Cybersecurity Best Practices for Retailers

Cybersecurity Best Practices for Retailers

As retailers integrate their digital and physical shopping experiences to future-proof their business models, it’s never been more important to be aware of the cybersecurity vulnerabilities that can be created by digital transformation. As cybersecurity awareness month becomes a focus of discussion in October, Interface Systems, a leading managed service provider delivering business security, managed network, UCaaS, and business intelligence solutions to distributed enterprises, shares best practices on how to prevent retail cyber-attacks and mitigate fraud.

Retail chains face a variety of security challenges, from connected POS (Point of sale) systems and devices to online ordering and delivery applications. Retailers’ data lakes, which combine their customers’ data with credit card information, make them particularly attractive targets for cybercriminals. The consequences of security lapses go beyond legal issues and often result in significant financial loss as customers lose confidence in the brand.

Securing the Point of Sale

The retail industry has been hit hard by cyberattacks, as cybercriminals target credit card data and personally identifiable customer information. One of the most common attack vectors has been through compromised Point of Sale (POS) systems. Hackers have targeted POS systems to gain entry into the retailer’s network since these systems are generally the least secure link in any retailer’s network infrastructure. Most POS attacks succeed because of vulnerabilities in the operating system. The reality is that many retailers often struggle to manage the sheer number of in-store terminals, self-service kiosks, and mobile payment devices. They don’t update their POS systems with the latest security solutions, and instead, make do with run-of-the-mill antivirus software to meet bare minimum security requirements.

To secure their POS, retailers need to:

  • Encrypt all POS data end-to-end
  • Accept EMV chip cards and NFC (contactless payment) technologies
  • Whitelist applications to run on a POS system
  • Keep their POS software up to date
  • Address PCI-DSS compliance gaps proactively
  • Segment the POS network
  • Physically secure POS devices including mobile POS devices
  • Watch out for unusual transactions
  • Integrate security cameras with POS transactions

Securing cloud-based applications

Retailers are rapidly turning to the cloud and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) to keep up with the e-commerce demand and unlock operational efficiencies. From tracking inventory in real-time with cloud-hosted databases and applications to using big data to personalize shopping experiences for customers, the cloud has been a key enabler to retailers’ digital transformation. But like all new technologies, the cloud brings new challenges. Security is one such challenge, as distributed cloud-hosted environments need to be carefully protected — especially for retailers handling sensitive information like payment details and other personally identifiable information (PII). Security breaches in cloud applications can have devastating repercussions for retailers. According to the 2022 IBM Cost of a Data Breach Report, the average cost of a data breach in retail in 2022 is $3.28 million.

To protect their cloud-based applications, retailers need to:

  • Adopt a zero-trust security model to help prevent unauthorized access to sensitive data.
  • Protect sensitive data in cloud environments using policy and encryption.
  • Invest in security orchestration and automation of response (SOAR) and extended. detection and response (XDR) to help improve detection and response times.
  • Understand the scope of cloud service provider security responsibilities.
  • Organize ongoing security awareness training for all employees.

Protecting against loyalty programs fraud

Loyalty programs have real cash value for criminals. They can be exchanged via the dark web with minimal communication between the seller and the buyer, which lowers the risk of getting caught. They are often exchanged for untraceable items such as gift cards, which also increases their appeal. Loyalty profiles often contain both personal and financial information sold or traded on the dark web. While loyalty programs have evolved in the last decade, they still have to deal with a variety of sophisticated cyberattacks and scams.

The key to stopping loyalty program fraud is to implement multiple layers of protection:

  • Implement a robust data analytics system to flag suspicious transactions.
  • Enforce password policies and encourage multifactor authentication.
  • Limit the personal data needed to enroll in the rewards program.
  • Regulate access to loyalty management systems and implement a zero-trust security framework.

Protecting mobile devices from cyber-attacks

Retailers are betting big on enabling employees to work from anywhere. Many of them are allowing their employees to use their own devices for work purposes or use company-issued devices outside of the office. However, Security and IT leaders are reporting that remote workers are harder to secure. Recent research from Verizon showed that while 70% of organizations agreed that their workforce was more productive working from outside the office, a massive 79% also believe that remote working had adversely affected their cybersecurity and increased the burden on security teams. The research also showed that the number of mobile-related compromises in 2022 was twice as much as in 2021.

  • Define a BYOD and WFM policy
  • Implement Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions
  • Implement Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) solutions
  • Implement Data Loss Prevention (DLP) solutions
  • Implement Mobile Threat Defense (MTD) and Unified Endpoint Management (UEM)
  • Provide adequate training to employees and IT teams

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