Six Security Tips for Retailers in the Age of Big Data

June 20, 2013
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3 min read

Retail Security in the Age of Big Data

Today’s retailers and their customers are embracing and using technology through an array of devices and channels.  At the same time, an extraordinary amount and variety of information is being generated — from point-of-sale (POS) transactions, server log files, social media, site traffic, mobile devices and other sources.

Retailers everywhere are discovering that the more of this “big data” they can collect and analyze, the better they can serve their customers and optimize their own operations. For example, vast amounts of customer data (from demographics, to product-purchase histories, to online conversations) can now be analyzed to predict customer needs and orchestrate partners and suppliers in greater responsiveness to changes in buying behavior.

Protecting Big Data

But with data being the new world currency, and the cost of maintaining and protecting it running exponentially higher than the cost of capturing it in the first place, the security of data is assuming a new importance among retailers.

Retailers are responsible for protecting not only their own information, but the information of their customers as well. And they are faced with a diverse array of threats that are creating new potential vulnerabilities, such as theft of customer information and credit card data.  As a result, many consumers now view data security as a differentiator and will change shopping habits based on the level of security that’s in place.

Since so much is at risk, it’s not enough for retailers to take a point product approach to data security. Trying to protect people, data and information using pieced together set of firewalls, intrusion detection devices and encryption schemes can leave gaping holes that hackers worldwide can easily exploit.

Developing a Big Approach to Protect Big Data

A better approach is for retailers to have a more holistic security system in place that unites such things as information and physical security, risk and loss prevention, and includes solutions that work together to protect key data assets and transactions.

Six tips for a more holistic approach to security

This approach should include:

  • Having a system in place for handling a high capacity of transactions securely, while managing risk with an approach that balances availability versus the confidentiality of data.
  • Implementing security solutions that will protect the servers or systems wherever the data resides; encrypt data at rest and in motion; and secure the networks – both wireless and LAN.
  • Using strong authentication to help verify that only authorized individuals can access certain data, while monitoring privileged users within the organization.
  • Applying and managing a comprehensive encryption strategy to help keep private information confidential and meet compliance mandates.

In addition to these fundamental security measures, retailers can optimize their approach by adding a layer of security intelligence that:

  • Incorporates sophisticated real-time analytics to detect anomalous behavior and loss of data and,
  • Discovers critical data, where it reside, who can access it and how well it’s protected.

In the battle for customers, data is undoubtedly one of the most valuable assets for a retail organization.  It’s especially valuable since retailers can learn more about the customers, their shopping habits and then market to them in such as way that enhances their shopping experience — an emerging investment area that can definitely show a return on investment resulting in more online sales.

Consequently, safeguarding big data becomes an ever increasing requirement as back end servers explode with customer data. And having a well-thought out data security strategy will not only protect a retailer’s valuable brand, it will preserve customer loyalty and ensure repeat customers as data is used more wisely for targeted marketing.

If you want to learn more, check out what IBM is doing to secure big data and feel free to leave your thoughts and comments below.

 

Tim Appleby
Security Strategist for Retail Industry, IBM Security

Tim Appleby is a member of the Strategy and Planning team in IBM's new Security division. In his role as a Security Strategist for Retail, he provides insigh...
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