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E-commerce security 101: Essential information for web store owners

Teresa Cherukara
August 5, 2022
Man holding credit card and phone

E-commerce security might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of customer experience, but for B2B organizations, a secure webstore is vital to maintaining strong customer relationships. A loss of data can result in a hugely negative impact on trust, leading to potentially irreparable damage.

Though there’s plenty to learn about the wide world of e-commerce security, it’s good to start with the basics. Here’s everything you need to know about the security measures that will keep your business resilient to attacks.

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What is e-commerce security?

Broadly speaking, e-commerce security refers to a set of globally accepted guidelines that ensure safe purchasing experiences on the internet. These include protocols that protect both the businesses selling their products online, as well as the customers sharing their personal information to purchase these goods.

There are a few different facets of e-commerce security that are important to familiarize yourself with as you establish the types of protocols that are necessary within your own web shop. These include:

  • Authentication, which establishes that both buyer and seller are verifiable identities, who are who they claim to be.
  • Privacy, which refers to the protection of customer data, especially from unauthorized third parties.
  • Integrity, which means this data will remain unedited or altered in any form, and
  • Non-repudiation, which is the legal principal that enforces follow-through on a transaction.

E-commerce security glossary: Terms you should know

When trying to establish security measures for your own web store, it’s easy to get thrown off by acronyms or technical jargon. Here’s a quick overview of some of the most common terms to familiarize yourself with:

  • International Organization for Standardization (ISO): The ISO is an international body that guides businesses in making sure their products and processes are up to standard.  The ISO/IEC 27001:2013 in particular covers data security, and a certification for this means your business has verified and high-standard risk-aversion strategies.
  • Payment Card Industry Data Security (PCI DSS): Commonly known as PCI, this industry standard relates to the protection of credit card information. 
  • Multi-factor authentication / 2-factor authentication / 2-step verification  (MFA, 2FA, 2SV): These forms of authentication go beyond simple log-in for verification. With 2SV, users enter a one-time code delivered via an email, text message, or call. 2FA involves the user to login to a secondary device, using an app or logging in from a laptop.  
  • Transport Layer Security  / Secure Sockets Layer / Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure  (TLS, SSL, HTTPS): These security certificates ensure e-commerce security to customers visiting your website and serves as additional verification that your site is safe.

Common e-commerce security weaknesses & attacks

The statistics on cyber-attacks are troubling – in 2021, 50% of all cyber-attacks were done on SMBs. This makes it all the more necessary to equip yourself with the knowledge, as well as the right tools, to equip your business for resilience.

Here are some of the most common e-commerce security issues faced by businesses today:

Malware & ransomware

Malicious software, commonly known as malware, is installed by attackers on your system. Ransomware is type of malware and involves locking a victim out of their own system, preventing access to data unless some kind of ‘ransom’ is paid out. Here are some common signs you might be experiencing a malware attack:

  • Being taken to the wrong links/page destinations
  • Incessant pop-up ads that are difficult to click out of
  • A slow system that is constantly crashing/freezing
  • A high quantity of emails you send bounce back
  • New icons showing up on your desktop without having been installed

In a report published by the IDC, as many of 37% global organizations reported falling victim to a ransomware attack in 2021.

Data theft

The primary reason e-commerce security measures are so important is because they protect customer data. Online stores tend to be warehouses of valuable data that can include the personal information and payment details of thousands of contacts, making them especially vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

Data theft can be carried out in a number of ways, from the use of counterfeit sites, to distributed denial of service (DDoS), where servers or services are disrupted through an intentional flooding of irrelevant traffic.


The importance of e-commerce security

E-commerce security is always important — no one wants their order history or (shudder) their payment details leaked. Plus, you want your web store to be available when your customers need it. This is particularly important for B2B e-commerce.

Luckily, selling online doesn’t have to be a risky endeavor.

There are plenty of ways to strengthen the security of your e-commerce platform. Here are three technologies that can help you deliver a safe online shopping experience that your clients expect from their trusted business partner.

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E-commerce security measures to protect your web store

How do you ensure your online shop stays resilient to cyber-attacks? Here are ten best practices that will help keep you secure:

#1. Use closed source code

One of the first things to consider when purchasing new software is whether you want a solution based on open source or closed source code. But when it comes to open source vs. closed source, how can you determine which one is best for your B2B web store?

Open source code

Open source code is created by an open community of developers. There are no restrictions on who can contribute to the code’s ongoing development.

Software created with open source code is subject to constant peer review, and is therefore constantly developed by a “team” of thousands of developers, if not more. Sounds like the recipe for a bullet-proof B2B web store, right?

Not exactly.

