Much like the online retail landscape is evolving rapidly, physical stores are also updating their workflows and adapting to modern technologies that can help them improve their overall success. This shift, however, has put added weight on consumer privacy, data protection and infrastructure security as cyber-attacks and similar security threats are evolving accordingly.
In order to keep up with direct competition and thrive in this ever-changing retail environment, businesses need to focus their attention and resources on having an effective, scalable and air-tight data security strategy in place. Keeping customer data and sensitive business information safe from cyber-based crimes is just as paramount for brick and mortar stores as it is for e-commerce companies, especially in terms of the overall consumer experience. The consumer is the fulcrum of your business and no one can afford to lose the trust of their customers due to, for example, unprotected transactions or the exposure of sensitive data to potential outside threats.
Any physical store that seeks an all-round and effective revenue-driven business model should make sure their customers are happy, active, and secure. In order to do just that, successful brick and mortar stores must tackle all security challenges and threats that permeate the current commerce ecosystem.
That said, let’s go over some of the basic data protection tips for modern brick and mortar stores.
Use Payment Encryption and Keep it Activated at All Times
The data from the recent Verizon report shows that almost 65% of data breaches in retail occur as a result of payments and transactions that haven’t been secured well enough. These scenarios can be mitigated by using high-tech payment methods that have integrated encryption solutions. Encryption makes sure that, even if a cyber criminal manages to access your or your customer’s data, they won’t be able to use it in a malicious manner.
Be sure to use encryption technology across all your POS (point-of-service) terminals, as even one weak point can render all other components of your security plan useless. So, keep your POS systems updated and perform regular checks to make sure proper encryption is implemented across your entire environment.
Follow the Payment Card Industry Standard for Data Security
Aside from the recommended encryption best practices, it is also paramount to comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). These data protection standards can help your brick and mortar store secure the details from credit cards, debit cards or other types of payment methods during transactions. Compliance with PCI DSS alone will not completely remove the risk of data breaches, but it does significantly reduce the potentially hazardous effects these attacks may cause.
To properly tackle this component of data security, we recommend opting for a trustworthy and reputable third-party payment processing company that will store and manage this type of information through its secure servers. This way potential attackers who are trying to infiltrate your brick and mortar store won’t be able to find or use this data.
Secure Email-Based Data Via Email Archiving & Retention Policies
Regardless of whether you are running an e-commerce retail business or you have a physical store, pretty much all modern companies use email as one of their basic communication networks. Email platforms are used daily and they feature heavy dataflows, with messages often conveying sensitive data. These pieces of information need strong protection levels that can be reached by the implementation of email archiving solutions, as well as retention policies.
These systems can help you with potential legal issues, should your company need access to valuable data pertaining to a particular case, and can also help you optimize data archiving in terms of costs, data security and management.
Prevent Attacks Based on Social Engineering
The concept of social engineering is as old as the economy itself. It is a clever tactic used by criminals and is described as “the psychological manipulation of people into performing actions or divulging confidential information.” Both regular and cybercriminals use it to urge brick and mortar store staff to comply with requests and access their networks.
Quick example: a person disguised as a service technician (IT representative, accountant, etc) can con a worker into granting them access to the store’s computers and networks, and we don’t have to paint the rest of the picture here. This system infiltration tactic has proven to work across various industries. These social engineering attacks can be obviated by proper employee training in social engineering.
Shared Logins are not a Good Idea
The staff at brick and mortar stores often tend to share their logins and credentials among themselves as that way they can seemingly improve the efficiency of their workflow. The problem, however, occurs when these employees do a poor job protecting the information that their accounts harbour. Sharing logins and related data can compromise the security of the store’s entire infrastructure, as well as expose consumer information to potential threats and data thieves.
It is highly recommended to use strong passwords for each employee account, while we also suggest utilizing password management tools like LastPass.
Summary: Brick and Mortar Data Security Is a Necessity
There’s no denying that we live in the age of information. Networks, channels and dataflows permeate both digital and physical retail landscapes, which means that data security should be among your top priorities. Your sensitive data, as well as the information that belongs to your consumers, is an important asset and must be strongly protected. There are numerous ways for your brick and mortar store to be compromised by hackers and the aforementioned data security tips can help you lift your protection levels to desired levels.
Bio: Damian is a business consultant and a freelance blogger from New York. He writes about the latest tech solutions and marketing insights. Follow him on Twitter for more articles