Global eCommerce sales reached a value of $4.2 trillion in 2020, nearly an 800% increase over the past decade. Digitization and increasingly powerful tools have enabled smaller businesses to move into the domain once exclusive to major players like Amazon and eBay.
Unfortunately, smaller companies typically have more limited budgets and don’t have the luxury of fielding large cybersecurity teams to secure digital assets. In addition, the mounting value of eCommerce sales means a greater incentive for cybercriminals hunting financial gain or simply attempting to cause chaos.
Thankfully, there are many things that small businesses can do to secure online stores without breaking the bank.
8 Things You Can do to Secure Your Online Store Today
1. Choose a secure web hosting provider
The web hosting provider chosen for your online store is essential in more ways than one. While all of them will secure their servers, most primarily do so to protect their assets. Some, however, will go the extra mile in providing customers the means for better security.
There are several things you should note when selecting your web hosting service provider. First and foremost is the company’s reputation, as strong brands tend to take security much more seriously. Some will establish partnerships with prominent cybersecurity companies for better resilience.
Other considerations include;
- Account backup and rewind features
- Malware scanning tools provided
- Malware or hack recovery support
Bluehost, for example, has a partnership with SiteLock to offer better security to customers at discounted rates. Alternatively, ScalaHosting developed a proprietary real-time cybersecurity scanning tool it provides to all customers at no cost.
2. Implement HTTPS with an SSL certificate
Clicking the padlock icon on the browser address bar will show a website’s SSL status.
Online stores often need to store customer data such as name, address, passwords, and more. In addition, some go as far as to store financial data to facilitate payments processing. While this adds convenience, it is also a weak point for cybercriminals to exploit.
Information exchanged between your online store and customers can be intercepted and stolen. Because of the increased risk, search engines today have stressed the importance of Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates for all websites.
Having an SSL certificate in place means that data exchanges are encrypted, resulting in anything that’s stolen being unreadable without the proper key. In addition, SSL certificates also serve as verification of the identity for websites, assuring customers they’re at the legitimate location they were supposed to be.
Ideally, eCommerce websites should use Extended Validation (EV) or Organization Validated (OV) SSL for better protection. However, prices for these can be high. If you’re new to the market, starting with a free DV SSL certificate from Let’s Encrypt will still provide some level of security.
3. Monitor your online store
The beauty of running an online store is that customers can visit and browse at any time of the day. However, manually keeping an eye on the store 24 hours a day can be impractical and costly. To achieve this, we can make use of automated tools.
Monitoring your online store can serve multiple purposes. The most important reason is to ensure that it’s accessible to customers at all times and is performing well. At the same time, deviation from normal operating parameters can also mean something needs fixing.
Some things you need to keep an eye on include;
Server availability – The moment your server goes down, customers can’t access your website. Availability impacts potential sales and your business reputation.
Page load time – The longer web pages take to load, the lower your chances of making a potential sale.
Resource usage – CPU and RAM are vital resources to monitor as these impact your store’s performance. Overconsumption may also be an indicator of deeper underlying issues.
Database performance – Online stores almost always work with a database to store information. The efficiency of your database needs to be high to avoid affecting website performance.
Many tools can help monitor different aspects of your website. Some are free and most automated, so you only need to set them up once, and alerting systems will notify you via email or SMS if things go wrong.
4. Keep applications updated
Some apps offer convenient auto-update features that can help you save time.
One area that many store owners tend to neglect is when it comes to keeping their applications updated. Updates do more than introduce new features – they more often are released as a way for developers to patch known security vulnerabilities.
Leaving applications unpatched can pose an immense risk to your website and customers. For example, hackers have been known to use poor application security to launch ransomware attacks. A large part of this risk can be mitigated by simply ensuring all your applications are updated constantly.
Some web applications come with auto-updating features, but ideally, create a schedule to review everything that needs updating. Doing so can avoid a lot of pain if hackers take advantage of a lapse in your application security.
Quick Tip: If you’re running a WooCommerce store based on WordPress, you can enable auto-updates for all plugins to save time.
5. Use a CDN to increase website resilience
CDNs provide an additional layer of security while helping websites increase performance. (Image source: Cloudflare)
There are many things that cybercriminals can do if they’re determined to shut down your eCommerce business. These include Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, the use of bad bots, or denial of inventory.
Content Distribution Networks (CDNs) can help mitigate these attacks and also improving overall website performance. Cloudflare, for example, helped prevent a massive DDoS attack in Q2 this year. There are many CDN providers around, but if you’re on a budget, Cloudflare is one of the few that offer a free plan.
While it isn’t ideal as a long-term solution for online stores, you can use it to get started as you build sufficient revenue to go for a better plan. Most CDN providers charge based on the volume of data your website transfers.
6. Backup, backup, and backup!
No matter how well you try and protect your store, things happen to digital platforms. These can range from the basic virus to devastating ransomware attacks. While it’s ideal to stop these in their tracks, it isn’t always possible.
Creating backups of your store is essential. Even if your web hosting provider does automated backups, these are often more limited. As the OVHCloud data center fire has taught us, even backups won’t help unless you keep those off-site.
Always ensure that you keep a regular backup schedule. While you don’t have to move all of the backup copies off-site, it does help to increase the resilience of your website. Consider the level of risk you’re willing to take when creating your backup plan. After all, backing up data isn’t fun, but it’s usually free.
Quick Tip: Some tools like UpdraftPlus for WordPress can automatically create backups and move them to Cloud storage. Often these extra features require a premium plan, but it’s a small price for greater peace of mind.
7. Manage passwords properly
Any commercial websites will likely have multiple accounts for administration and handling. You should take great care to secure these accounts with strong passwords that are difficult to guess or crack. Hackers today have an impressive array of intelligent tools they use to steal passwords.
Always incur that passwords chosen are;
- At least 8 to 10 characters in length
- Include a mix of upper and lowercase characters
- Include some special characters
These complex passwords can be challenging to remember. To avoid keeping written records of them or storing them in plain text, use a password manager application. There are many Password managers available, most of which follow a freemium pricing model.
You can use them for free, but upgrading to a “Pro” version will cost $2 to $3 per month. A small price to pay to ensure nobody hijacks our administrator accounts.
8. Change default settings and credentials
Regardless of what platform you’re using or additional software, change as many default settings as possible. These settings may include file paths, administrator accounts, port numbers, and more.
Hackers often try to gain access to remote systems by exploiting that many people won’t change these default settings. For example, “admin” is a common login credential often targeted. You can sometimes create alternate ones for account names that can’t be changed while disabling web access to the primary accounts.
These changes are especially significant for underlying applications that aren’t generally “seen.” For example, your database, web server application, and other system applications.
Security for online stores is essential to protecting your business as well as its customers. One incident can bring down a house of cards built on poor foundations. Don’t be overly distracted by pretty, big-name cybersecurity solutions and their correspondingly high price tags.
There are many basic things you can do to increase store security remarkably, at a meager cost. Start from the basics and work your way up as your store income increases.
Author bio: With more than 10+ years of experience in the Internet Marketing industry, Jason is currently associated with WebRevenue.io – a company that helps businesses grow and compete.