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Key Takeaways

Nightmare Prevention 101: Ecommerce stores face a dire threat from security breaches, leading to stolen customer data and operations disruptions, making it a universal nightmare.

Reputation on the Line: A security breach can severely damage a brand's reputation and customer trust, potentially overshadowing the most effective business operations for a long time.

Shield Up Your Store: Enhancing website security through methods like robust encryption and regular security audits is crucial for ecommerce stores to protect against severe security threats.

The Security Gamble: Failing to secure an ecommerce site can turn it into a data-leaking hassle, emphasizing the importance of strong security measures to safeguard customer transactions and data.

One of the biggest nightmares for an ecommerce brand today is a security breach—hackers exploiting vulnerabilities to steal customer data, and financial information, or disrupt your operations.

You dread it, your customers dread it—it's a disaster for everyone involved.

When unchecked, these ecommerce website security concerns can turn your sleek, high-performing website into a malfunctioning mess, leaking sensitive data all over the place. Sounds terrible, right?

Once a security breach occurs, the damage to your brand's reputation and customer trust can be severe and long-lasting, overshadowing even the most efficient operations.

However, there are multiple ways to enhance your website security and ensure that your online presence is thoroughly safeguarded against the biggest security threats.

From robust encryption to regular security audits, the tools to protect your ecommerce store are within reach.

But before diving deeper into these solutions, let's discuss why it's so crucial for ecommerce stores to strengthen their website security and what's really at stake.

What Are The Stakes of Ecommerce Website Security?

Ecommerce website security includes a range of critical measures designed to shield your online store from threats and safeguard customer transactions. 

Far from being a mere technical consideration, your website’s security can dramatically impact your store's performance and demand serious attention.

The consequences of inadequate security are both immediate and far-reaching. A breach can lead to:

  1. Immediate loss of sales and revenue
  2. Operational downtime, crippling your business
  3. Compromised customer data, eroding trust
  4. Severe damage to your brand's reputation
  5. Potential legal consequences and financial penalties

These high stakes underscore the importance of proactive security measures. At a minimum, businesses should implement:

  • Robust firewalls to protect against intrusions
  • Powerful authentication features to verify user identities
  • Security log monitoring to track and categorize potential vulnerabilities

Log monitoring, in particular, serves as an early warning system, allowing you to identify and address possible threats before they escalate into full-blown crises.

Ecommerce Website Security Compliance Laws to Follow

Understanding and implementing robust security measures is crucial, but it's equally important to be aware of the laws and policies that mandate these practices. 

Let's examine three key regulatory frameworks that you should absolutely know:

Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)

security for ecommerce website infographics PCI DSS

Compliance with PCI DSS helps companies ensure that they eliminate any payment-related vulnerabilities and protect data associated with cardholders making online payments.

This standard applies to all companies that process, store, or handle cardholder data.

The security standards are managed by the PCI Security Standards Council, and enforced by founding members of the Council, such as American Express, VISA, and MasterCard, among others.

Compliance with PCI DSS is critical for maintaining customer trust and avoiding potential penalties from payment processors.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

security for ecommerce website infographics GDPR

After payment security, let us look at GDPR, which is a set of regulations focusing specifically on information privacy. 

Primarily, GDPR is a European Union regulation and is a critical part of the EU privacy and human rights laws. It’s considered to be the toughest privacy and security-related regulatory framework in the world. 

The policy primarily governs how companies can process or transfer the personal data of individuals in the EU.

Even if your business is not based in the EU, GDPR compliance is essential if you serve European customers or process their data.

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California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)

security for ecommerce website infographics CCPA

Where GDPR is designed for European residents, the CCPA is for the privacy of California residents.

While similar to GDPR, CCPA has its own specific requirements that businesses must understand and implement.

CCPA grants consumers more control over the personal information that businesses collect from them.

By adhering to these regulatory frameworks, ecommerce businesses not only comply with legal requirements but also demonstrate a commitment to protecting customer data.

16 Ecommerce Cybersecurity Threats to Watch Out For

ecommerce cybersecurity threats infographic

Now that you're familiar with key security policies, let's explore the primary cybersecurity threats facing your online store. 

Understanding these risks is crucial for implementing effective ecommerce website security measures.

