Assessing Cyber Security in Retail: Building an Effective Scorecard

cyber threats

In nearly every cyber-attack report, the retail industry ranks high as a target for hackers. Understanding why this is the case and what you can do to improve your organization’s security posture is critical.

A cybersecurity-balanced scorecard provides a holistic view of your organization’s efforts to improve its data and information security posture. It typically consists of four perspectives: financial, customer, internal, and learning and growth.

Assessing Your Risks

Retailers are attractive targets for cybercriminals because they collect and process large amounts of sensitive data during every transaction. This data includes financial information, customer email addresses, credit card numbers, and strategic data such as sales projections, inventory levels, and competitor plans. This data is precious to hackers and criminals who can use it for various purposes, including credit card fraud and identity theft.

Moreover, retailers are increasingly transitioning to digital environments, which creates a larger attack surface and makes it more difficult to protect critical assets. While this shift is driven by a desire to boost efficiency and improve customer experience, it also increases the number of points of vulnerability for hackers to exploit. Developing a comprehensive scorecard for cybersecurity in retail can help assess and enhance the industry’s defenses against evolving cyber threats, ensuring a safer shopping experience for customers.

Finally, the high turnover rate in retail jobs makes building a solid security culture challenging. With proper training, employees can be more organized with data and leave devices unprotected while working at their desks. This makes them more susceptible to phishing schemes and less likely to respond quickly to suspicious activity on the network.

In addition, many retailers are storing historical data that may no longer be useful but that they feel worth the cost of storage in case innovative methods of using this data become available. This approach to data hoarding can be hazardous if hackers and other criminals discover the information on the Dark Web.

Identifying Your Critical Assets

The retail industry stores a lot of data—point-of-sale system information, customer data, supply chain details, and more. This large attack surface makes retailers an irresistible target for cybercriminals.

While the data retailers store is precious, it also creates serious business risks. When sensitive customer information is exposed, the damage to a brand’s reputation is widespread, leading to lost sales, backlash from customers, and fines from regulators.

With the right approach, companies can mitigate the risk of sensitive data breaches by identifying their most critical assets and implementing appropriate security measures to protect them. This includes taking a proactive approach to third-party risk management. As self-certification processes prove less reliable, retailers must shift to active risk monitoring and mitigation with suppliers to neutralize the threat of attackers using a business’s networks to steal data or launch attacks.

The diversity of hardware and software retailers use also presents a significant challenge. With legacy point-of-sale terminals, new tablet and mobile devices for customer shopping, and inventory-control systems all on the network, it can be challenging to ensure these devices don’t contain vulnerabilities or leak data. Retailers must implement solutions with features like threat modeling, advanced behavioral authentication, and cybersecurity automation to minimize the risk of unauthorized access and a data breach.

Developing a Strategy

Retailers are vulnerable to a variety of cyber threats. Their reliance on data, particularly point-of-sale (POS) systems, makes them attractive targets for cybercriminals looking to steal financial information or disrupt operations. Breaches also come at a heavy cost in terms of lost customer confidence and fines from regulators.

In addition, many retailers rely on third parties to manage their business, from cloud service providers to POS system vendors and the apps used on e-commerce websites. As a result, these businesses need strong access controls to ensure the right people can see the correct data and not others. Keeping these third parties updated on the latest security measures is crucial.

Finally, the churn rate of employees in retail can create problems for the business, especially with part-timers who may have yet to go through background checks. In this case, bad actors can use these workers to gain inside knowledge of how the business operates and sell it to competitors or hackers.

Retailers must develop a clear strategy to combat the various cyber threats they face. They can focus on improving cybersecurity education for their staff by identifying and assessing their strengths and weaknesses in this area. They can also implement best practices to prevent breaches and mitigate the damage they cause once they occur. These include ensuring that IT systems have the latest security updates and providing ongoing cyber training to all employees.

Implementing a Plan

Retailers must focus on implementing proven cybersecurity practices that protect the integrity of customer data. These practices must be integrated into the business fabric and reinforced through practical training. This training should begin onboarding for new employees and be ongoing with regular updates and evaluations. It is also essential to provide targeted training for employees more likely to be impacted by a security breach, such as cashiers who use point-of-sale systems.

The proliferation of digital services that retailers offer, from online buying to buy-in-store and curbside pickup, increases the size of the retailer’s attack surface. This expansion of the attack surface makes it difficult to monitor and manage risk effectively and can increase the impact of a data breach. To combat this challenge, retailers should consider managed detection and response (MDR) solutions to protect against attacks that might otherwise go unnoticed.

As a key industry player with a high-value, low-risk target, retailers are attracting the attention of bad actors. To address this, retailers need to mobilize quickly. To do so, they should begin by assessing their risk and identifying critical assets. They should then work to implement a robust plan that combines preventive and reactive strategies. For example, they should work to ensure that all devices and software are protected with firewalls that create a barrier between the Internet and their network and which can log, flag, or block unauthorized activity.busid