Guide to ecommerce security: How to secure your online store
With ecommerce forecast to capture 27% of retail sales by 2026, even more traditional businesses are focusing their attention on their online presence. So are hackers. Bad actors are keen to take advantage of this increased web traffic, making ecommerce security vital in online store development and maintenance.
We’re here to help you keep your ecommerce business safe. Read on to see what steps you can take.
Ecommerce security: How to secure your online store
Here’s what we’ll cover to help you strengthen your ecommerce security:
- Biggest security risks to online stores.
- Proactive security measures to gain customer trust.
- How to choose a secure platform.
- Ongoing best practices.
Let’s dig into each of these points below.
1. Biggest security risks to online stores
When thinking about how to secure your online store, it’s important to be aware of specific current cyber threats to ecommerce sites. Here are some of the biggest security issues for online stores:
E-skimming is an exploit that allows hackers to inject malicious code into the checkout page of a website, enabling them to collect credit card details from shoppers.
To protect your ecommerce site from e-skimming, the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency recommends the following actions:
- Perform regular updates to payment software.
- Install patches from payment platform vendors.
- Implement code integrity checks.
- Keep anti-virus software updated.
- Ensure you are PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) compliant.
- Monitor and analyze web logs.
Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)
Cross-site scripting (also known as XSS) is a web security vulnerability that allows a bad actor to exploit users’ interactions with a vulnerable application. These vulnerabilities allow an attacker to pose as the user, carry out any actions that the user is able to perform, and access any of the user’s data.
It can be complicated to prevent cross-site scripting and the steps will vary based on how your ecommerce site was designed. Here are a couple of XSS prevention resources that can help:
The most common way to gain access to an ecommerce website is through malware. This is an overarching term that covers viruses, worms, Trojan horses, ransomware, spyware and more.
Malware can erase all your data, steal your customer information, infect your site visitors, and even hold your site hostage in a “ransomware” attack. Malware can come from a variety of different sources, but most commonly results from downloading an infected file.
Other simple additions, like a CAPTCHA, can help you quickly distinguish between authentic, legitimate users and people who might be trying to exploit your site.
Note: GoDaddy’s Website Security service can monitor your site for malware and give you peace of mind.
SQL injection (SQLi)
SQL injection is a common exploit that uses malicious SQL code to manipulate backend databases to access information that was not intended to be displayed. When you hear about large-scale data breaches at large companies, chances are it was a SQL injection attack.
Preventing SQL injection attacks is another ecommerce security issue that will vary based on your configuration. This guide has a breakdown on how you can prevent this exploit on your ecommerce website.
Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks
With a DDoS attack, a hacker will orchestrate thousands (or tens of thousands) of independent bots to visit your site all at once. This barrage can render your ecommerce servers incapable of serving all the requests and shuts out real customers trying to access your site.
A DDoS attack can crash an ecommerce site by overwhelming it with an onslaught of automated traffic.
In order to mitigate mass DDoS attacks, it’s recommended that ecommerce sites utilize a Web Application Firewall(WAF). Even large companies struggle to prevent DDoS attacks, but a firewall is typically the best bet for keeping your site safe and active.
Not all ecommerce security issues are purely technical. Friendly fraud, also called chargeback fraud, involves a fraudster completing a purchase on an ecommerce website, receiving their purchase, then opening a dispute with their bank to get the purchase reversed.
Common signs of impending chargeback fraud include orders that are larger than normal, unusually high order frequency from a single user, or purchases of items that are commonly stolen (such as high-end makeup, designer bags or expensive electronics).
Here are a few steps that can help you combat friendly fraud:
- Contact customers to confirm large purchases. If you notice a purchase that is much larger than the norm for your business, call or email the customer to confirm. Be sure to document your contact with the customer in case you need to dispute a future chargeback.
- Require signatures upon delivery. With ecommerce becoming increasingly prevalent, so too has porch pirating. This situation has made it easier for friendly fraudsters to claim that they didn’t receive their package. Requiring a signature for delivery allows you to confirm that the customer did indeed receive their purchase.
- Keep all of your documentation. If a user does submit a chargeback, you’ll want to be able to dispute and prove to your bank that the chargeback is false. This process is called a “chargeback representment.”
When figuring out how to secure your online store, the first step is to understand these top ecommerce security threats and take the necessary actions to guard against them.
2. Proactive security measures to gain customer trust
As you can see, you can mitigate many of the security risks to your ecommerce website with proactive measures. Let’s go over some of the most important things you can do to tighten your ecommerce security.
Use an SSL certificate
Having an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate these days is nearly a forgone conclusion since Google has been flagging non-SSL websites as unsecured since 2018. An SSL certificate is vital, as SSL encryption secures any information transferred between a customer’s web browser and your web server. This helps mitigate attacks like cross-site scripting.
Related: How to add an SSL to your website — The ultimate guide on SSLs
Collect customer information selectively (and don’t store it onsite)
Hackers and identity thieves can’t steal what you don’t have. If you don’t collect or save any private customer datathrough your ecommerce solution (that is not essential to your business), no cybercriminal can possibly gain an advantage from it.
When processing credit cards, use an encrypted checkout tunnel to eliminate the need for your own servers to see your customers’ credit card data. This might be slightly more inconvenient at checkout time for your customers, but the benefits far outweigh the risk of compromising their credit card numbers.
While it can’t stop the possibility of threats altogether, it can minimize damage since you won’t have any customer data to lose. Only gather the customer information you really need.
