In an industry that has traditionally seen crimes through shoplifting, cyber threats have gained serious traction as retail has evolved, becoming more global than ever. Nowadays, cyber threats are a matter of when, not if with criminals constantly findings new ways to get access to confidential information or disrupt business operations.

The holiday season is no exception, particularly for retailers , with the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) and Roy Morgan forecasting the nation’s overall spending to reach $58.8 billion. While a positive sign for the economy, increased spending will no doubt draw the attention of cyber criminals.

A recent report from McAfee Enterprise and FireEye, Cybercrime in a Pandemic World: The Impact of COVID-19, found 87% of Australian IT professionals anticipate a moderate or even substantial impact on their business due to rising product and service demands during the holiday period. As such, we expect to see correlation between increased consumer demand and cyber threats to retailers and organisations.

The nature of the retail industry means we can see a variety of cyber threats that will include compromised payment credentials and cloud storage, loss of data as well as other forms of retail fraud and theft.

So, what does this mean for retailers in the lead up to the busiest time of year?

The “everything shortage”

Australia is facing an “everything shortage” across a variety of industries such as logistics, manufacturing, and retail, with criminals already preying on this vulnerability to increase their chances of a successful attack. Amidst the chaos of workforce challenges, logistics and an unprecedented surge in consumer demand, a perfect environment for cyber threats to thrive has developed:

  • Workforce hurdles: Australian organisations find maintaining a fully staffed security team even more challenging during peak periods. This can be attributed to a shortage in cyber security talent coupled the loss of employee power over the holiday break.
  • Supply chains and logistics: The loss of manufacturing and logistics capacity creates pressures on supply chains with the potential to lead to disruptions if not managed properly. These are ideal conditions for cyber criminals to break through potentially weak and vulnerable infrastructure.
  • Surge in ecommerce: Australia Post reports eCommerce is up 23.4% from August 2020 and is set to continue throughout the holiday period as e-marketing initiatives ramp up and online traffic increases, making online retailers a bigger target for cyber criminals.

The “everything shortage” is creating the perfect catalyst for cyber threats, highlighting the urgency for retailers to be prepared, ensuring they’re equipped with actionable security plans to effectively contain and respond to threats.               

Tackling emerging threats head on

According to the McAfee Enterprise and FireEye report, 51% of Australian organisations have suffered from downtime resulting from a cyberattack, costing businesses more than AUD$130,000. Proactive threat prevention ahead of the holiday season will be critical for retailer to circumvent these threats, protect their data, and secure their bottom line.

Planning in advance ensures your security teams are well staffed to implement security measures and combat cyber threats in real-time. Commercial businesses can also look to leverage cloud-delivered security such as MVISION Unified Cloud Edge (UCE) and FireEye Extended Detection and Response (XDR) that is designed to better arm distributed workforces with the ability to detect cyber threats that put data and operations at risks.

At an employee level, cyber threat training courses or security communication plans can help increase awareness of phishing emails throughout the holiday period. Encouraging pro-cyber security practices can help protect data that, when in the hands of a cybercriminal, could have serious implications to a business.

Securing internal infrastructure from external threats means employees and customers have the confidence to go about their business throughout peak periods better prepared for attacks that potentially threaten their day-to-day operations.

The ecommerce boom shows no sign of slowing down especially as physical spaces start to reopen across the nation. For the busy month ahead, allowing retailers to work securely through peak periods will provide shoppers piece of mind when using their services. Cyber threats will always be present, but that doesn’t mean we should let them impact on the holiday season.

Bastian Schmederer is senior regional director for Australia and New Zealand at McAfee Enterprise.