Inviting in the Attacker: Cybersecurity in Retail

Guest Blog by Martin Riley, Technical Director, Timico

One of the business sectors that has gone through major disruption in the modern digital era is retail. This started in the 90’s with leading businesses evolving their first ecommerce projects. But in recent times,  with growth being led across online and mobile services, retail businesses are finding that their digital attack surface is getting larger and managing the growing threats and vulnerabilities can be hard.

Inviting the Attacker into the Network

If we take a quick look at the fashion retail industry that typically has a footprint of owned stores and often concessions, plus online, we can see that this is a business model that—due to its varied technical footprint—is inviting in the attacker in order to get closer to its customers and improve the overall experience with buyers.

Firstly, there has been a big shift towards buying online. Many retailers still have legacy systems and infrastructure (running on platforms such as IBM iSeries) that manage critical business functions such as buying, merchandising and warehousing. So, this has led to the need for multi-cloud infrastructure solutions even before the term became commonplace. That means ensuring a consistent and visible security posture across multiple data center, infrastructure and cloud solutions.

With the increased web footprint and the rise of scalable microservice architectures, the complexities of managing infrastructure and their applications attack surface increases.

Limiting the Attack Surface

Next let’s look at mobiles, as they dominate roughly 51% of all browsing activity with the trend still suggesting that browsing via the mobile web has a higher percentage of sales revenue vs. mobile apps. This is a statistic that cybersecurity staff in retailers should be a little more comfortable with. Most websites are built using the same code across all platforms, just with a different user interface depending upon the device being used. When mobile applications are introduced, the amount of code needed to support multiple platforms increases and—as such—the surface we need to protect gets larger.

In traditional stores, you will find technology is making the experience easier for the customer and more efficient for staff. You can’t walk into a retail store without being offered free Wi-Fi. In the more forward-thinking stores, they’re using mobile footprints to identify customers and tailor deals and use augmented reality to personalize the experience throughout the store, guiding them to a sale. However, in order to keep the costs down on a high-cost store, technologies are consolidated. Could someone take advantage of the available Wi-Fi and traverse across to a card payment system or wireless stock management system to find vulnerable systems and data?

Lastly, there is the most vulnerable aspect of all—people. With businesses driving digital interactions and processes, seasonal workers become a risk as their training and familiarity with systems, policies and processes are less mature.

With such a broad attack surface it is hard to achieve end to end protection or visibility. So how can technology start to improve this? Read the Cybersecurity for Retail whitepaper to see what five things retailers should be considering when reviewing cybersecurity projects. You can see Martin and Alert Logic's UK General Manager, Will Morrish, provide their take on the current threat landscape at our breakfast briefing on Thursday, September 26 at County Hall Waterloo, London. Click here to register: Breakfast Briefing: Nothing Is What It SIEMS.

About the Author

Martin Riley - Technical Director, Timico

Martin Riley

Martin joined Timico in July 2017, bringing with him 17 years of service provider experience enabling customers in maturing their cloud and security capabilities. His experience spans working with customer organisations ranging from as little as 5 IT users to enterprise with over 15,000 IT users; giving Martin an expert level understanding of the complexities involved in creating and evolving digital transformation and cloud strategies in the modern age.  

At Timico, Martin is the driving force behind developing an innovative and relevant technical roadmap, working closely with both customers and strategic partners to ensure we meet customer demand.  Martin has the challenging role of being responsible for ensuring that our customers stay connected at all times; leading strong technical teams who maintain and develop Timico’s network and cloud services delivered from our nine UK data centres. Martin’s teams work together to ensure our service offering includes a cohesive set of reference architectures that integrate, providing additional value and reporting capabilities for our customers to deliver the best service possible.  

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