The Role of Cybersecurity in Protecting E-Commerce Companies

Cybersecurity is essential to protect e-commerce websites from scams, hackers, and other cybersecurity threats. Whether it’s a small business or an enterprise-level operation, all business owners need to ensure their enterprises use sufficient security measures to prevent data breaches and can respond effectively to a successful security breach.

While e-commerce businesses face significant inherent risks, best cybersecurity practices can mitigate and remediate many security issues. This post will discuss how cybersecurity impacts e-commerce businesses and how they can mitigate their biggest cyber risks.

The Top E-Commerce Cybersecurity Risks

E-commerce sites are a significant target for cybercriminals because they store, process, and transmit large amounts of personal and financial data. A data breach can cause major business disruption and significant financial losses. Additionally, poor responses to cyber incidents can lead to a loss of customer trust, which is vital for online shopping businesses.

Finally, recovering from a data breach or another cyber attack can be extremely time-consuming and costly. According to a survey of 550 breaches across 17 countries and 17 industries, the average cost of a data breach reached a massive $4.35 million in 2022. Furthermore, it took an average of 207 days to identify a breach and an additional 70 days to contain it.

The main threats to e-commerce cybersecurity are currently:


E-skimming is a major security risk for e-commerce sites because it involves cybercriminals capturing the information that clients enter into online shopping checkout pages in real-time. They typically gain access to the e-commerce site through a successful phishing attempt, although they may also achieve this via XSS, third-party compromise, and brute force attacks.

Once the cybercriminal is in the system, they can introduce malicious skimming code that either redirects customers to a spoofed website or directly steals credit card information in real time.


The primary attack vector for most businesses is phishing, including e-commerce businesses. Customers of e-commerce stores risk being targeted by either phishing or social engineering, typically carried out using fraudulent messages that aim to trick recipients into sharing personally identifiable information (PII), such as passwords, account numbers, and credit card numbers. Cybercriminals can use this data to achieve unauthorized access to one or more user accounts.

One of the biggest security issues surrounding phishing is that a successful phishing attempt may lead to a major data breach that results in the sharing of access credentials on the dark web. A successful phishing attempt is also a frequent forerunner to a malware infection.

Without sufficient security procedures and systems, these attacks can go unnoticed. Cybercriminals can then purchase lists of usernames and passwords and use bots to effect a credential-stuffing attack, attempting unauthorized access to one or more sites.


Malware is any malicious software that attempts to infect a computer or mobile device. It is effective at obtaining PII, including access credentials, redirecting users to alternate websites, stealing money, and blocking access to the site and systems.

E-commerce sites attract cybercriminals because they can target an organization’s customers with malware. They can achieve this by manipulating an e-commerce site in an XSS attack or via authentic-looking messages sent to customers using compromised access credentials, typically delivered by email.

In the case of a ransomware attack, the cybercriminal’s malware encrypts the e-commerce business’s critical data. The cybercriminal then demands a ransom payment for the decryption key, which they may or may not deliver.  

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)

Cybercriminals use DDoS attacks to disrupt target businesses, bombarding their servers with requests to overload the systems. These attacks are normally controlled by one machine using botnets, a network of malware-infected devices to flood the target with requests.

Although DDoS attacks are not focused on data theft, they can significantly disrupt businesses for the sole aim of business disruption. E-commerce businesses that experience operational disruption face significant losses that could potentially lead to a complete shutdown.

Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)

XSS attacks are a type of injection of malicious code on an e-commerce business’s webpage. These attacks occur when a hacker uses a web application to send out malicious code, affecting users by exposing them to cyber attacks, including phishing attempts and malware.

Users that visit the website are automatically infected with the attack. The most common areas an XSS attack is carried out are unprotected public forums, message boards, and web pages that allow user comments.

Protecting E-Commerce Businesses from Cyber Threats

E-commerce businesses constantly increase their staffing and spending to bolster their information security. Unfortunately, cybercriminals also invest in identifying vulnerabilities and finding new ways to exploit them. Consequently, the frequency and sophistication of cyber attacks have increased dramatically in recent years.

Any business offering e-commerce capability to its customers in the current cyber threat landscape must implement effective e-commerce security to stay ahead of potential security breaches.

Combining best cybersecurity practices and solutions tailored to e-commerce is key to providing a robust defense against cybercriminals. Here are the things to focus on to protect an e-commerce business.

Compliance Risks

Depending on the industry, e-commerce businesses may be subject to various regulations and compliance standards. Failing to meet compliance standards can result in significant fines or penalties, especially if a data breach occurs due to compliance failure.

Get PCI DSS Certified

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) is a set of data security standards defined by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC). This global forum includes American Express, Mastercard, and Visa.

The standards apply to any business that manages credit card transactions, which includes the majority of e-commerce businesses. The standards set out minimum security requirements to protect customer credit card information.

While PCI-DSS is not a law, it is mandated by the contracts of the major card payment brands. Non-compliance with the security standard can result in severe penalties, including a monthly fine of between $5000 and $100,000, plus penalties from the acquiring bank.

Get GDPR Ready

Unlike PCI DSS, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a law governing EU countries. Since 2018, the  European Union (EU) privacy law has applied to any organization that targets or collects data about EU citizens.

Ensuring GDPR compliance is an excellent way to protect a business from cyber risks associated with e-commerce. GDPR’s primary principles include the following:

  • Data minimization
  • Storage limitation
  • Data integrity and confidentiality

Under GDPR, organizations must collect as little data as necessary, store it for only as long as needed, and protect it with the latest security. Following each principle contributes to an organization’s security posture, boosting information security.

