Starting an online business and building an eCommerce website can be a fun, exciting challenge. After all, the market is growing and if you do it right – early retirement may be on the horizon.
But one thing that many new entrepreneurs overlook, or perhaps even forget, is the security of their eCommerce website.
Thankfully, there are many easy preventative measures you can take to secure your website. You don’t need to be a computer genius to implement them, either.
In this article, we’ll discuss what steps you can take to ensure your website is safe from outside threats, and avoids leaking user data, or doing other damage to your business.
What is eCommerce security?
Security is quite possibly the most important feature of an eCommerce website, or at least it should be. Without proper security, online business owners put themselves, their brand, and their customers at risk of suffering fraud or identity theft. Not to mention leaked credit card details can put a dent in your accounts, resulting in huge casualties for your business.
Don’t think that your business is safe just because it’s small at the moment. The truth is, small businesses are actually targeted more often than larger ones. Cybercriminals expect security to be weak or non-existent on eCommerce websites of smaller businesses.
And they are not wrong. Small eCommerce sites are under constant threat. Data from Imperva, a web security company, indicates that 29% – nearly a third – of a website’s traffic is bots trying to harm it.
In addition to actual, monetary fraud, breaches in security or data damage your brand’s reputation. If you won’t spend money on an insecure website, why should you expect your customers to feel safe spending money with you?
And once a breach happens, you’ll have a hard time getting customers to return, much less getting new ones.
So, eCommerce security is all about making sure both your business and your customers can feel safe.
Ways your website might be attacked
There are a plethora of ways your website might be attacked. Below you can find four of the most pressing security issues right now. These are the most common attacks that businesses face every day.
SQL is spelled out as Structured Query Language. It’s a standard coding language used to access databases. With it, a user may manipulate databases and execute commands, such as data retrieval and record removal.
And SQL injections are one of the most common attacks out there, using rogue commands to gain unauthorized access to sensitive data stored on the database.
There are three main types of SQL injections that you should know about when it comes to your website.
In-band SQL Injections are simple and efficient, which makes it one of the most common SQL injection attacks. It uses the language you use to communicate with your database and display sensitive information or even gain administrative rights. It uses the same channels to launch the attack as it does to gather the results of the attack. With the same code you use, the hacker can hijack your information flow easily if you’re not protected.
Inferential SQL Injections, or blind SQLi, requires the attacker to send data packets to the server and allows them to observe the server’s responses and behavior. This lets them know how the server is structured. This type of SQL injection is usually slower to execute but can be just as harmful as the In-Band method.
Out-of-Band SQL Injections can only be carried out while certain features are enabled on the server used by the web application. It relies on your website’s server’s capacity to create DNS or HTTP requests, which ultimately transfers the data to the attacking party.
Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)
Cross-site scripting is also known as XSS, and it is a client-side code injection attack on your website. The aim of an XSS attack is to execute malicious, harmful scripts into a web browser by injecting the code into a legitimate web page.
Basically, your website becomes a delivery system for the malicious script. This type of attack is particularly harmful and most effective when used with forums, message boards, or any web page that allows user input or comments.
Additionally, an XSS attack may deface your website. Your content may be changed, or may not even be seen at all if the attacking party uses an XSS attack to redirect any traffic your site receives to instead go to another website.
Malware is another common way for attackers to access your eCommerce website. Malware includes all kinds of nasty things, including viruses, ransomware, spyware, worms, and more.
What malware can primarily do is steal customer information, erase data, infect any website visitors, and even hold your website hostage.
DDoS and DoS
Denial of Service (DoS) attacks and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks are one of the most common, and perhaps most annoying, kinds of security attacks you might face. They are both executed with the same goals but are technically different.
DoS attacks are attempts made to shut down your eCommerce website by flooding or spamming it with illegitimate traffic. This bogs down your site and makes it impossible for regular users to access it.
DDoS attacks also clog up your site traffic. However, these attacks use multiple devices or botnets to attack. Botnets operate as a group of computers and are typically infected with malware to cause further damage to your eCommerce website.
Brute force tactics
This is usually a last-resort effort made by attackers to shut down a website because of how it’s executed. Brute force attacks use a botnet to guess administrator details of your website.
Really, all it is is an advanced password hack. As long as it is given enough uninterrupted time and is paired with the right programming to connect with different passwords, it works.
The best ways to combat brute force attacks are with captcha challenges, two-factor authorization on your website, and complex passwords. Additionally, you should encourage password changes every three months or so.
eCommerce website security tips
With some knowledge of the most common types of security threats to your website, you may be wondering what else you can do to protect your site, your users, and yourself. So we’ve compiled a list of tips to help you to secure an eCommerce website that you run.
1. Choose a secure web host and eCommerce platform
There are many eCommerce solutions for your platform needs, but you need both a secure platform and a web host for optimal protection. Most eCommerce website builders do have some security measures built-in. But not all platforms and hosts are the same, or even equal.
