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10 minutes read

eCommerce Security: Preventing and Combating Retail Cyber Threats

By Alvaro Insignares
By Alvaro Insignares
10 minutes read

As online shopping platforms, payment gateway solutions, and end-to-end sales processes continue to evolve, the improvement and optimization of eCommerce security protocols are one of the top current eCommerce trends and priorities among retailers.. Every time a consumer browses an online shop, adds items to their shopping cart, or makes a digital purchase, they are transmitting vital personal data about their shopping preferences, and, especially, credit card information, opening up the possibility for hackers to obtain and exploit the data.

Retail companies have a responsibility to abide by the highest security standards to prevent data breaches and customer account hacks as much as possible. But how can retailers know if the security protocols they have in place are optimal? Moreover, what can businesses do to reduce and thwart eCommerce security threats? 

As experienced app developers, we know what it takes to encrypt and secure consumers’ sensitive information. In this post, we’ll address everything you need to know about eCommerce security, including the different types of threats and solutions, how to determine if your eCommerce site is vulnerable to attacks, and how to upgrade your protocols to ensure your eCommerce business is CyberSecure

Let’s begin by examining the most common types of security threats that eCommerce businesses are particularly vulnerable to. 

Common eCommerce Security Threats

Any company that operates online is vulnerable to malware and spyware attacks. However, retail industries are particularly susceptible to data-seeking hacks due to the sensitive information that is shared between sellers and consumers during the purchasing process. The attacks may be instigated by competitors and geared toward obtaining information about the retailer’s business model. Or, it may be initiated by financial data hackers looking to sell personal consumer data on the black market. 

The possibilities are endless, however, it’s important for retailers, both large and small, to understand the specific threats they can face so they can be better equipped to recognize and combat them. Below are some examples of the most common types of eCommerce security threats that businesses in the retail industry are likely to encounter. 

DDoS Attacks

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks are among the most common types of cyber security threats for eCommerce businesses. These types of malicious attacks work by inundating eCommerce site servers and connected devices with multiple requests. The intent of these attacks is to make a retail website crash and ultimately disrupt normal incoming traffic and sales. 

A DDoS attack occurs when malware is downloaded into a retailer’s network and other IoT-connected machines or devices, collectively referred to as “bots”. When the malware is fully downloaded, the result is a “botnet” which allows the hacker to start sending individual signals to each device (bot) or collective signals to the entire network (botnet), changing pricing for your items and stealing valuable shopping cart data. Many times, DDoS attacks are initiated by competitors in order to scrape information about the retailer’s inventory and pricing so they can offer better deals and, in turn, attempt to reduce the retailer’s revenue.  

Phishing Scams

As the name suggests, a phishing scam is a type of eCommerce security attack whereby the hacker is “fishing” for information and will pose as the eCommerce shop, sending emails to customers in an attempt to collect their personal data. 

To make their emails appear legitimate, phishing scammers will use the actual retailer’s logo, similar fonts, and even copy contact information straight from the retailer’s website. They will also include a notice to the customer alerting them that their accounts might have been hacked or that action must be taken to prevent account closure, followed by a call to action (CTA) button to the hacker’s own website. Once the customer inputs their information, the hacker gains access to their login credentials and credit card information.

Similarly, a phishing scammer may also pose as the eCommerce shop’s payment gateway provider or selling platform in order to gain access to the shop’s business accounts, passwords, and consumer data.

Trojan Horse Malware 

Trojan horse malware has been around for decades. It is one of the oldest forms of malware and can affect both eCommerce businesses and consumers alike. These types of attacks tend to be sent via email or text messages and usually include a link. Upon clicking on the link, the malware gets downloaded onto the retailer or consumer’s computer systems, allowing the hackers to gain access to sensitive information about company and consumer financial data. 

Spam Attacks

Similar to Trojan Horse attacks, spam attacks are usually sent via email or text message attachments but malware links can also be added in posts on a retailer’s social media account. Luckily, spam attacks are easier to recognize than other eCommerce security threats because they are usually sent in bulk, come from odd phone numbers, email accounts, or user screen names, and the messages themselves often have nothing to do with the actual retail business as well as contain spelling errors and other mistakes that can quickly alert companies and consumers that suspicious activity is afoul. 

Although larger eCommerce companies may already have systems in place to block spam attacks, smaller brick-and-mortar shops and individual sellers may still be vulnerable to them since they tend to rely on email communications for customer service interactions and may manage their own social media accounts.   