  1. Ransomware and malware: Malicious software designed to damage your system or network. Ransomware, a type of malware, can hold your data hostage for a ransom.
  2. Distributed denial of service (DDoS attacks): Floods your ecommerce store with fake traffic, making it unavailable to real customers. The aim of such an attack is to disrupt sales and break customer’s trust.
  3. SQL injection: Malicious code inserted into your website’s database query that aids attackers in getting access to sensitive data. As a result, you may experience data theft, compromised customer information, and even unauthorized transactions. 
  4. Data breaches: When unauthorized actors get access to sensitive information on your website directly or through deceptive emails, it's called a data breach. It can damage your reputation, cause legal penalties, and even financial loss for your online business.
  5. Phishing attacks: Cybercriminals often target businesses through deceptive emails and trick them into providing personnel or financial information. Phishing can compromise your customer accounts and cause unauthorized transactions.
  6. Cross-site scripting (XSS): XSS attacks attempt to steal cookie data, session tokens, and other sensitive data by inserting malicious scripts into the website’s code.  Successful attacks can hamper website functionality and user account information.
  7. Bots: While bots can help automate parts of important business processes such as ecommerce order fulfillment or product upselling, they can also automate the scraping of data, account takeovers, and DDoS attacks for malicious parties, aimed at stealing sensitive information.
  8. E-skimming: E-skimming also refers to inserting malicious code into websites to gain access to payment information during transactions.
  9. Payment fraud: Any unauthorized transactions using stolen credit card details or fraudulent chargebacks can be categorized as payment fraud, and can result in financial loss or increased costs.
  10. API attacks: API attacks exploit any vulnerabilities that exist in an application programming interface to gain access to and manipulate data, which can lead to disruptions or breaches.
  11. Supply chain attacks: Supply chain attacks are ones that are aimed at any third-party software or vendors that aid you in the process of gaining access to your website by introducing malware or stealing data.
  12. Social engineering attacks:  Cybercriminals can often disguise themselves as normal people and manipulate individuals to divulge confidential information aimed at gaining access to ecommerce systems and data.
  13. Man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks: MITM attacks are conducted by malicious actors who intercept communication between users and ecommerce websites to steal data or inject malicious content.
  14. Credential stuffing: Credential stuffing refers to introducing pairs of usernames and passwords to gain unauthorized access to user accounts with the aim of taking over accounts and committing fraud.
  15. Zero-day vulnerabilities: Unknown flaws exploited by attackers before developers can patch them, potentially compromising website functionality.  These compromise website functionality if you don’t have a strong ecommerce error resolution process in place.
  16. DNS hijacking: DNS hijacking refers to altering DNS records to redirect traffic from your ecommerce store to a fraudulent one, which can lead to phishing attacks or data theft.

Understanding these threats is the first step in fortifying your ecommerce site. Each poses unique risks to your business, from financial losses to reputational damage.

10 Best Practices For Keeping Your Ecommerce Website Secure

Now that you know some of the common attacks that can threaten the integrity and security of your online store, here are some of the best practices that you can deploy to safeguard your website against these threats.

1. Use a secure ecommerce platform and hosting provider

The foundation of your online store's security begins with choosing the right ecommerce platform and hosting provider. This decision can make or break your security efforts, so it's crucial to get it right from the start.

When selecting an ecommerce platform, prioritize those that offer advanced security features and robust support. 

Look for platforms that are Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant—this ensures they meet the stringent security standards set by the payment card industry.

But compliance is just the beginning. The best platforms go above and beyond, offering:

  • Regular security updates and patches
  • Built-in fraud detection tools
  • Secure checkout processes
  • Data encryption at rest and in transit

And, if your ecommerce platform doesn’t include hosting, you need a hosting solution that has constant monitoring, DDoS protection, regular backups, and firewalls.

Some of the best ecommerce platforms have highly effective security measures in place. Check out our favorite ecommerce platforms for all types of brands: 

These platforms can help you build a powerful website and secure it with equally powerful security mechanisms.

2. Always use HTTPS and get your SSL certificate

One of the first things you want to do when you create a website for your online store is acquire an SSL certificate for it. 

After all, it's the de facto standard for securing the transactions taking place on your website. 

An SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate serves two crucial functions:

  1. It authenticates the identity of your website to visitors.
  2. It encrypts the data transmitted between your server and your customers' browsers.

When you have an active SSL certificate, visitors will see the familiar padlock icon and “HTTPS” in their browser's address bar. This visual cue is more than just a symbol—it's a trust signal that tells your customers their data is protected.

But the benefits go beyond just security. Google has been using HTTPS as a ranking factor since 2014. 

This means that having an SSL certificate can actually help improve your search engine rankings, giving you an edge over competitors who haven't made the switch.

3. Implement multilayer security measures

security for ecommerce website implement multilayer security measures infographics

When it comes to ecommerce website security, the old saying "don't put all your eggs in one basket" couldn't be more relevant.

For an ecommerce store, where there are multiple ways for cybercriminals to penetrate website code or steal data, implementing a single layer of security will barely suffice. 

