Why Is Security So Crucial For E-Commerce?

Customer information, business data and payment details are all highly sensitive, confidential commodities that are traded or shared as part of an e-commerce transaction.

As the popularity of shopping online continues to grow exponentially in the UK, security has become paramount, not only for retailers but for any business that operates via the internet, in an attempt to inspire trust and confidence in customers. This can be achieved predominantly through minimising the risks that customers are faced with online.

Why is security so important?

The press often reports on businesses that have fallen victim to hacking and data breaches, due to insufficient security measures, leading to sometimes irreparable reputation and financial consequences. As such, online security is vital in helping businesses both reduce threats to their site and avoid compromising sensitive data.

It also promotes sales, too, as consumers would naturally choose to make purchases from a website that they believe is totally secure. In order to make their store a secure place to shop, businesses should be aware of several security services that can ensure their e-commerce site is protected and consumer confidence is high.

Authentication

Authentication is the process of identifying that both the store and the customer are legitimate. As a result, both parties can rest easy in the knowledge that there are genuine buyers and sellers. Acquiring a digital certificate is one way of authenticating a merchant. This way, the customer knows that the website to which they submit sensitive information is actually the merchant, rather than a third party posing as the store.

Secure Socket Layers (SSL) – which encrypts data from the customer to the server and prevents third party interference – uses these digital certificates, along with Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), to ensure privacy and integrity.

Safety of the web host

Credit card details can be sent safely using SSL but many customers worry about what happens with the information once a transaction is completed. As the submission of payment details is necessary for e-commerce, it’s important that merchants safely store such information in a secure place. This can be on the web hosting supplier’s server, on a separate PC or on disks. Alternatively, intrusion detection services – a staple of top quality web hosting providers – can identify any malicious patterns or attacks that more traditional security software might fail to detect.

Be the customer

Another way for a business to check the security of their e-commerce site is to go through the buying process, selecting a product and making a payment, as if they were the customer. This will give businesses the opportunity to create a ‘security checklist’ to ensure all services are in order.

For example, when entering credit card data, make sure the browser is communicating with the server using SSL. If the browser does not recognise the server’s SSL certificate, rectify immediately as customers may not consider the site trustworthy enough to complete the transaction.

The requirement for secure usernames and passwords comprising a combination of numbers, letters and lower/upper cases might be obvious but forms the very foundation of a secure store. If a customer fails to type the correct password after five attempts, then the account in question can be ‘locked’ and the attempts logged – another benefit of a highly-rated web hosting service. After all, a system is only as secure as its user.

Rather than waiting for an intrusion to occur, businesses should be employing preventative measures before a site is even live. Customers, too, should practice vigilance when shopping online. A combination of the two should help towards ensuring additional and secure e-commerce growth in the UK.

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Dominic Monkhouse is the UK MD of managed hosting provider PEER 1. He has spent 14 years working in sales, marketing and business management within the IT sector. Prior to PEER 1, he held senior positions with Rackspace and IT support company IT Lab. Dominic is regularly interviewed by and quoted in business and technology publications including the Financial Times, Data Centre Dynamics, and Computer Business Review. Dominic has a BSc in Agricultural and Food Marketing from Newcastle and a MBA from Sheffield Business School.