SQL Injections

An SQL injection is another common hacking method that eCommerce businesses can fall victim to. These types of cyber attacks work by targeting the retailer’s query submission forms in order to access vital business and consumer data

SQL injection attacks are harder to detect than other eCommerce security attacks because the hackers will infect the retailer’s database with a malware code, quickly obtain the data they are after, then delete their cyber trail. As a result, many retailers will never know that their security systems were even breached. 

Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) Attacks

XSS attacks work by targeting vulnerable retail sites and infecting them with malware code that site visitors will then unknowingly access. Once the consumer falls victim to the malware, the hacker will try to gain access to their accounts. If the hacker is targeting a retail admin account and is successful in their attack, they will gain access to the retailer’s secured data and may even gain control over the retail company’s app(s). 

Signs That Your eCommerce Security Systems May Have Been Hacked

Businesses that operate on an eCommerce platform may experience a range of different issues depending on the specific type of security attack that was carried out. Sometimes, eCommerce security threats can be very discrete, but there are certain signs that a possible attack may have been either attempted or successful. Some of the most common signs that a retailer was hacked include: 

  • Sudden surge of traffic from a single IP address, range, location, or specific type of device; 
  • Unexpected stall in incoming traffic to the retailer’s eCommerce site or strange spikes in traffic patterns that occur at precise intervals; 
  • Unusual requests to land on a specific page or endpoint;
  • Changes to the retailer’s website code;
  • Drop in site rankings;
  • Barrage of spam-like emails;
  • Notices from payment gateway companies or financial institutions reporting unusual logins or suspicious account activity;
  • Unauthorized changes to your product IDs and/or item pricing;
  • Multiple customer complaints about hacks to their individual accounts; 

eCommerce Security Solutions

Prevention is key when it comes to eCommerce security. It’s much easier to avoid a hack than remove malware once it has already infected your systems. Every eCommerce business should have a range of active solutions in place to ensure the security of their networks as well as monitor their sites regularly for suspicious activity. There are several different solutions that retailers can implement in order to stay as safe from security breaches as possible. These include, but are not limited to:  

HTTPS Protocols

Switching from HTTP to HTTPS protocols can drastically reduce an eCommerce shop’s vulnerability to hacks and protect consumer data by securing the transfer of sensitive information between user devices and servers. Because HTTP protocols are considered outdated, many browsers, like Google, will display a notice to users warning them that they are attempting to access an unsecured website and to proceed with caution. 

In this regard, switching to HTTPS can help eCommerce businesses avoid losing customers, since many consumers will not proceed to the site after they receive this warning. HTTPS is also a factor that Google takes into account when ranking websites, so switching to this protocol can actually help retailers rank higher on a web search.

SSL Certificates

Along with HTTPS protocols, retailers can implement secure sockets layer (SSL) certificates, which encrypt transmitted data, including a customer’s credit card information. SSL certificates also give ownership to a retailer’s site, which can also deter hackers from impersonating the retailer in spam or phishing scams. 

Anti-Virus Software

To prevent hackers from stealing your customers’ credit card information and other vital account details, consider adding an anti-virus software to your eCommerce site that can automatically check for, flag, and contain security threats. Many of these anti-virus programs diagnose your website and provide a risk score that can help you better distinguish between authentic and fraudulent transactions. 

Use Complex Passwords and Change them Frequently

Change your eCommerce platform passwords often and make sure they are complex. Generic or easy-to-guess passwords can make it that much simpler for hackers to access your servers and databases. Also, opt for notifications that can alert you when a new IP address attempts to log into your network. 


Firewalls help regulate eCommerce site traffic and thwart cyber threats by restricting access to a retailer’s network. They work by essentially creating a barrier or wall between secured and unsecured networks so that all incoming and outgoing traffic can be monitored and controlled.

Multi-Layer Security  

Implementing a Content Security Policy (CSP) or a Content Delivery Network (CDN) can help add extra layers of security to your eCommerce site. CSPs and CDNs protect against DDoS attacks and other malware that aims to disrupt your site traffic. 

Payment Gateway Protection

Many payment gateway solutions offer users and site owners the option to store credit card information. Although this can be convenient, if a security breach does occur, hackers can gain access to that data. Additionally, hacking risks can be diminished by using third-party companies for payment processing, like Stripe or Shopify Plus

The Takeaway

It’s impossible to completely prevent a cyber security attack on your eCommerce site, but by taking multiple precautions to protect your website and your customers’ personal data, you’ll keep hackers at bay. The more security solutions you have in place, the better your chances of preventing site and account breaches and the more your customers will trust your brand. 

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