If an attacker manages to bypass one layer—a firewall, for instance—they'll immediately face another. This approach, known as defense in depth, significantly increases the difficulty for cybercriminals to breach your systems.

You want to implement multiple mechanisms that will combine to protect your website completely from malicious third-parties and attacks.

You’ll want to start with basic security layers and then implement more advanced measures:

  • Firewalls: These act as your first line of defense, filtering incoming and outgoing traffic based on predetermined security rules.
  • Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS): These monitor your network for suspicious activities and alert you to potential threats.
  • Regular software updates: Keep all your systems, including your ecommerce platform, plugins, and server software, up to date to patch known vulnerabilities.
  • Web Application Firewalls (WAF): These specifically protect your web applications from various attacks like SQL injection and cross-site scripting.
  • Content Delivery Networks (CDN): Besides improving your site's performance, CDNs can also help mitigate DDoS attacks.
  • Security Information and Event Management (SIEM): These systems aggregate and analyze log data across your network to detect and respond to security threats in real-time.

Remember, cybercriminals are constantly evolving their tactics, so your defenses need to evolve too. Regularly review and update your security measures to ensure they're still effective against the latest threats.

Consider specialized tools as well. 

For instance, a tool like Memcyco can help you prevent issues like brand impersonation—which involves malicious actors cloning a brand’s website to trick their customers. 

It safeguards your customers from falling victim to fraud by alerting them in real-time if they visit an impersonated version of your site.

4. Get antivirus and anti-malware software

One of the most basic things that you can do for your ecommerce website security is to purchase licensed antivirus and anti-malware software and implement them on your website.

But, they are far from basic.

Modern antivirus and anti-malware solutions do much more than just scan for known threats. They use advanced techniques like:

  1. Heuristic analysis: Detecting previously unknown threats based on behavior patterns.
  2. Real-time scanning: Continuously monitoring your system for potential threats.
  3. Sandboxing: Running suspicious files in an isolated environment to analyze their behavior.

But, let it be known, that your antivirus software is only as good as its latest update. Ensure that automatic updates are enabled and functioning correctly.

Consider extending this protection to all devices that connect to your ecommerce platform. This includes not just your servers, but also employee computers and mobile devices used to access your store's backend.

5. Don’t forget multifactor authentication (MFA)

As discussed before, user credentials getting stolen or compromised is one of the most common forms of website security breaches. Strong passwords alone are no longer enough.

Even the strongest password can be compromised, and when that happens, multifactor authentication (MFA) becomes your last line of defense.

Also referred to as two-factor authentication, MFA adds extra layers of security by requiring two or more pieces of evidence (or factors) to prove identity. These factors typically fall into three categories:

  1. Something you know (like a password or PIN)
  2. Something you have (like a smartphone or security token)
  3. Something you are (like a fingerprint or facial recognition)

The beauty of MFA is that even if a hacker manages to steal one factor (say, a password), they still can't access the account without the other factors. It's like having multiple locks on your door—each one adds an extra layer of security.

For ecommerce sites, consider implementing MFA for customer accounts, admin and employee logins, and third-party integrations.

6. Keep regular backups of your website

security for ecommerce website keep regular backups of your website infographics

For a dynamic website such as an online store, maintaining a backup of all the data is not optional. 

Think of backups as your insurance policy against data loss, whether from cyberattacks, hardware failures, or human error.

Otherwise, imagine a malicious attack on your website that forces you to rebuild the website from scratch.

A comprehensive backup strategy should cover:

  • Database backups: This includes customer information, order history, and product details.
  • File backups: Your website files, including images, themes, and custom code.
  • Configuration backups: Server and application settings that would be time-consuming to recreate.

Remember that for a backup to be considered successful, you will need to ensure that all the data is stored safely. 

Many hosting providers offer backup services but don't rely solely on these. Take control of your data by implementing your own backup solution in addition to what your host provides.

While manually backing up all your data can be a cumbersome activity, you can use a tool to automate the process for you.

7. Use secure payment gateways

Payment gateways today are convenient and more functional than ever before, making them integral for your users to conduct online transactions. 

A payment gateway acts as the middleman between your customer's browser and the payment processor, encrypting sensitive data to ensure secure transmission. 

When choosing a payment gateway, consider these key factors:

  1. PCI DSS compliance: This is non-negotiable. Ensure your chosen gateway is fully compliant with Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards.
  2. Tokenization: This technology replaces sensitive card data with unique identification symbols, maintaining security without sacrificing the necessary information.
  3. Fraud detection tools: Look for gateways that offer advanced fraud screening, including Address Verification Service (AVS) and Card Verification Value (CVV) checks.
  4. Multi-currency support: If you're selling internationally, this is crucial for providing a seamless experience for global customers.
  5. Mobile optimization: With the rise of mobile commerce, ensure your gateway provides a smooth experience on all devices.

