As technology weaves its way deeper into the retail fabric, it introduces a swathe of cyberthreats, from sophisticated automated bots to insidious phishing attacks. These digital threats aren’t just inconveniences; they strike at the heart of business operations, jeopardising customer data and eroding trust.

Automated bots, like Grinchbots and Freebie Bots, are designed to exploit online retail platforms by manipulating inventory and disrupting pricing structures, potentially causing significant financial losses. Grinchbots are used to quickly buy up popular items online, often causing stock shortages and inflated prices. Comparatively, Freebie Bots are programmed to exploit pricing errors on websites, letting threat actors obtain products at significantly reduced prices or for free.

These bots represent a new frontier in cyberthreats, where the line between virtual and physical inventory management blurs, leaving retailers scrambling to secure their online storefronts. Just as dangerous are phishing schemes and business email compromise (BEC) attacks that target employees. These human-centric attacks can bypass even the most robust digital defences and are often overlooked, leaving many businesses vulnerable to an attack.

As threats evolve and become more targeted, fighting fire with fire—or technology with technology—is a strong option for defence. Retailers should invest in advanced distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) and filtering tools to block malicious traffic and discern between legitimate and malicious requests to effectively safeguard against threats like Grinchbots and Freebie Bots. It’s also crucial to have ample bandwidth and autoscaling resources to manage traffic surges and reduce the risk of DDoS attacks.  

Retailers are also encouraged to employ a multi-stage filtering process to distinguish between beneficial and harmful bots. Moving beyond traditional CAPTCHAs, they should use advanced rate limiting and cart session time limits to prevent indefinite merchandise hold-ups. Further steps include using browser verification, mobile application programming interface (API) hardening, robust data entry procedures, regular audits, price monitoring, and error detection technologies. Maintaining corrective action protocols is also essential.

Cyber criminals are getting better at finding and using zero-day vulnerabilities, which is when a threat actor exploits a vulnerability before software developers have patched the flaw. To combat these types of sophisticated attacks, businesses must adopt a multi-layered approach to cybersecurity. This means moving beyond investing in advanced security solutions to include: maintaining and regularly updating digital infrastructure; deploying regular system updates and patch management; and engaging in comprehensive staff training and cybersecurity awareness.

Collaborating with cybersecurity experts is an effective way that retailers can overcome multiple barriers with a single, strategic investment. For example, cybersecurity partners play a pivotal role in equipping retailers with advanced security solutions. They provide access to state-of-the-art technologies and expertise that are essential in combating sophisticated cyber threats like Grinchbots. These partners can offer tailored security solutions that fit the unique needs of retail businesses, ensuring robust defence against more sophisticated and advanced cyberthreats while empowering retailers to focus on their core business operations.

They also provide comprehensive support in managing and securing the digital ecosystem, which includes identifying vulnerabilities, implementing necessary upgrades, and ensuring that the infrastructure aligns with the latest security standards. This proactive approach is crucial for preventing potential security breaches and minimising the impact of cyberthreats on retail operations.

Additionally, cybersecurity partners offer crucial expertise in managing regular system updates and patch management to ensure that retailers are always equipped with the latest security fixes. This mitigates vulnerabilities that cybercriminals might exploit, enhancing the overall security posture of the retail business. Efficient patch management also ensures minimal disruption to retail operations for seamless customer experiences.

Extending the cybersecurity focus beyond technology implementation and management, an experienced cybersecurity partner can provide essential support in developing and delivering comprehensive staff training programs. Such programs raise awareness about cybersecurity risks and teach employees how to identify and respond to potential threats.

Effective training equips staff with the knowledge and skills to act as a first line of defence against cyberattacks, significantly reducing the risk of security incidents caused by human error. This training is a crucial element in creating a culture of cybersecurity awareness within the retail business.

Working with dedicated cybersecurity professionals can provide the latest insights and tools necessary for a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy, empowering retailers to stay ahead of emerging threats. Digital and physical retail experiences are increasingly intertwined, and a robust cybersecurity posture is now a business imperative that is pivotal to maintaining customer confidence and ensuring the resilience of the retail sector in a technology-driven market.

Jason Whyte is general manager for Pacific at Trustwave.