Back-to-School season is behind us and that means consumers can take a well-deserved break from their shopping duties. Businesses, on the other hand, get no such break. The gap between Labour Day and Thanksgiving is a very important one: it’s the time when online retailers need to take a good hard look at their security practices and make sure they’re up to snuff in time for the demanding holiday shopping season.
Last year, e-commerce sales on Cyber Monday topped $3 billion in the US, marking the busiest online shopping day in American history. Consumers swarm to online stores and marketplaces on the first Monday after Thanksgiving, and if you’re not ready for them you could find yourself being left behind. Whether you run out of stock, your website crashes from too much traffic or, worst of all, you find your business (and your customer base) infiltrated by cybercriminals, if you don’t prepare your web store for the holiday rush this year, you may not be around next year to try again.
In 2016, Cyber Monday falls on November 28th, but every year consumers begin their holiday shopping sooner and sooner. With the amount of money that will be flowing through the e-commerce industry on Cyber Monday, there will be no small amount of hackers trying to take some of it for themselves. The promise of deals and the charm of holiday greetings are often used to disguise malware; many of your visitors could already be infected, so you need to make sure your website is fully prepared to sustain any potential attacks. The quicker you can prepare, the richer you’ll be New Year’s Day, and here’s how you get started:
- Firewalls: Security experts are always trying to find new vulnerabilities before the hackers do, and each time they get more sophisticated so do the hackers. Regardless of the size of your business, firewalls are only strong if they are up-to-date, so make sure to have the latest rules and updates installed.
- Patches: To circumvent firewalls, many attacks can happen through legitimate applications installed by your business. Firewalls view these programs as trustworthy, but if the program itself is vulnerable, hackers and malware can get into your network using that hole in your security chain. Before the highly vulnerable shopping season begins, make sure all of your applications are updated with the latest patches from their manufacturers.
- Traffic: Monitoring the traffic on your website is most important during the busy holiday season. Cybercriminals attempting to make fraudulent transactions are counting on going unnoticed due to the heavy traffic. Make sure you address any red flags in your system right away.
- Communication: Social media is not just for marketing. Monitor and engage in social media channels and respond through your customer service channels so that you can be the first to know if any shoppers are experiencing any suspicious activity or bugs in your system.
- Maintenance: Being able to handle a high volume of traffic is not just important to your sales figures – the heavy load can cause some features to malfunction and open up vulnerabilities that hackers can use to launch an attack. It’s vital to have more than enough bandwidth capacity, so go with a web host you trust and opt for enough headroom to run smoothly even if your most extreme sales predictions come true.
Let’s not forget that sales are everything. High-bandwidth capacity isn’t just a security feature; if your website crashes, or even if it takes just a little too long to load, you’re going to lose customers. Running out of stock also means lost sales, so again, it’s better to have too much than too little. The busiest shopping day of the year, Cyber Monday, is your biggest opportunity to gain new customers that will keep coming back for the rest of the year, but only if you can handle the traffic.
And finally, if you skimp out on any our recommendations above and as a result, you experience a security breach, even a minor one, it’s going to do lasting damage to the level of consumer confidence you’ve worked so hard to build. The worst thing you can do before the holiday shopping season is to take security for granted.