As technology evolves, so too do the many threats. And with the prevalence of cyber-attacks across all industries, cyber security should no longer be an afterthought. This is especially true for the retail industry, which continues to be a prime target for cyber criminals.
A recent survey from risk management firm SecurityScorecard confirms that retail ranks among the lowest industries in terms of its security stance, second only to the entertainment world. On top of this, nearly every other cyber security report in the past few years includes retail at the top of the list of the organisations that have been attacked.
This then begs the question: What are they doing wrong? How open is the retail sector to cyber crime?
Tunnel vision for innovation
Retail is an industry that prides itself on innovation. Constantly dipping their toes in the Artificial Intelligence pool, one would think that retail would be on top of the latest cyber security upgrades, too.
However, an article in CIO suggests that the industry chooses to channel their focus more towards other forms of innovation, such as personalised shopping, mobile services, and enhancing the customer experience.
Moreover, this reluctance to look into cyber security as part of innovation runs across the retail industry landscape, as related sectors like logistics and transportation continue to struggle. These are especially tied to retail because of the amount of work that goes behind moving products from one point to another.
But despite their crucial role in operational success, many transportation companies remain torn between tradition and innovation methods. Marketing manager Simon Austin notes on Verizon Connect that employee trust is one of the biggest challenges to adopting new tech and practices.
Due to not knowing enough about certain technologies like telematics, managers and workers often don't trust new systems or upgrades enough to let it do its work — including protecting data and software infrastructure.
So, if tech-related problems arise, it's hard to maximise advanced solutions when your own stakeholders are refusing to learn and use it accordingly. This could cause delays throughout the whole supply chain and affect retail performance and security.
Poor level of awareness
SentinelOne senior director Migo Kedem points to retail's brick-and-mortar history as an explanation for why the industry is lagging behind in terms of cyber security. “The way we shop has changed drastically in the last few years,” he explains. “Retail is traditionally a low-tech business. The new technology brings new security challenges, and these ‘digital shoplifters’ can’t be simply scared away using security sensors."
While CCTV cameras and security guards might have been sufficient years ago, those measures don't apply in e-commerce. And with online shopping becoming more and more popular, a new security approach must be taken to protect online assets.
Computer Weekly states that this lack of urgency trickles down to retail's customers. Among online shoppers worldwide, the UK was revealed to be the most complacent, with just 1 in 5 users taking proactive action to protect their sensitive data.
It's in stark contrast to German consumers, most of whom make it a point to shop on secure Wi-Fi networks.
Big companies like Yahoo! or Uber might get all the limelight when it comes to cyber-attacks, but it doesn't mean that smaller businesses are exempt. Tech writer Melissa Thompson claims that even if they have far less data to steal, small businesses can still bridge hackers to the mega-corporations and brands they work with.
Many retailers think that just because their name isn't Sony or Equifax, then hackers won't take interest. But the numbers say otherwise, with nearly 43% of cybercrime geared towards small businesses. Attackers know that this over-confidence is exactly what makes them prime targets.
With the way things are going, it's clear that the tidal wave of digital crime isn't about to pass any time soon. But rather than allow it to take over, retailers have an opportunity to nip this moment of vulnerability in the bud.
The industry as a whole must understand that their culprits aren't just shoplifters hiding products under their jacket sleeve. They need to redefine their idea of innovation and expand it, making sure to put the necessary security measures in place.
That way, it will transform the future retail threats and make it a safe space for shoppers and business owners alike.
Article written exclusively for retail-reflections.co.uk
By Mary Alice
Mary Alice is a digital marketing consultant who has more than a decade's worth of experience working with retail and lifestyle brands. Currently, she resides in Brixton and spends her free time travelling and doing yoga