Your best option is to shop around and check out different hosts and platform providers to find the best fit for you, your business, and your customers. Find a host and platform combination that will offer complete protection from the most common threats, such as malware and SQL injections.
Get an SSL certificate
In addition to finding providers that have built-in security protocols and benefits, you want to get an SSL certificate.
It helps to encrypt the data between your website and the user’s web browser – making it unreadable for everybody, except you and the user. An SSL certification is actually mandatory for all eCommerce websites under the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard.
Any kind of merchant or eCommerce-based business needs to comply with the PCI Security Standards. They’re in a place to guarantee that businesses take action to protect consumers from identity theft and fraud.
2. Perform regular SQL checks
SQL injections can be made in any user input form on your website, so checking regularly for these kinds of vulnerabilities is paramount to the safety and security of your website.
Depending on the platform that you choose to use, there are several software options that can help to monitor and protect your website from these injections. There are also free site scanners that will perform the same tasks, but make sure to read reviews and only download from trusted vendors.
Set the scanner you choose to run daily checks on your website’s security. This way, if there are any vulnerabilities, they can be found and secured before someone takes advantage of them.
3. Leave payment and data processing to the experts
The best way to not lose any customer data is not having any! Don’t collect or keep any of your customers’ private data on your website unless absolutely necessary.
For payments, use third-party, encrypted checkout tunnel to process payments – this is a standard procedure for the eCommerce sites. Most popular payment gateways are completely secure and are not known for leaking any sensitive user data.
Choose a payment platform that is compatible with your eCommerce web host and platform. You want something that will offer the best, industry-leading fraud prevention and identity theft protection.
4. Keep your website updated and patched
As hackers find vulnerabilities, app developers find ways to fix them. New updates on website software come out all the time – and often, they include crucial security patches.
As a result, you should pay close attention to updates as they’re introduced. If your updates aren’t automatic, you need to be extra careful to manually update them. But, it is a good idea to turn on automatic updates, not only for your website but for your entire computer.
5. Monitor what you download and integrate
Being able to download and integrate plugins, tools, apps and more directly to your website is a great thing! But, always be aware of what you’re downloading and using. Some hackers will use these add-ons to implant malicious protocols on your website.
Sometimes, it’s not even intentional. Various plugins may not be fully optimized with your software and make your website vulnerable to attacks.
The same security measures you take for your website can generally be used to protect your entire computer as well. Make sure you use trusted protection for both professional and business uses.
6. Regularly back up your website data
Backing up your eCommerce website won’t stop any security threats you may face, but it will help to minimize or reduce the damage done. Really, it’s a strategy that will help protect information from being lost, corrupted, or held hostage.
It’s a good business practice to take the time and back-up your website as often as possible. Any time you make an update, back up the website. At a minimum, you should be backing up the website once every three days, but the recommended is to back it up once a day.
You can, of course, set up automatic back-ups to take place so that you don’t manually have to start the process. Most website builders and web hosts will offer website back-ups as a built-in feature – make sure to choose the platform that can guarantee you that.
7. Get and use a website application firewall
A Website Application Firewall, or WAF, will help to take the security of your eCommerce website to the next level. It will protect your website from XSS, SQL injections, and forgery requests.
It should also protect your website from any hacking attempts, including brute force attempts. Also, it should help to reduce the risk of suffering a DoS or DDoS attack.
There are several great web application firewall vendors out there. Find one that fits your needs and budget and one that is trusted by the community of eCommerce businesses.
Fraudulent transaction warning signs
Another concern you may have as an eCommerce business owner is what’s referred to as “friendly fraud.” Friendly fraud is what it’s called when an otherwise legitimate customer interacts with your website, purchases a product or service, and later changes their mind about it.
Normally, this would result in the customer using your return policy to return the product properly. However, in friendly fraud, the customer instead submits a chargeback through their credit card provider.
Approximately 71% of merchant loss can be attributed to friendly fraud. To minimize problems from this kind of fraud, there are steps you can take.
- Ask credit card companies for a detailed list of chargeback codes, so that you know what is being initiated against your merchant account.
- Ensure proper notation of charges on your customer’s credit card statement. Include a customer service phone number and a descriptive product title.
- Use tracking numbers for every order that is shipped. Proof of delivery is important when combating certain unjustified chargebacks.
If a customer does take part in this kind of fraud frequently or with high-cost products, you can ban their billing address. This will prevent future problems.
Ensuring eCommerce security – final thoughts
Having a secure eCommerce website is extremely important for both your brand and your customers. Every website is a target – but if you take precautions, you can avoid getting affected by malicious users.
Using all the aforementioned security practices and keeping your software up to date is the best way to keep peace of mind. Good luck securing your website and bringing in the clients!
Vivian is fond of writing and has been involved in the content marketing industry since 2011. She specializes in web hosting & website builder niches.