With lockdowns lifted, soaring vaccination rates providing hope for longer-term stability and Black Friday signaling the start of retail’s traditional busy season, the industry has reason to be optimistic once again. However, as peak retail season approaches, online Australian retailers could be vulnerable to cyber-attacks, according to new research from GoDaddy.

According to the research, only 15% of Australian businesses surveyed said they would know how to deal with a cyber-attack, while 22% reported that they have already experienced a security breach. Despite the risk, two in three (66%) said they have no security protections on their website.

Of these businesses, almost half (40%) said it was difficult to access straightforward information and tools online. By ensuring businesses understand the risks and improving access to cyber security guidance and tools, more online retailers can protect their business, while also seizing the opportunity of online shopping events like Black Friday.  

What are cyber security risks?

Today, more shoppers than ever are using online channels to discover businesses, research products and make purchases. However, as ecommerce increases in popularity, so too does the risk of a cyber attack. The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) received more than 67,500 cyber crime reports from June 2020 to July 2021 – a 13 percent increase over the previous year.

It’s easy to think that cyber attacks only target large retail businesses, but that’s not the case. Cyber-attacks are indiscriminate and target businesses equally. Attacks automatically seek out vulnerable websites, so those without protections are often at high-risk. Because they’re automated, any business is susceptible to an attack.

According to our research, of the 22% of businesses that had already suffered a cyber attack, 75% experienced website downtime, 35% experienced reputational damage and 32% experienced financial loss. Of the businesses that experienced website downtime, 40% suffered an outage of over three days. While the risks are real and can significantly damage a business, there are straightforward steps online retailers can take to help protect their business and the customers engaging with it online.

What can retailers do to protect their own online business?

Almost half of the businesses without protections cited a lack of accessible and straightforward information and tools online. However, while cyber security might feel like a daunting topic that requires expertise, there are simple safeguards retailers can adopt to help protect their online presence.

Installing a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Certificate helps to encrypt the transmission of business and customer data from the website to the servers. This is an important step for retailers who sell products online. Every website that is SSL protected displays a padlock in the URL browser so visitors can easily identify if it is protected.

A firewall is an important tool to help prevent malware and DDoS (Distributed Denial-of-Service) attacks. Malware scanning and remediation can help to get a website back up and running if impacted. Businesses can also protect their online presence with website security services that provide continuous monitoring, can identify virus attacks as they are happening and recommend immediate fixes. Products like GoDaddy Website Security offer SSL Certificates, malware scanning, firewalls, and continuous security monitoring services to protect a website and provide peace of mind for businesses and customers alike.

Equally important, however, are basic security protections such as using strong passwords and regularly updating them. Use different passwords for different websites, never share them with someone else, and consider using a password management tool. When system updates are available for your website, apps, computer, and mobile devices, make sure you install them, as they often include the latest security updates. These are simple steps that help develop a security-conscious mindset.

Cyber security is a defining issue for online businesses today, and an issue that will continue to grow as shoppers and businesses continue to harness the immense potential of ecommerce. Just as you wouldn’t leave your physical shopfront unlocked overnight, you shouldn’t leave your online presence unprotected either. However, through awareness and action, businesses can seize the opportunity of the retail rush with the peace of mind that, in the background, safeguards are helping to protect their business and its customers online.

Tamara Oppen is managing director for GoDaddy Australia.