How to reduce cybersecurity risks for stores, shops and small businesses

Crime in general is moving online, and with that the digital risks for all businesses are increasing, including for traditional physical stores – as well as eCommerce sites. This blog post is a quick summary of some risks that are growing quickly and what shop owners can do to better control them.

Top 10 Cybersecurity Risks

The following risks are faced by most organizations. For many stores selling physical goods these would be devastating today as they rely more and more on digital services.

How secure is your shop when you include the digital arena? Do you put your customers at risk?
  1. Point of sale malware leading to stolen credit cards
  2. Supply chain disruptions due to cybersecurity incidents
  3. Ransomware on computers used to manage and run stores
  4. Physical system manipulation through sensors and IoT, e.g. an adversary turning off the cooling in a grocery store’s refrigerators
  5. Website hacks
  6. Hacking of customer’s mobile devices due to insecure wireless network
  7. Intrusion into systems via insecure networks
  8. Unavailability of critical digital services due to cyber incidents (e.g. SaaS systems needed to operate the business)
  9. Lack of IT competence to help respond to incidents
  10. Compromised e-mail accounts and social media accounts used to run the business

Securing the shop

Shop owners have long been used to securing their stores against physical theft – using alarms, guards and locks. Here are 5 things all shop owners can do to also secure their businesses against cybersecurity events:

1 – Use only up-to-date IT equipment and software.

Outdated software can be exploited by malware. Keeping software up to date drastically reduces the risk of infection. If you have equipment that cannot be upgraded because it is too old you should get rid of it. The rest should receive updates as quickly as possible when they are made avialable, preferably automatically if possible.

2 – Create a security awareness program for employees.

No business is stronger than its weakest link – and that is true for security too. By teaching employees good cybersecurity habits the risk of an employee downloading a dangerous attachment or accepting a shady excuse for weird behavior from a criminal will be much lower. A combination of on-site discussions and e-learning that can be consumed on mobile devices can be effective for delivering this.

3 – Use the guest network only for guests.

Many stores, coffee shops and other businesses offer free wifi for their customers. Make sure you avoid connecting critical equipment to this network as vulnerabilities can be exposed. Things I’ve seen on networks like this include thermostats, cash registers and printers. Use a separate network for those important things, and do not let outsiders onto that network.

4 – Secure your website like your front door.

Businesses will usually have a web site, quite often with some form of sales and marketing integration – but even if you don’t have anything else than a pretty static web page you should take care of its security. If it is down you lose a few customers, if it is hacked and customers are tricked out of their credit card data they will blame your shop, not the firm you bought the web design from. Make sure you require web designers to maintain and keep your site up to date, and that they follow best practices for web security. You should also consider running a security test of the web page on regular intervals.

5 – Prepare for times of trouble.

You should prepare for bad things to happen and have a plan in place for dealing with it. The basis for creating an incident response plan is a risk assessment that lists the potential threat scenarios. This will also help you come up with security measures that will make those scenarios less likely to occur.

6 – Create backups and test them!

The best medicine against losing data is having a recent backup and knowing how to restore your system. Make sure all critical data are backed up regularly. If you are using a cloud software for critical functions such as customer relationship management (CRM) or accounting, check with your vendor what backup options they have. Ideally your backups should be stored in a location that is not depending on the same infrastructure as the software itself. For example – if Google runs your software you can store your backups with Microsoft.

7 – Minimize the danger of hacked accounts.

The most common way a company gets hacked is a compromised account. This very often happens because of phishing or password reuse. Phishing is the use of e-mails to trick users into giving up their passwords – for example by sending them to a fake login page that is controlled by the hacker. Three things you can do that will reduce this risk by 99% is:

  • Tell everyone to use a password manager and ask them to use very long and complex passwords. They will no longer need to remember the passwords themselves so this will not be a problem. Examples of such software include 1Password and Lastpass.
  • Enforce two-factor authentication wherever possible (2FA for short). 2FA is the use of a second factor in addition to your password, such as a code generated on you mobile in order to log in.
  • Give everyone training on detection of social engineering scams as part of your awareness training program.

All of this may seem like quite a lot of work – but when it becomes a habit it will make your team more efficient, and will significantly reduce the cybersecurity threats for both you and your customers.

If you need tools for awareness training, risk management or just someone to talk to about security – take a look at the offerings from Cybehave – intelligent cloud software for better security.

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