If you have an online store, this is your time to shine! In 2021, predictions show that 230 million people will skip the stores and go digital for their shopping needs.
However, while many e-commerce businesses focus on putting their products first, they make the mistake of forgetting about the importance of cybersecurity. In the process, they risk the safety of their customers’ data. These days, it is easier than ever for your business to collect customer information, and if not properly protected, that precious data could fall into the hands of hackers. At this point, it’s gotten so bad that the government has had to step in. That fact may frighten some business owners, but your e-commerce can continue to thrive despite these issues by being proactive about customer data protection.
The Threat is Real
The threat of data hacking and cybercrime is real, regardless of the size of your business. Most of us have heard of the famous data breaches at companies like Target and Equifax, but the fact is that customer data can be stolen anywhere. From an email address to a credit card number, any piece of information can be sold on the black market or used for fraudulent charges. The threat has become so significant that lawmakers around the world are starting to notice and take action.
In 2018, California passed the California Consumer Privacy Act. Like Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation that passed overseas, the California act requires state businesses to disclose their data sharing practices and provide any data on an individual at the customer’s request. This legislation passed primarily to protect the customers, but e-commerce businesses must also keep customer data security to protect their own data. Recent statistics show that cybercrime can cost a company up to $11 million in the form of damage payment, rebuilding a website’s vulnerabilities, and repairing its professional image.
The fact is that while they know their data will be collected and used, not all customers are thrilled about the idea. As the first line of defense, your e-commerce business may want to separate yourself from the herd by stating upfront that you collect data. However, assure customers by informing them about your security measures around this data collection. This step can be a life-saver regardless of the state you live in.
You can put this information under your customer order on your contact info page. If you have the ability, you can even give them a choice to opt-out of sharing specific data. By being upfront with the customers, you will create a trust rarely seen in the online space.
Beyond being open and honest about how you use customer data, you should also put protections in place to protect the information you do collect and store. To do so, you should follow the recommendations listed in the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Security Standards Council guidelines. Not only do they protect consumer payment information, but they also protect against hackers and their attempts to infiltrate your system.
Some of these guidelines seem like common sense and are often even used for personal computers, but they can be forgotten on a corporate level. For instance, the guidelines recommend that e-commerce companies install and maintain an active firewall, blocking unwanted traffic and detecting threats. On top of that, you should install antivirus software and run scans at least once a week. If any issues or viruses are found, they must be taken care of immediately. Update your antivirus software whenever there is a new version to protect against the newest threats.
Another cornerstone of effective online data security is encryption, as this technology will advance into the future with better protections. Encryption helps prevent unintended systems or individuals from using your data by scrambling it. The easiest way to encrypt your website is by enabling hypertext transfer protocol security for a website administrator. When you have this enabled, all incoming information is encrypted, and the padlock that will appear in the address bar will give the customer peace of mind.
If a cybercriminal does attempt to infiltrate your system and steal your data, you need an educated staff on the front line. They can do this by understanding the signs and reducing the risks. This starts with strong passwords across the board that include a complicated combination of letters, numbers, and special characters. These passwords should be updated bi-monthly, and any employees who leave the organization should have their access removed.
Since many e-commerce businesses run remotely, employees should show caution when working in public places. They may want to use the free Wi-Fi at the coffee shop, but those working on the website must be aware of fake networks set by hackers. When you connect to this false connection, you allow criminals direct access to your system, and they can steal your information from there. Be safe and ask the store owner for the correct network.
Employees should always have their phones and cell phones locked and must never leave them unattended. All devices should also feature two-factor authentication. This way, you are creating more roadblocks against would-be intrusions by data-hungry hackers.
We are looking at a new horizon for online shopping, making this the best time to create an e-commerce store. Follow the tips discussed above, and you can have a successful business complete with a trusting customer base.