15 ways to protect your business's e-commerce site from hacking and fraud

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It seems you cannot go a day without hearing about someone or some group hacking a website or stealing credit card and other sensitive data from e-commerce sites.

So how do you protect your e-commerce site from being hacked and sensitive customer data from being stolen? CIO.com asked dozens of e-commerce and security experts to find out. Following are their top 15 tips for protecting your e-commerce site from hacking and fraud.

Choose a secure e-commerce platform

“Put your e-commerce site on a platform that uses a sophisticated object-orientated programming language,” says Shawn Hess, software development manager, VoIP Supply.


“We’ve used plenty of different open-source e-commerce platforms in the past, and the one we’re using now is by far the most secure,” Hess says. “Our administration panel is inaccessible to attackers because it’s only available on our internal network and completely removed from our public facing servers. Additionally, it has a secondary authentication that authenticates users with our internal Windows network.”

Use a secure connection for online checkout

“Use strong SSL [Secure Sockets Layer] authentication for Web and data protection,” says Rick Andrews, technical director, Trust Services, Symantec.

“It can be a leap of faith for customers to trust that your e-commerce site is safe, particularly when Web-based attacks increased 30 percent last year. So it’s important to use SSL certificates “to authenticate the identity of your business and encrypt the data in transit,” Andrews says. “This protects your company and your customers from getting their financial or important information stolen.”

Even better: “Integrate the stronger EV SSL [Extended Validation Secure Sockets Layer], URL green bar, and SSL security seal so customers know that your website is safe.”

“SSL certificates are a must for transactions,” Hess agrees. “To validate our credit cards we use a payment gateway that uses live address verification services right on our checkout,” he says. “This prevents fraudulent purchases by comparing the address entered online to the address they have on file with their credit card company.”

Don’t store sensitive data

“There is no reason to store thousands of records on your customers, especially credit-card numbers, expiration dates. and CVV2 [card-verification value] codes,” says Chris Pogue, director of Digital Forensics and Incident Response at Trustwave.

“In fact, it is strictly forbidden by the PCI Standards,” Pogue says. He recommends purging old records from your database and keeping a minimal amount of data, just enough for charge-backs and refunds. “The risk of a breach outweighs the convenience for your customers at checkout,” he says. “If you have nothing to steal, you won’t be robbed.”

Employ an address and card verification system

“Enable an address verification system (AVS) and require the card verification value (CVV) for credit card transactions to reduce fraudulent charges,” says Colin O’Dell, lead Magento developer for Unleashed Technologies.

Require strong passwords

“While it is the responsibility of the retailer to keep customer information safe on the back-end, you can help customers help themselves by requiring a minimum number of characters and the use of symbols or numbers,” says Sarah Grayson, senior marketing manager for the Web Security Group at McAfee.

“Longer, more complex logins will make it harder for criminals to breach your site from the front-end,” she says.

Set up system alerts for suspicious activity

“Set an alert notice for multiple and suspicious transactions coming through from the same IP address,” advises Deric Loh, managing director at digital agency Vault Labs.

Similarly, set up system alerts for “multiple orders placed by the same person using different credit cards, phone numbers that are from markedly different areas than the billing address and orders where the recipient name is different than the card holder name.”

Layer your security

“One of the best ways to keep your business safe from cybercriminals is layering your security,” says Grayson. “Start with firewalls, an essential aspect in stopping attackers before they can breach your network and gain access to your critical information.”

Next, she says, “add extra layers of security to the website and applications such as contact forms, login boxes and search queries.” These measures “will ensure that your e-commerce environment is protected from application-level attacks like SQL (Structured Query Language) injections and cross-site scripting (XSS).”

Provide security training to employees

Employees “need to know they should never email or text sensitive data or reveal private customer information in chat sessions as none of these communication methods is secure,” says Jayne Friedland Holland, chief security officer and associate general counsel at technology firm NIC Inc.

“Employees also need to be educated on the laws and policies that affect customer data and be trained on the actions required to keep it safe,” Holland says. Finally, “use strict written protocols and policies to reinforce and encourage employees to adhere to mandated security practices.”

Next: tracking numbers, site monitoring, patch monitoring and more

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