Protecting Customer Data during Peak Shopping Seasons
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Since more businesses are going online, customers’ personal data becomes even more important for hackers who leverage it on the dark web. With Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the holidays ahead of you, as a business owner, you can expect increased website traffic and with it – higher risk of data breaches.
Protecting customer data during these peak shopping seasons is crucial for your business in terms of brand reputation and trust, customer loyalty and protection, laws compliance and cyber attacks prevention.
Increased Cybersecurity Threats
Customer data leakage has indeed become one of the biggest security threats of our time. According to Statista, as of 2023, the global average cost per single data breach amounted to $4.45 million, where the average cost varies across sectors. The highest average cost is in the healthcare industry, with each leak costing the affected party $10.1 million.
In 2022, the most common cause of a cyber attack in the USA was email phishing, according to data by Statista. Some other common threats faced by retailers and consumers include website malware and ransomware, data breaches, identity theft, and others.
The Implications of Data Breaches
All of the above-mentioned cyber attacks can have a huge negative impact on your business. Let’s explore a few ways why is data security important:
- Impact on customer trust and brand reputation
To operate with customers’ information means that customers have trusted you with their personal data. If you suffer any data breach, even not your direct fault, your customers will lose their trust in your business. In turn, this will result in you losing customers and profits. Brand reputation damage and negative PR are the other long-term damages.
- Legal and regulatory consequences
A data breach will cost your business not only your customers, profits and reputation, but big financial losses. On one hand, you can be held liable for failing to comply with privacy regulations, which in turn can result in a lawsuit with financial consequences, i.e. regulatory fines.
For example, if you collect personal information of EU residents, the applicable law for your business will be GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), or if you collect consumer data of residents of California, USA, you’ll be subject to the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and so on. Such regulations and laws will apply if your customers are residents of these countries, even if your business is not located there.
Essential Measures for Client Data Protection: Securing Data Systems
To avoid a data system breach, implement these essential measures to secure data systems:
- Keep data systems up-to-date and patched
One of the most common reasons why data systems get hacked are security vulnerabilities in softwares which get exploited by cyber criminals. It’s important to keep an eye on patch releases for the softwares you use and implement them in due time. These will not only bring your software up-to-date, but also keep your data safe.
When you’re using a lot of different softwares, this could be tedious work on its own. SiteGround clients that use WordPress, take advantage of our WordPress auto-update feature. It automatically updates all WordPress installations, hosted with us, and ensures that our customers’ WordPress sites are secure and up-to-date.
- Implement robust access controls and encryption techniques
Your access point is another common source of a security vulnerability. To increase security and reduce the risk of data breach, implement the usage of a password management tool which will create, encrypt and store smart passwords for you and your employees for all the tools you access with a password. A tool like this will take care of static data, but now let’s take a look at what happens to data that’s in transit.
A lot of traffic may go through your website, including sensitive information like login credentials and credit card details of your customers. To keep all these protected, you need to encrypt them. An SSL certificate can easily encrypt all this data and it is essential for your website security. SiteGround clients, for instance, leverage free SSL certificates on every web hosting plan we offer.
Enhanced Security Measures and Increased Vigilance during Peak Shopping Seasons
Even though the above-mentioned steps are crucial to begin with, there are some enhanced security measures to follow in order to manage data security protection:
Implementing intrusion detection and prevention systems
You need to have your website scanned regularly for potential threats. Start by implementing an anti-virus and anti-malware software or prevention system. Make sure the tool you choose is reviewed and approved by your security team and the team is in control of it at all times. This will allow you and your employees to stay up-to-date with the latest security measures and updates.
SiteGround clients have the opportunity to leverage our Site Scanner service that helps protect their websites from malware. Our Site Scanner constantly crawls web pages to detect the latest threats that might affect a website, warns clients about such potential threats at an early stage and in a timely manner and gives them tools for reaction, in case their sites are under attack.
For WordPress users, we have an all-in-one security solution – our free Security Optimizer plugin. It’s available to all WordPress users (no matter where they’re hosted) and provides them with all the security measures they need to keep sites safe. The plugin protects sites on application level (hides WordPress version; disables themes & plugins editor, etc.), provides advanced protection, such as locking and protecting system folders, enabling advanced XSS protection, hardens login security, and many other features.
Conducting regular security audits and monitoring network traffic
Even if you implement all these security measures, you still need to monitor your website security status regularly. You need to keep an eye on your site’s security status at least once a month, yet this could take some time, effort and money. As a business owner, you probably have lots on your plate, so you might consider outsourcing this activity.
SiteGround clients receive free monthly security reports, delivered straight into their inboxes. We automatically monitor our clients’ websites and send them detailed summary results, along with actionable tips on what they can improve to reduce the security threats, in case we detect any weak areas on their websites.
Collaboration with Logistics Partners
With all the enhanced security measures in force, you then need to think about your collaboration with logistics partners, i.e. the participants which provide the cloud computing services, such as Google Cloud, AWS (Amazon Web Services), or Microsoft Azure, for instance. Effective communication and collaboration are key for ensuring secure handling of customer information throughout the supply chain. Companies working together is also important for reducing costs, improving service quality and flexibility.
To achieve all these, they need to communicate openly, share common goals and have trust in the partnership. Should they succeed in their collaboration, this will result in different advantages, such as improved customer satisfaction, better risk management and even cost savings.
For example, companies like Amazon or Apple handle sensitive customer data. If they don’t follow strict client data protection standards, there’s always a chance for potential vulnerabilities in the data protection chains. Back in 2019, Amazon Web Services faced a data breach, affecting CapitalOne bank’s 100 million customers’ names, social security numbers, credit scores, and credit card data. An ex-employee was found guilty in misconfiguration of cloud storage servers to access and steal the data.
When businesses collaborate closely with logistics partners, they can ensure the implementation of crucial security measures (e.g. encryption, 2-factor authentication and others). Effective communication and strong relationships with logistics partners are essential factors for a successful overall performance and data security protection.
Employee Awareness and Training
Now that you’ve secured your website on all levels, it’s important to make sure that your employees are also up-to-date with the latest security measures in order to prevent weak points. Start by educating your employees about security best practices. To mitigate human errors, conduct regular security awareness training and checks. Educate employees about the most common security threats, such as phishing, in order to prevent hackers from stealing their credentials and personal details.
Our website can be a good starting point with tons of useful security resources. Visit the security category on the SiteGround blog to get more information on website security topics.
Transparent Communication with Customers
Educating Customers on Secure Online Shopping
Being a customer during peak shopping seasons has its security threats as well. To protect personal information, be cautious of phishing emails, use strong passwords and update your devices and software regularly.
What is one step you can take to protect your personal information? Learn at least four good ways on how to protect your data and yourself from phishing and online scams in our dedicated blog post.
Developing an Incident Response Plan
In the unfortunate event of a security breach happening, it’s a good idea to have an incident response plan, developed in advance. Draft thorough steps on how you would contain a data breach or security incident. These should include timely notification of affected customers and/or employees and open cooperation with the relevant cybersecurity authorities. When it comes to a security incident, communication is key. Make sure your employees can report suspicious activities to your data protection security team (or data protection officer), as well as ensure that your customers are informed at all times of any suspicious behavior. Beware what you share with your customers and provide them only with the essential information they need.
With the peak shopping season just ahead of all of us, we can not stress enough on how important protecting customer data is. Ensuring security data protection is key for your business, as it will keep your customers’ trust, brand reputation and your success levels high. Implement the data protection security measures you learned from this article for a successful and secure shopping season. Add a comment below to share with us other security measures that have worked well for your business data privacy or tell us more about your general data protection strategy.