That’s because it’s not actually a development team working on the software — it’s whoever wants to get involved. There’s no selection process, so anyone can contribute or even just view the code. That includes developers with less-than-noble motives.

Closed source code

When it comes to development, bigger teams aren’t necessarily better. Closed source solutions are only worked on by a select group of developers — “select” being the keyword.

Contrary to open source code, closed source code is proprietary and not open to the public, either to view or collaborate on.

While there are fewer sets of eyes on closed source code, those eyes belong to carefully recruited developers. Limiting the number of engineers and other specialists working on the software makes it easier to:

  • Control the development environment
  • Keep track of who has worked on what and with a smaller scope
  • Prevent issues from slipping through the cracks
  • Assess quality of the developers and of the product

#2. Ensure strong password creation

A simple tip that is often overlooked, ensuring both you and your customers have strong passwords can go a long way in securing your online portal. A strong password includes at least eight characters, that contain a mix of upper and lowercase numbers, letters and special characters.

#3. Install device protection

Installing a trusted anti-virus software, keeping networks secure with firewalls, and ensuring there are routine updates for these platforms will help add a secondary layer of security to your data, and prevent interference on your e-commerce platform.

#4. Set up a VPN (virtual private network)

A virtual private network, or VPN, provides a way to securely send data over the public, possibly unsecured networks like the internet.

Make no mistake, the internet is not always as safe as you think. Remember the Heartbleed Bug from 2014? Taking extra precautions against online hackers is particularly pertinent if your mission is to create a truly excellent online buying experience for your users and customers. Why? Because doing this takes a lot of information — information that you can’t afford to put at risk.

Setting up a virtual private network (VPN) connection helps you keep your connection secure and your data confidential.

You may be familiar with VPNs as a way to protect your privacy when using the internet. However, you can also use a VPN connection to protect your corporate network. In fact, VPNs were originally developed to let remote workers connect to their company’s network without compromising security.

If you use an ERP (enterprise resource planning) system with your online portal, VPNs can be used in the same way to safeguard your integrated ERP. Any data sent via a virtual private network is encrypted. For more information about how a VPN works exactly, we recommend this article by Microsoft.

#5. Use multi-factor authentication for added data protection

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) can be a valuable tool for e-commerce security, especially when it comes to protecting customer purchases and preventing loss of data.

#6. Create consistent backups

Site breaches can result in a loss of data – ensuring you regularly create backups will help minimize lead time to total recovery.

#7. Switch to HTTPS

HTTPS hosting requires an SSL certificate, which is an additional layer of security that lets your customers know they can trust your web shop.

#8. Implement a failover system

In 2013, Google went down for 5 minutes and global internet traffic plummeted by a staggering 40%. Can you imagine having to go longer than a few minutes without access to your key systems? No internet search, maybe no email, possibly even no access to your documents — and no YouTube to distract you while you wait for systems to be restored.

Your web store might not be quite as essential for your organization or your clients as Google’s entire service portfolio. After all, if the worst comes to the worst, your sales team can look up product data in the ERP, and your clients can still get in touch via the phone.

But think of how your clients would feel if they couldn’t get in touch with you through your regular channels. Like we mentioned above, you have worked hard to build up strong relationships with your client base. You don’t want to let spotty service erode this trust. And what if your clients are placing orders outside office hours, so they’re not able to simply call your sales reps?

An unavailable web store isn’t something you (and your clients) want to experience first hand.
Taking measures against unforeseen outages — especially during the peak-volume seasons — is just as vital as warding off data breaches, and a reliable way to do this is through failover systems.

A failover system lets you improve the availability of your e-commerce site by switching to redundant web store installations when your primary web store environment is unavailable. In this situation, redundancy is something to be celebrated: it refers to backups of systems or data that are ready to spring into action whenever needed.

Setting up a failover system with one or more redundant installations means that a single power outage or technical server problem won’t cut your clients off from their trusted online channel.

#9. Establish routine reviews of third-party integrations

Assessing any third-party integrations you have in your store and removing ones that have become obsolete or you no longer use ensures you’re minimizing the number of external parties with access to your data.

#10. Use a platform you can trust with your data

Make sure to vet your e-commerce provider properly and check that they provide the security measures you need. Sana Commerce takes careful steps to safeguard your web store from potential threats. With multiple layers of security, unauthorized access is difficult. The end result is a process that minimizes the time you’ll need to review security measures, without having to worry things aren’t being done properly. See what security measures Sana Commerce takes to keep you from becoming vulnerable.

Optimizing your web store’s e-commerce security practices ensures you can protect sensitive data, stay scalable, and most importantly, prioritize the relationships you’ve established with your customers. With the right tooling, and by remaining alert to your online portal’s vulnerabilities, maintaining high security standards becomes a simple matter of practice.

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