a good idea to give out any kind of sensitive information if you didn't initiate the interaction. Instead of replying to the email or text or providing any information over the phone, reach out to the organization's customer support line directly.

Malware and ransomware

Avoid clicking on links or downloading software you're not familiar with, as these are common doorways to malware and other device- and network-infecting software. Once your system is infected, hackers can restrict you from accessing data within your system and may demand money to restore your access.

Another measure you can take to avoid a crunch like this is to back up your information regularly so that, even if your system is compromised, you can restore your system using your backup. [Read related article: How to Protect Your Small Business From Malware]

SQL injection

An SQL injection is a sneaky tool attackers use to manipulate the back end of your system. This is essentially a data breach, which means they can view private data and operate part of your system without your knowledge.

To avoid this attack, make sure your system is up to date, and consider implementing a web application firewall to help block malicious data.  

Cross-site scripting (XSS)

This is when a hacker inputs a harmful code into your company's webpage. This tactic is used to directly steal from your consumers, as visitors to your website are exposed to malware, phishing, malicious bots and other tactics to steal their information. Consider using the HTTP Content Security Policy to beef up your data security.

E-skimming

When hackers infiltrate your e-commerce store through phishing, XSS or other attacks, they wait for customers at the checkout page so they can swipe their credit card and personal information. When attackers e-skim, they're going after all the information on your payment card processing pages.  

To protect the payment page on your website, the FBI recommends keeping your software updated, changing all default credentials to strong passwords, implementing multifactor authentication, and segmenting and segregating networks and functions.

Simone Johnson contributed to the reporting and writing in this article.

Jack Danielson
Jack Danielson,
business.com Writer
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Jack Danielson is a freelance blogger, an industry expert with more than 3 years of successful experience in all things marketing, social media, and search engine optimization. As a tech geek, he is continually drawing upon his own talent and skill to help small-to-large corporations and thoroughly enjoys the continual challenge that SEO work brings.