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Deck the Halls with Cybersecurity: Best Practices for Holiday Shopping

With the holiday season now in full swing, retail companies have been readying their stores and websites for the influx of holiday shoppers over the next few weeks. As consumers embark on their journey to find the best deals in the latest consumer technology, fashion and appliances, security is often last on their shopping list. While applications have allowed shoppers to have an abundance of options at their fingertips, they have become a breeding ground for digital attackers looking to exploit credit card and personal information from unsuspecting consumers.

To keep the season merry, bright and secure, it is important for organizations and consumers alike to protect themselves from being the victims of a cyberattack. Below, WhiteHat has outlined some tips and tricks organizations and consumers can follow to get through the season safely.

Businesses must take application security seriously no matter the season

Retailers cannot produce applications fast enough because apps are the key to driving increasing revenue on a yearly basis. Unfortunately, with the “need-for-speed” pressures developers face during the application development and deployment cycle, organizations can sometimes fall victim to prioritizing the deadline and user experience over the security of the application.

The “window of exposure” metric represents the amount of time that an application has a serious vulnerability that can be exploited to data breaches. This year’s annual Application Security Statistics Report revealed that while the retail industry as a whole has improved year-over-year consistently with reducing its window of exposure, remediation rates have fallen. That’s a huge concern. Clearly, security is still being overlooked as organizations aim to continue developing new and innovative applications.

By incorporating security into the development process, transforming DevOps (development operations)  to DevSecOps (development and security operations), organizations can integrate and open cross-functional organizational structures and communications to include application security throughout the development process and beyond. Not only does DevSecOps seek to lower the number of vulnerabilities, it also increases efficiency for detection to time-to-fix rate, which increases remediation rates. A DevSecOps framework provides early detection of threats and vulnerabilities as well as security solution deployment.

Retailers have the chance to provide an extra perk to their customers by providing a more secure online shopping experience. In today’s world, where one breach could result in extreme reputational losses, organizations differentiate themselves by becoming the trusted security brand.

Consumers need to be vigilant

No matter where someone is shopping, it is important for consumers to stay alert at all times to protect themselves from hackers. When making purchases online, consumers need to make sure the site is sending any credit card or personal information over an encrypted connection. Shoppers can tell if their connection is secure by ensuring “https” is being used. They can determine this by looking for the letters and a little lock next to the web address in the browser bar.

Consumers should also weigh payment options before making an online purchase. In the past, retailers have asked for credit card numbers, expiration dates and the CSV number on the back of the card. If a breach occurs, that information can be compromised and used by a hacker to make other purchases. To avoid this issue, more retailers are now using services such as a cash app or Venmo. These apps or services work by paying for items on your behalf. This eliminates the risk of personal card information being insecurely stored on an unknown vendor’s system.

Shoppers should also stay cautious at physical retail locations. Point-of-sale machines can be a target for hackers as well. Since magnetic stripe cards are notorious for being breached, use the chip on cards to create a one-time token between the point of sale machine and your credit company. A second safe method of payment growing in popularity is the use of a service like Android or Apple pay. These work the same way as a chip.

Staying on the Application Security Nice List

No matter what time of year it is, retailers and consumers should always be considering steps they can take to be more cyberaware. By following the above steps, both parties can enjoy a safe shopping experience and peace of mind. When cybersecurity is at the forefront of the mind, everyone can truly focus on the excitement of the holiday season.