Network and Data Security Practices

Here is a short list of the best network and data security practices businesses can follow to improve their cybersecurity quickly:

Attain SSL/TSL Certificates

HTTPS is a network protocol that encrypts and verifies transmissions, making it much more secure than HTTP. Online businesses that process sensitive data, including financial information, should always use HTTPS to offer higher security to their users.

To implement HTTPS hosting, also known as Secure Socket Layer (SSL) or Transport Layer Security (TLS), a website requires an SSL certificate, which is code that enables encrypted connections.

With the implementation of HTTPS, hackers will find it far more difficult to intercept, read, or modify transmitted data, adding another layer of protection for businesses and their customers.

Use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

With multi-factor authentication, users must provide at least two ways of proving their identity before accessing their account. In addition to a username and password combination, MFA demands further authentication, such as a one-time PIN, identity verification via an app on a mobile device, answering a security question, or performing a biometric scan.

MFA can prevent many data breaches, so organizations should ensure their staff uses it and encourage their customers to do the same. While it can seem burdensome because it is more time-consuming, it is far more secure than using passwords alone and far less time-consuming than mitigating a successful data breach.

Implement Strong Passwords

Many data breaches occur because of weak access credentials. Therefore, organizations should encourage using strong passwords and good password hygiene for their customers and staff.

A strong password must be at least eight characters long and contain a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Furthermore, users should not re-use the password for another site. To achieve secure, efficient password management, using a password manager app can be useful to keep passwords strong, unique, and regularly updated.

Installing Anti-Malware, Antivirus, and Firewalls

Businesses can implement low-cost software such as anti-malware, antivirus, and firewall technology to provide baseline defenses against external threats.

The latest device protection systems include AI and machine-learning technology, providing continuous monitoring and real-time threat detection, which can be invaluable in thwarting cybercriminals’ attempts to access confidential customer data and make fraudulent transactions.

Businesses can take their protection further by maintaining firewalls to monitor and filter all traffic attempts to enter or leave the network. A firewall is an essential network security measure, as it will help prevent confidential information from leaving the network without people knowing, log user activity, and prevent modification of data by hackers or malicious software.

Update Hardware and Software

All devices and software applications should be updated regularly to avoid being exploited by vulnerabilities. Unpatched hardware and software may not be equipped to defend against the latest threats and vulnerabilities.

Most updates from software developers are related to security. Regularly checking for and installing updates provides potentially vital security patches, fixing vulnerabilities that cybercriminals could otherwise exploit.

Third-Party Risk Management

E-commerce businesses also need to take charge of third-party risks. A business’s attack surface is not limited to the company. Its cloud-service providers, suppliers, and business partners are all potential weaknesses in the supply chain.

Businesses need to see, understand, monitor, and remediate third-party risk, especially when many online retailers rely on multiple third-party plugins for the functionality of their stores. However, as businesses scale, this can be a challenging task to complete, especially when hundreds or thousands of vendors and suppliers are involved. Businesses can use solutions such as UpGuard Vendor Risk to help manage their third and fourth-party risks.

Cybersecurity Awareness and Training

Human error is often the first entry point in many data breaches. To create a strong defense against cybercrime, retailers should implement cybersecurity training for all employees. Furthermore, different groups should receive different training according to their risk exposure.

A longer-term solution is to develop a cybersecurity culture. This goes beyond cybersecurity training because it begins with increasing awareness and authentic engagement with cybersecurity strategy at the board level and then having this filter down throughout the company.

To disseminate the cybersecurity culture, the C-suite should employ various techniques, including internal campaigns with consistent messaging, regular cybersecurity updates in meetings, incentives for cybersecurity engagement, and simulations and drills.

In an organization with a mature cybersecurity culture, the staff is more likely and be able to identify, report, and remediate suspicious activity and behavior.

Access Control

Access control protects sensitive information by determining who can access certain information and resources. This reduces the attack surface since not everyone in the business can access personal data.

An access control system will also help an organization contain malicious software or identify the source of a data leak or breach because it limits the pathways a cybercriminal can use to access the system.

Network Segmentation

Confidential data should be kept separate from other information on the network. This can be achieved via network segmentation, with personal customer information firewalled and monitored to reduce the risk of a data breach or the spread of malware from other parts of the network.

By segmenting networks, it prevents lateral movement from both internal parties and cybercriminals attempting to gain unauthorized access.

Data Backups

Ideally, businesses will avoid data breaches and critical cyber incidents that disrupt business operations. However, having backups is essential when things don’t go the way of the organization. A backup system can help a business become operational faster after an incident and mitigate the impact of data theft.

Backups must be performed regularly to ensure the data is relevant and can keep the business functional during a critical incident. The backup should be stored away from the primary networks, such as with a secure cloud storage service provider, to ensure that the network incident doesn’t also affect the backup.

Incident Response Plan

Businesses with incident response plans spend less time and money attempting to resolve data breaches compared to unprepared firms. A documented incident response plan gives stakeholders a clear guide to help them coordinate what happens after a cyber incident. Responding quickly to a cyber incident can help a business save money and its reputation.

The incident response plan needs to be checked regularly to ensure that contact details and roles and responsibilities are up to date. It also needs to reflect the current information security policy (ISP) to ensure an efficient and effective response to cyber incidents.

Ready to see
UpGuard in action?

Ready to save time and streamline your trust management process?