Securing eCommerce Growth:
A Guide to Cyber Risk Assessments for Online Retail Platforms
The internet and e-commerce platforms provide invaluable business growth opportunities, but also expands a retailer’s or SMBs attack surface. Without proper security protections, sensitive customer data and transactions face threats from external hackers and insider risks.
Small and mid-sized retailers especially may lack specialized security expertise and resources to fully secure their online stores.
Conducting regular cyber risk assessments enables e-commerce businesses to pragmatically identify, prioritize and address vulnerabilities in their platforms, apps, and integrations. This blog post provides guidance and best practices for assessing and mitigating key e-commerce cyber risks.
Key Online Retail Cyber Risks
E-commerce platforms and operations face a variety of cybersecurity threats, including:
- Customer data theft through compromised databases and applications
- Financial fraud through processing ecommerce transactions
- Loss of customer trust and revenue from website downtime due to DDoS, malware or software vulnerabilities
- Third party vendor or supplier application breach providing backdoor access
- Insider threats from employees, contractors or partners
Methodology for Cyber Risk Assessments
Formal risk assessments should be conducted annually, or whenever major changes occur to the e-commerce infrastructure.
Key steps include:
- Catalog all digital assets
- including e-commerce platforms, servers, databases, software applications, and vendor/partner connections.
- Identify types of sensitive customer data
- collected, processed or stored
- Threat analysis
- to determine potential cyber risks to each asset.
- Review platform provider threat intelligence
- Vulnerability scanning, penetration testing
- to reveal technical weaknesses
- Review of platform access controls, employee permissions and passwords.
- Quantify risk likelihood and potential impact of compromise
- based on data value, threat intelligence and vulnerabilities.
- Determine risk prioritization and remediation roadmap.
Assessing Top Ecommerce Platform Cyber Risks
Shopify Risk Considerations:
- Review administrator account permissions and access controls. Enforce MFA.
- Leverage platform native security features like fraud analysis, malware scanning.
- Properly configure admin settings, DNS, caching, and DDoS protection.
- Vet third-party apps before installing to reduce malicious or vulnerable plug-ins.
WooCommerce / WordPress Risk Considerations:
- Harden WordPress configuration and leverage security plugins like WordFence.
- Prevent exploitation of vulnerable plug-ins without updates.
- Enforce account security, limiting admin access and permissions.
- Ensure host/server security measures on AWS, Google Cloud, etc.
BigCommerce Risk Considerations:
- Understand shared responsibility model for security features.
- Review configuration guidelines and disable unnecessary features and apps.
- Use native platform tools like web application firewall, backups
- Analyze app needs before installing to reduce attack surface.
NopCommerce Risk Considerations:
- Focus on server security and hardening measures on IIS.
- Properly configure database connections and permissioned access.
- Manage risky modules/extensions and enforce account role policies.
Ongoing Best Practices
- Conduct annual cyber risk assessments or with major changes.
- Implement bug bounty programs or conduct third party penetration tests.
- Provide cybersecurity awareness training for all employees.
- Develop incident response plans for ecommerce operations.
- Evaluate cyber insurance coverage aligned to risks.
Ecommerce delivers major growth opportunities, but also dramatically expands a retailer’s attack surface. Threat actors increasingly target online stores given the trove of financial and customer data within ecommerce platforms and databases.
Conducting regular cyber risk assessments enables retailers and SMBs to systematically identify their most pressing vulnerabilities based on platform misconfigurations, outdated software, unpatched systems, and other security gaps.
However, risk assessments face challenges from limited internal expertise, constantly evolving threats, and the complexity of e-commerce IT ecosystems. Assessing the security of third-party apps, integrations and supply chain partners can be especially difficult.
By leveraging both native platform security capabilities, and layering additional controls, retailers can build more resilient protection across e-commerce infrastructure.
Platform providers like Shopify, WooCommerce and BigCommerce offer built-in tools including firewalls, malware scanning, and fraud analysis.
Bolting on supplemental controls offers defense-in-depth by addressing platform security limitations. Top additions include web application firewalls, access management, micro-segmentation, endpoint detection and response, and data encryption.
Yet, gaps will inevitably persist given the scale and fluid nature of e-commerce ecosystems. This is where future AI-powered automated assessments and optimization will be a game changer.
Imagine AI & machine learning algorithms continuously reviewing configurations and asset inventories to model risk - automatically detecting misconfigurations, suspicious behavior, and new threats as they emerge. AI could also provide intelligent recommendations to strengthen vulnerabilities in a dynamic and scalable way.
While challenges remain, retailers and SMBs who take a proactive approach to cyber risk through assessments, platform capabilities, and added controls can achieve resilient protection even with limited resources. As emerging technologies like AI-assisted security mature, reducing e-commerce risk will become even more effective and efficient.