The retail landscape is undergoing tremendous transformation driven by current events that influence the way retailers can or cannot operate. With Victoria in Stage 4 lockdown and social distancing encouraged across other states, we have seen a steady surge in online shopping, pushing many retailers to shift efforts in eCommerce.

While swiftly pivoting operations to online can help drive business continuity, it has also expanded the playing ground for cybercriminals to attack. In McAfee’s latest Quarterly Threats report looking at how cybercriminals have wielded during the pandemics progression, it was found that attacks targeting the retail industry has steadily increased by 15% in the first quarter of 2020. On top of this, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner’s latest Notifiable Data Breaches report revealed that the Australian retail sector was the third most targeted industry when it comes to cyberattacks after finance and health.

Security must be a priority for retailers

The surge in cyber attacks on retail cannot be ignored. For retail businesses, a data breach can destroy brand reputation, customer trust and ultimately, impact transactions at the register. Retailers tend be impacted more significantly by data breaches than industries such as healthcare or utilities, as customers have greater choice to make purchasing decisions.

As retailers are under pressure to keep up with the increased online traffic, it is critical to ensure they have the right strategies and infrastructure in place to support the services they offer. From cloud-based point-of-sale systems to back-of-house servers, there are so many digital touchpoints retailers use that create information silos.

These silos are putting companies at risk of being targeted, which ultimately puts customers at risk. Retailers are encouraged to be extra vigilant to have full visibility and control of their processes and technology, whilst providing their employees extra training on how to keep their customers’ data secure.

When McAfee’s research showed an average of 375 new threats per minute posed on businesses operating online, security needs to be a priority for retailers so that the right measures are in place keep increasing threats at bay.

3 tips on how to strengthen security measures

Retailers need to reassess the strength of their cybersecurity measures and ensure they’re compliant when it comes to online payments. To mitigate cyber risks associated with increased online traffic, retailers can conduct a vulnerability scan to help protect against malware threats and vulnerabilities — while also ensuring they meet PCI compliance requirements for secure credit card transactions.

With the growth of scammers taking advantage of the current situation, retailers need to step up to educate their customers to help them adopt best practice when it comes to sharing personal and financial information. One way is to encourage them to shop only from retail sites with a recognised security seal or another being training for employees on how to keep customer data secure. The weakest link in cybersecurity is people so by making cybersecurity education a priority, retailers can foster a culture of cybersecurity.

With remote working comes with the expansion of unmanaged devices accessing the corporate network. Retailers should also be careful to ensure that sensitive data is not stored outside the corporate managed network. It’s not possible to recover sensitive data from an unmanaged device, so this could result in data loss events if the security teams are not controlling cloud access by device type.

Retailers need to prioritise security assessments, create and implement security response plans to ensure preparedness in the case of an attack. On top of this, building awareness among internal teams and customers is key to fostering a culture of security. In the traditional bricks and mortar world of cybersecurity you wouldn’t build a network without a firewall. In the cloud edgy online world, you wouldn’t move to the cloud without a Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB).

Retailers who have made the shift to on-line early are reaping the rewards with record profits during these times. Security is a competitive advantage to accelerate this transformation. Our research shows “Companies are over 35% more likely to be able to launch new products, speed time to market, expand to new markets, and improve employee satisfaction with the cloud when using a Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB).” With attacks on the industry prevalent and more people turning to online services than ever, wouldn’t you want to leverage security as a competitive advantage?

Joel Camissar is regional director of MVISION Cloud for APAC at McAfee