Omnichannel Success Requires Retail Data Protections

With another Black Friday behind us, retailers are geared up for the holiday season and have painstakingly placed products on shelves, whether those shelves are in distribution centers or retail stores. Likewise, retail CISOs need to evaluate their omnichannel security strategies in advance of the holiday season to ensure success.

The retail data supporting their inventory may be scattered across multiple silos. Disparate data makes true omnichannel retailing difficult because it can be impossible to reconcile information across those sources in a timely manner. Bridging data gaps requires secure connections, and the CISO needs to be part of the discussion about what data is connected and how.

Protecting Retail Data Down Every Aisle

As retailers expand their customers’ purchasing options, they also expand their exposure to cyber intrusion. CISOs need to consider how their company’s drive to deliver an inclusive, omnichannel customer experience has changed their security landscape. They must tighten controls in preparation for increased customer activity on these channels, which can hide cybercriminals and their malicious activities.

Here are four areas that companies should consider improving first.

Protect Cloud-Based Connections

Cloud-based infrastructures drive the integration of multiple data silos and connect the various shopping venues. But as endpoints that enable sales proliferate, so do opportunities for cyberthieves to infiltrate every segment of a retailer’s computing environment.

Networks need to be clearly segmented with robust protections that separate publicly accessible portals from internal data operations systems. Wherever possible and appropriate, network connections should be made through private intranets rather than via the public internet. And, of course, all consumer-facing webpages must be secured by HTTPS encryption to protect data in transit.

Create Alternate Routes in Case of DDoS

Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks seem to occur at the least convenient times. Black Friday and Cyber Monday top the list of most profitable online shopping days, and a DDoS attack that takes your site offline for even a few hours can destroy a promising holiday sales season.

It isn’t enough to have a robust security presence through your data center. Strong DDoS protection requires defending your web presence using both on-premises and cloud-based tools. This includes utilizing a content delivery network that distributes your web presence to multiple locations, so if one network connection is attacked, users are routed to other points where they can access your site and complete purchases.

Lock Down In-Store Wi-Fi

Consumers often take advantage of omnichannel shopping by using their smart devices while they are browsing in physical stores. Many stores even provide their own Wi-Fi connections to customers as a courtesy. Some are extending their operations to include apps that help customers evaluate options while they are shopping and even provide instant checkout capabilities.

This extension of the store experience can increase sales, reduce employee counts and bolster consumers’ opinion of the retailer. But they also represent additional endpoints that can be attacked. Offer Wi-Fi that requires access through a secure portal and segment access from the store’s operations, point-of-sale (POS) systems and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.

Refine DRPs for Retail Data

Disaster recovery plans (DRPs) are notoriously outdated, untested and prone to failure. But in the age of ransomware, where a single employee opening the wrong email can cause the infection of an entire system, operations need to be able to replace the encrypted and ransomed data with a reliable and current backup. CISOs must work with IT to validate DRPs and test procedures to ensure that ransomware infections can be mitigated by restoring recent backups.

To that end, the time frames for backups need to be evaluated to reduce losses as much as possible. A daily backup may be sufficient for some businesses, but losing a full day of retail transactions in peak season can be disastrous. Retailers need to have near real-time backup protection to avoid succumbing to ransomware.

Omnichannel retailing is making shopping easier for consumers, but it also presents complexities to retailers that support multiple shopping options for their customers. Review the options that have been put in place in your organization and add the next level of security in preparation for a robust shopping season.

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Scott Koegler

Freelance Writer and Former CIO

Scott Koegler practiced IT as a CIO for 15 years. He also has more than 20 years experience as a technology journalist covering topics ranging from software and services through business strategy. Scott publishes ec-bp.com, a supply chain industry newsletter and has written for publications including Network Computing, Forbes, Internet Evolution, and many others.