Retail Cybersecurity: Common Threats and How to Avoid Them


Cybercriminals can try to make a quick buck by committing purchase fraud in two main ways. They can either commit payment fraud, which uses a stolen credit card (stolen via the two methods described above, or via a data breach) to make a purchase.

Shopping season is a hacker’s paradise for those looking to take advantage of overwhelmed businesses and websites. The shopping period, with a host of sales discounts and other offers, often sees an increase in website attacks. And while retailers know they’re under increased pressure, they may not have the resources to bolster their cybersecurity defenses given their priority on customer service, shipping and more. necessary prerequisites.

It is therefore important to shed light on the most common types of threats that retailers face during the shopping season and also offer recommendations on how to stay safe.

Retail Cybersecurity Challenges and Threats

Threat 1: Payment skimmers

Knowing that traffic and transactions are at an all-time high during busy shopping seasons, hackers seek to steal valuable payment data from unwitting customers and retailers. This can be done by compromising physical POS systems with malware. If retailers are using legacy POS systems or haven’t updated them for a while, the devices may be vulnerable to known exploits.

With PoS systems and terminals likely to be inundated with a surge in customers, hackers know this would be the perfect time to launch an attack in hopes of stealing valuable credit card data.

Threat 2: SQL injection

Hackers can also compromise a merchant site to steal payment data when making an online purchase. This is often done via SQL injection, which drops malicious code on a site that hides and steals data. This allows hackers to steal payment data entered into a field without the knowledge of the customer.

Magecart is one of the most notorious attack methods that leverage unpatched versions of Magento to drop malicious code to steal payment data, redirect links to malicious sites and, more recently, extract cryptocurrency without the knowledge of the victim.

Although this is an attack that can be exploited at any time, savvy hackers can choose a time when the attack is likely to go unnoticed given the flurry of activity in stores and websites. . If the retailer is inundated with alerts and other urgent issues, any alert highlighting a potential problem may be ignored, dismissed as a false alert, or not addressed in a timely manner.

Threat 3: Fraudulent transactions

Cybercriminals can try to make a quick buck by committing purchase fraud in two main ways. They can either commit payment fraud, which uses a stolen credit card (stolen via the two methods described above, or via a data breach) to make a purchase.

This can harm retailers, as victims are likely to report fraudulent purchases. The credit card company will then refund the purchase, passing the cost on to the retailer while charging them a fee for the entire process.

Return fraud is another common tactic used by scammers and thieves. In person or online, scammers can return stolen merchandise or use altered receipts to get a refund for an item they never bought (and the retailer will never receive). Without the right authentication or verification process in place, scammers can continue to tamper with returns and collect money until the scam is finally reported.

Since margins are likely to be tight during these big sales periods, a retailer may actually lose money from these fraudulent tactics.

Hackers know how to carry out these attacks during shopping season to avoid detection. Without the right detection/monitoring systems, it is difficult to sift through a huge surge in transactions to spot a fraudulent one.

Threat 4: DDoS attacks

Retail websites are already seeing a surge in traffic during the shopping season.

If a malicious hacker is looking to cause damage, negatively impact a retailer, or take advantage of increased traffic to carry out another attack, they may launch a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack on the site. from a retailer.

A DDoS attack often leverages a botnet, which is a collection of compromised devices, to essentially spam a website with numerous requests to overload the website. If the site does not have the right protection, the abundance of requests can slow down or even bring down the website.

How can companies improve their cybersecurity posture in retail?

Retailers cannot treat shopping season like any other period from a cybersecurity perspective. To ensure that they have the necessary support in the event of an incident, they will:

Invest in solutions and tools to deal with the above issues: DDoS, EDR protection tools, and anti-fraud solutions can help prevent, detect, and minimize the risk of these threats compromising your organization.

Prepare your environment: Remediate your tools and software, especially if systems or devices have known exploits, and ensure you can detect unauthorized users entering or moving through your environment.

Augment staff as needed for monitoring and response: Even with the right tools, your cybersecurity staff may not have the time to learn a new tool, manage it, or work with it to properly detect and respond to any reported behavior or alert. Consider increasing your workforce, even temporarily, so you can dedicate more resources during this high-risk time.

Work with a managed services partner: Any type of managed service provider, be it an MSSP, MSP or MDR, will be able to provide the above in a packaged fashion, saving you time and money when it comes to selecting new tools or technologies and using them effectively. Even if it’s only for a short time, having an extra resource can mean the difference between a good shopping season and a bad one.

Organizations must react to the demands created by threats, even if they are seasonal. It makes no sense for an organization to rally around a lucrative shopping season only to lose profits (and maybe more than that) to a few opportunistic hackers.

Prioritize preparation and ensure you have the resources to detect and respond to attacks. Investing in new technologies or new partners can also pay off in the future, as you will be protected beyond the peak shopping season.


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