In the ever-changing Australian retail industry, one thing that remains constant is the need to maintain proactive security measures. Arguably, retail has overtaken the finance industry for cybercriminal activity because it has failed to keep up and invest in its defences.

With the increase in online shopping activities and move towards omni-channel experiences, retailers must become active and vigilant in their security implementations. According to research, online security is an area that is easily overlooked and often neglected, with only three in five businesses investing in cybersecurity. The solution now lies in implementing digital technologies, such as data sharing, automation and disaster recovery plans.

In order to stay competitive and foster a top-down culture of security within an organisation, Australian retailers and businesses must prioritise the following three steps:

Undergo a security assessment

A security assessment needs to be the first step when considering any form of online-system upgrade. This will allow for a thorough analysis of any vulnerable areas of online business so that improvements can be made in real-time. Security needs must undergo regular re-evaluation by experienced teams to ensure that no component of the business is left exposed. If not, cyberattacks can lead to irreparable damage to many areas of the business including website crashes and loss of sales due to frustrated customers, or ineffective security surrounding customer data and billing information. A security assessment should cover all facets of a business from the migration process to point-of-sale (POS) systems. This assessment needs to become an ongoing process for all retail businesses moving forward, otherwise businesses may run the risk of future security breaches.

Create an action plan

An action plan is also required to assess how an organisation will handle any recommendations from the security assessment. It is beneficial here to seek the help of an external partner who can help tailor SaaS applications and security packages to individual business’ needs. When implementing an action plan, it is important that every level of an organisation can support and maintain current systems so that everything can run seamlessly in the future. By enlisting the help of a Managed Service Provider, retailers can not only gain a fresh perspective and industry expertise, but also save time and money. This means that they can get back to business and focus on what matters the most – delivering exceptional customer experiences while leaving security concerns to the experts.

Ensure that all changes are communicated effectively within your organisation

The final step to building awareness around security is fostering a culture where it is at the heart of everything a business does. This means educating employees and stakeholders on the importance of security across operations, and ensuring effective communication of any internal changes to generate positive buy-in from people within the business. With the retail industry being a principal target for cybercriminals, communicating security changes is imperative to the ongoing safety of a business. It is also critical to continue knowledge sharing across an organisation in order to reassure external customers of the business’ ongoing commitment to security.

By choosing a trusted partner in online security, retailers do not need to concern themselves with areas of business in which technologies and attacks are often evolving faster than they can be detected. If security is not handled correctly and treated as an ongoing concern rather than a ‘set and forget’ task, there will undoubtedly be implications for the future of retail. With the right partner however, what seems like a daunting endeavour can become a seamless experience for retailers and customers alike.

Sean Girvin is managing director for Rackspace ANZ