Train employees on ecommerce security best practices
Every individual in your organization is a potential ecommerce security threat. If they choose a weak password that’s easy to crack or if they fall for a social engineering or phishing scheme, they might open your site’s doors to a cybercriminal.
If your employees operate with near-perfect attention to detail, you’ll decrease your risks of malware, the possibility of injections and social engineering schemes.
Though you won’t be able to prevent every mistake, a little employee training can go a long way in the world of ecommerce security.
Host a workshop or seminar to educate your employees all at once, and start enforcing certain protocols, like minimum password lengths or regular password changes.
Related: 10 best practices for creating and securing stronger passwords
Proactively monitor your website activity
There are a variety of apps and online tools you can use to monitor how users are accessing your web pages. For example, Google Analytics offers real-time user activity visualization. Above and beyond analytics tools, look for a security monitoring tool that will scan your website at least once daily for suspicious activity.
GoDaddy’s Website Security offers daily scans for threats including malware, DDoS, cross-site scripting and others.
If you have a steady eye on your website at all times, you can notice if someone tries to instigate a cyberattack or if there’s suspicious activity, such as a user trying to log in multiple times.
Proactive monitoring can help you prevent some threats and respond to other ones as they unfold. You can see the beginnings of a DDoS attack before it reaches its peak, stop brute force attacks, and you might be able to respond to attacks related to malware and cross-site scripting.
Keep your systems patched and updated
When apps and website builders roll out new updates, they’re often designed to counter specific known threats, such as software bugs that allow external entry. If you don’t practice proactive ecommerce security and keep these appsand systems up to date, you could be leaving yourself needlessly vulnerable to a threat that develops have already neutralized.
Ideally, you’ll want to turn on automatic updates so you don’t have to think about it. This also reduces the possibility of a delay between updates, or human error.
Back up your data regularly
There’s a chance that your site could go down, taking all your data with it, whether the intention was malicious or not. Ransomware attacks also could attempt to hold your site hostage, demanding payment in exchange for the safe return of your data.
When it comes to how to secure your online store, regular backups are the best way to help protect yourself from these types of threats.
Use automatic backups to make a copy of your ecommerce website on a periodic basis, so you’re never more than a day or two away from the most recent update. Many modern website builders include this as a built-in feature.
3. How to choose a secure platform
Your hosting provider should be just as invested in your success as you are. Many of the top web hosting providers, such as GoDaddy, offer an array of tools and applications to make creating and running an ecommerce site easy and secure. Your safest bet is the hosting provider that:
- Employs at least 128 bit AES encryption (256 bit is better).
- Performs regular backups.
- Keeps comprehensive logs.
- Provide a robust admin panel.
- Performs regular network monitoring.
- Provides you with written policies and procedures in case of a breach.
- Provides a single point of contact for security emergencies.
At the very least, providers should be able to explain to you their own emergency procedures in cases of a natural disaster or breach. Otherwise, you shouldn’t feel confident they can assist you should the real deal go down.
Editor’s note: GoDaddy’s Online Store and Managed WordPress Ecommerce Hosting offer automatic security updates, malware monitoring and 24/7 support.
You’ll also need to make sure your hosting plan is capable of handling the increased traffic that comes with the growth of your online store. If you’re using basic shared hosting, your site may go offline during times of heavy traffic (such as large sales, holiday shopping, etc.). Avoid that potential heartache and ensure that your hosting provider can scale with your ecommerce business.
4. Ongoing best practices
Now that we’ve covered ecommerce security risks and the online security measures that can prevent them or minimize their damage, let’s go over a checklist of ongoing security practices that all ecommerce business ownersshould adopt:
Regularly test your ecommerce site for vulnerabilities
A good defense is the best offense, as the saying goes. So it’s important to regularly test your ecommerce site to stop hackers from doing any real damage. This includes:
- Regular scanning: Check your website(s) regularly (including a test of all links) to ensure identity thieves and hackers have not introduced malware into advertisements, graphics, or other content provided by third parties.
- Penetration testing: Consider hiring cybersecurity consultants or ethical hackers to identify vulnerabilities in the code.
- Security apps: Look into web application scanning tools that help identify a variety of vulnerabilities — ranging from identifying cross-site scripting (XSS) to finding vulnerabilities inside debug code and leftover source code that could put confidential data at risk.
Pay attention to what you download and integrate
Many modern website builders allow you to download plugins and tools to use in combination with your site, but cybercriminals can use these as bait to implant a malicious script on your site.
Malware on your device could spy on your keystrokes, eventually obtaining your ecommerce website password or other sensitive information.
Never download an attachment or file from a user or site you don’t trust. Always verify the identity of plugindevelopers, and check reviews before installing.
Be proactive about ongoing security training
It can be tempting to complete a security training course and move on, but cybercrime is constantly changing and evolving. As such, make it a priority to keep yourself and your employees up to date on ecommerce security to avoid any disastrous mistakes down the road.
Perform regular security audits
In the course of running a business, it’s inevitable that things will change. Processes will evolve, systems will change, and employees will come and go. So it’s important for ecommerce business owners to run regular audits to keep their systems current.
These are some items that we recommend for your security audit:
- Update your scripts and applications.
- Use strong passwords.
- Delete abandoned user accounts.
- Run a security scan.
Summing it up
Cybercriminals don’t take the day off, so continued vigilance is vital. Hopefully these steps — paired with a secure web hosting provider — will help you keep your ecommerce store secure and functional.
This article includes content originally published on the GoDaddy blog by Cody Landefeld, Jayson DeMers and Stephen Lawton.