5 holiday Cybersecurity tips retailers need this year

December 6, 2021  |  Devin Partida

This blog was written by an independent guest blogger.

Retailers around the world are preparing for a chaotic holiday season. Supply chain disruptions are causing issues, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is something retailers need to keep in mind, especially when operating a brick-and-mortar location.

Another pressing issue that retailers of all sizes need to address before the peak of the holiday season is the risk of facing a cybersecurity crisis. Retailers are becoming more vulnerable to cyber threats, especially as the industry continues to digitize and more e-commerce businesses emerge. More technology being used to increase operational efficiency means retailers face a higher risk of cyber incidents.

There are a few reasons why the holiday season is a choice time for hackers to do their worst.

Some businesses operate with a skeleton crew, as many employees use this time to go on vacation and spend time away from work.

Because many retailers focus their energy on creating positive customer experiences and selling products or services, cybersecurity issues may not get the attention they should. About 24% of all 2020 breaches were aimed at retailers. It shouldn’t be a surprise that more effort needs to be made to protect them from these attacks.

Hackers will use any means necessary to find their way into the most protected networks and exploit people’s private data. They will go after credit card numbers and security codes or other personally identifiable information (PII).

Social engineering attacks are becoming more robust, so retailers must follow some of these tips when forming a cybersecurity plan for their brick-and-mortar or online businesses. Here’s how to stay ahead of the curve this holiday season.

1. Train staff members

Many retailers hire temporary employees during the winter months. Hackers may target those who may not know how to fend off a cyber attack or scam. Staff members need to remain vigilant when validating customer identification and any signs of physical tampering with any in-store hardware.

Retailers tend to do an average job educating their employees, according to recent research. Spreading awareness about the possibility of facing cyber threats is crucial for every retailer and their employees this holiday season. Educating workers about the different types of retail hacks will help them identify these cases should they occur.

2. Update software and security patches

Keeping technology up to date is critical. Many software companies release new versions of their software that have stronger security protocols, making it more challenging for hackers to attack.

Hackers are known to find vulnerabilities in retail operations that use outdated e-commerce software, so be vigilant and update it as often as possible. Security patches serve to eliminate these vulnerabilities — be sure to contact software vendors regarding any questions about them.

3. Use multiple verification methods

Some retailers are hesitant to adopt multiple verification methods for customer transactions, making the checkout process longer. Many customers opt for mobile payment methods, but this is yet another cybersecurity risk that must be addressed before the holiday season.

Verifying someone’s identity by asking for government-issued identification is one actionable way to prevent payment fraud in retail. Consider this as the holiday season approaches, as the ultimate goal is to avoid any instances of fraud.

4. Employ external Cybersecurity audits

There are plenty of external auditors who can offer a plethora of knowledge and experience when facing cybersecurity threats head-on. They can identify potential risks that retailers commonly face and find viable solutions to address them.

Consider hiring an external auditor to run a security audit to ensure systems are in check and working properly. Adequate protection should be in place to discourage hackers. It’ll be well worth the investment to have someone come in and lessen the risk of facing a cybersecurity incident.

5. Implement a viable response plan

Creating a response plan for dealing with cybersecurity issues is essential when preparing for a profitable holiday season. There are a few steps every good cybersecurity response plan should have:

  • Preparation
  • Detection
  • Containment
  • Recovery
  • Post-incident review

Be sure to include all these steps when forming a response plan. Taking the extra time to be prepared if incidents do occur — the last thing a retailer wants is to be caught off-guard and have to scramble to find ways to manage a cybersecurity incident.

Stay ahead of the Cybersecurity curve this holiday season

Cybersecurity issues can negatively affect retail operations, and retailers need to consider the implications of dealing with such events. While other facets of running a business may get more attention, safety is one thing that should not be overlooked or left on the backburner. Follow the tips listed above when preparing for the holiday season.

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