With these security measures in place, you will be able to prevent fraud much more easily.

Remember, the cheapest option isn't always the best. While fees are important, prioritize security and reliability. A data breach could cost you far more in the long run, both financially and in terms of customer trust.

Check out our top picks for payment gateways as you build your impenetrable fortress of security measures:

Lastly, keep your payment gateway updated. Regularly check for and install any security patches or updates provided by your gateway.

8. Train your employees and limit access

While robust technical measures are crucial, the human element of security cannot be overlooked. Employee training and access management are key components of a comprehensive security strategy.

Your team can be your greatest asset or your weakest link

Start with comprehensive security training for all employees. This should cover:

  • Basic security principles: Password hygiene, recognizing phishing attempts, and safe browsing habits.
  • Specific ecommerce threats: Common attack vectors in online retail, such as skimming and card-not-present fraud.
  • Your company's security policies: Procedures for handling customer data, reporting suspicious activities, and responding to potential breaches.
  • Compliance requirements: Relevant standards like PCI DSS and GDPR, and how they apply to daily operations.

The threat landscape is constantly evolving, so make security education an ongoing process. Regular refresher courses and updates on new threats can keep security at the forefront of everyone's mind.

You also want to limit access to only what employees need to do their jobs effectively. This can be streamlined through role-based access control, managing permissions by job functions for simpler management.

9. Regular security audits and vulnerability assessments

The measures you take to ensure the security of your website do not mean much if you are not regularly checking its performance with the help of audits. 

Conduct periodic and thorough security audits to check every aspect of your website, and eliminate any vulnerabilities before a malicious party is able to exploit them. 

Think of these audits as a health check-up for your online store. 

Just as you wouldn't skip your annual physical, you shouldn't neglect your website's security check-ups. Here's what you should focus on:

  1. Comprehensive scans: Use automated tools to scan your entire website for known vulnerabilities.
  2. Manual penetration testing: While automated scans are great, they can't catch everything. Engage security professionals to perform manual tests, attempting to breach your systems as a real attacker would.
  3. Code reviews: If you have custom code on your site, have it regularly reviewed for security issues. This is especially important after major updates or changes.
  4. Third-party assessments: Don't forget about your integrations and plugins. Ensure they're from reputable sources and regularly updated.
  5. Social engineering tests: Test your employees' security awareness with simulated phishing attempts or other social engineering tactics.

Based on your audit findings, prioritize and address vulnerabilities. Some common adjustments might include:

  • Updating scripts and software to the latest versions
  • Strengthening passwords and access controls
  • Implementing additional security patches
  • Removing unnecessary services or features that could pose a risk
  • Ensuring the integrity of your IP and domain
  • Conducting regular data cleansing

Frequency is key. While a comprehensive annual audit is good, more frequent checks can catch issues early.

10. Encrypt sensitive data

From customer details to payment data, protecting this information isn't just good business practice—it's your ethical and legal responsibility. 

This is where encryption comes into play.

Encryption ensures that your sensitive data remains inaccessible even if ransomware or malware breaches the system, and makes it difficult for attackers to exploit your data in any way. 

Even if some of your important data gets stolen, it remains protected and unexploitable through encryption.

When implementing encryption, consider these key areas:

  • Data at rest: This is data stored in your databases or on your servers. Use strong encryption algorithms like AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) to protect this data.
  • Data in transit: This is data moving between your server and your customers' browsers. Ensure you're using HTTPS with TLS 1.3 for all communications.
  • Backups: Don't forget to encrypt your backups. An unencrypted backup can be a goldmine for attackers.
  • Internal communications: Use encrypted channels for any internal discussions about sensitive business or customer information.

Also, consider implementing end-to-end encryption for highly sensitive data. This ensures that data is encrypted on the user's device before being sent and can only be decrypted by the intended recipient.

Secure Your Store to Secure Your Sales

For an ecommerce website, its security is the invisible lifeblood that, if ignored, can totally derail its performance. 

It's common for online stores to face different kinds of attacks such as phishing, malware, ransomware, XSS, DDoS, and more. 

The good news, however, is that most of these attacks can be prevented with the help of proactive security measures listed in this guide. 

However, choosing the right ecommerce platform and hosting provider for your online store is a good starting point.

To get more of such useful insights and recent updates about everything ecommerce, subscribe to our newsletter.

Carl Torrence
By Carl Torrence

Carl Torrence is a Content Marketer at Marketing Digest. His core expertise lies in developing data-driven content for brands, SaaS businesses, and agencies. Carl’s work has been featured in Famous Bloggers, The Inspiring Journal, and AllTopStartups.