Top 7 ecommerce cybersecurity threats and tips to avoid them

The ecommerce industry is on the rise. According to Statista, global ecommerce sales amounted to approximately $5.2 trillion. Moreover, experts predict this figure to reach about $8.1 trillion by 2026, growing by 56% in the coming years.

However, such rapid growth inevitably comes with various challenges, and ensuring ecommerce security is one of them. Statistics show that merchants are facing elevated rates of cyberattacks each year. The 2022 Cybercrime Report by LexisNexis highlights that both desktop and mobile attack rates have grown by 30% compared to 2021.

If you want to create an ecommerce store, then it is crucial to know how you can improve the security of your online store. This article covers the main types of cyber threats that pose a risk to ecommerce enterprises. It also provides multiple recommendations on how enterprises can mitigate these threats to protect their finances, data, and business reputation.

What are the most common ecommerce cyber threats?

  1. Malware

Malware (a portmanteau for “malicious” and “software”) is a computer program that infiltrates a digital system to steal data or money from its owner or customers. Viruses, spyware, trojans, and adware are just some varieties of malware, all of which can compromise an ecommerce site or mobile app.

The bad news is that the amount of malware is growing yearly, as is the intensity of malware-based attacks. AV-TEST, a German-based research institute, detects 450,000 new pieces of malware each day. At the same time, Statista reports that there were 5.5 billion malware attacks in 2022 – a 2% increase compared to 2021.

  1. DoS and DDoS attacks

DoS (denial of service) is a hacker attack involving sending traffic to web servers to disable an enterprise’s digital systems. DDoS (distributed denial of service) is a more advanced and dangerous type of DoS attack. Here, hackers attack from multiple IP addresses simultaneously, damaging even the most powerful systems.

Hundreds of thousands of attacks occur each year: in 2022, Microsoft alone prevented an average of 1,435 DDoS attacks daily. Online industries such as ecommerce are at increased risk – according to Cloudflare, they faced the most application-layer DDoS attacks in 2022. The number of these attacks increased by 300% compared to 2021.

  1. Social engineering

While employees remain one the most valuable assets of an ecommerce enterprise, each can be a potential entry point for malefactors. Attackers can use one of the social engineering techniques (such as scareware, pretexting, or baiting) to manipulate an employee and gain access to valuable corporate or customer data.

The CS Hub Mid-Year Market Report 2022 reveals that 75% of enterprises consider social engineering and phishing attacks the top cybersecurity business threats. Despite this, almost 30% of enterprises do not cover social engineering in their security awareness training programs.

  1. Financial fraud

Financial fraud is often considered the most sensitive attack type as it aims at stealing merchants’ financial assets. In the simplest scenario, an attacker uses stolen credit card data to make an unauthorized purchase in a digital store. The actual cardholder then submits a chargeback request, causing a merchant to lose revenue from the sale (besides shipped items).

According to Statista, ecommerce enterprises lost $41 billion due to online payment fraud in 2022. By the end of 2023, this figure is expected to increase to $48 billion.

  1. E-skimming

Any business that accepts online payments can become a victim of e-skimming (or online skimming), and apparently, ecommerce enterprises are no exception. For example, attackers can inject malicious skimming code into payment card processing or ecommerce sites to capture a customer’s credit card information and steal money or make an unauthorized purchase.

Although online skimming is not the most widespread threat, it should not be underestimated. The Federal Bureau of Investigation states that skimming attacks cost consumers and financial organizations more than $1 billion yearly.

  1. Bots

Automated malicious bots are another threat that can harm an ecommerce business. Attackers can inject bots into ecommerce sites to take over customer accounts, steal credit card information, or scrape a merchant’s prices and content (if a competitor initiates a bot attack).

Unfortunately, the ecommerce industry is a number one target for bot attacks. According to the State of Security Within eCommerce 2022 report by Imperva, 62% of all attacks against ecommerce sites are implied using automated scripts and bots, compared to 28% in other industries.

  1. API attacks

As ecommerce businesses become more omnichannel, they build and deploy increasingly more API interfaces. While API technology is advantageous by itself (it allows quickly connecting various data sources and sales channels), it also carries a risk. After all, each API is a potential access point for hackers.

The same report by Imperva highlights that API traffic accounts for nearly 42% of all traffic on ecommerce websites. Given that 12% of APIs are connected to endpoints related to critical customer data (credit card numbers, credentials, and so on), businesses should pay special attention to this cyber threat.

How to secure ecommerce businesses from cyber threats?

Here are several recommendations.

Running a security audit

First, businesses should evaluate their existing commerce infrastructure to identify its strengths and weaknesses. This information allows a merchant to develop a more efficient cybersecurity strategy tailored to its unique needs and requirements.

Here, a security audit can come in handy. It will help an enterprise analyze its systems and applications from different perspectives:

  • Hardware and software performance
  • Corporate cybersecurity policy
  • Security administration and controls
  • Network security & vulnerability issues

We recommend auditing at least once a year to ensure infrastructure is ready to withstand emerging threats. In addition, businesses should involve cyber security experts here; consultants should have relevant industry expertise, as the ecommerce industry has unique cyber security challenges.

Establishing role-based access control

Role-based access control (RBAC) is a security model that implies distributing user roles to limit their access to corporate data and resources. In this approach, users with a lower level of access (like lower-level managers or customers) only have access to some systems and information.

The main goal of RBAC adoption is to reduce the attack surface and potential harm of a successful attack. Since employees have access only to resources required for work, they cannot share critical data with intruders, significantly reducing social engineering risks.

Implementing AI and ML

Continuous monitoring is the key to ensuring a system’s security. However, this task can be complicated and inefficient with a manual approach. Fortunately, businesses can meet this challenge using innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).

AI and ML-based systems can automatically analyze traffic and data related to corporate IT infrastructures. Thus, they can quickly identify any online threat, even in real-time, helping corporate security specialists act rapidly and thus mitigate potential damage.

Conducting data backups

Among other things, we recommend merchants back up the most valuable data to restore it quickly in case of loss or hack. While there are many data backup strategies, cloud storage can become a preferred option due to advanced flexibility and lower cost than on-premise hosting.

Final thoughts

Cyber threats in ecommerce are growing yearly: malware, bots, and social engineering are just some of them. Without proper protection, a merchant can lose critical information, including corporate and customer data, which can harm an enterprise’s finances and reputation.

Fortunately, by adopting the proper security measures, businesses can mitigate most cyber threats in advance. In particular, merchants can audit their infrastructures, adopt RSAC, implement AI-based monitoring tools, and run data backup.


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