When selling products to any market, you are responsible for keeping transactions as secure as possible. This responsibility is even greater and heavier if you’re selling your goods remotely. For one, remote transactions are exposed to many security risks, as opposed to transactions happening in the real world. Customers can experience malware attacks, skimming, phishing, and more.
The consequences are also much bigger. If a thief, for example, steals the goods bought by your customer, the damage would only be the cost of the purchase. Meanwhile, if a customer falls into cyber schemes, not only is their financial information affected, but also their personal data may be compromised.
Hence, keeping transactions as secure as possible must be one of your goals if you’re selling remotely. On that note, here are eight things you can do to maximize the security of your customers’ remote transactions.
Don’t Stop At One Authentication Factor
Most companies require their users to enter a password before they can log in to the platform. This is what they call single-factor authentication, where users only have one way of verifying their identity. It might seem convenient, but it’s not the most secure platform there is. If you want to keep remote transactions secure, don’t stop at one authentication code. Consider multi-factor authentication.
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is the practice of providing authorized users more than one way of verifying their identity. Requiring a password is one. Some examples of other factors include:
By requiring users to enter additional authentication factors, you’re essentially making it harder for cybercriminals to force their way into an account. Even if they figure out the password through guessing or ‘brute force,’ they still have to figure out the other factors. This can, and will, stop hackers in their tracks. That’s precisely why most banking apps nowadays require OTPs. But that’s not to say you must forget about the original authentication factors–passwords– altogether.
Implement Strong Passwords
While there are all sorts of authentication factors nowadays, passwords remain one of the most powerful factors you can use. After all, hackers have now come up with ways to bypass fingerprint, face, and even OTPs, yet they still can’t devise a fool-proof plan to bypass passwords.
Perhaps the only problem with passwords is that it’s only as strong as its owner’s imagination. If they have not taken sufficient time to come up with a strong one, they’re most likely to base it on a birthday or a name. Regardless, it would be extremely predictable. Hence, it’s advisable to make sure you, your employees, and even your customers implement strong passwords. Here’s how you can do this:
- Make sure the password has at least eight characters
- Include a lowercase and uppercase letter
- Add some numbers and symbols to the mix
- Don’t use the same password for different platforms
- Avoid sharing personal information such as date of birth, pet’s name, and other information that can potentially be the answer to one of your security questions
- Never publicly share sensitive information like your date of birth, social security number, or any other info you may use to answer security questions
Encrypt Private Data
A simple yet effective way of securing transactions is by encrypting the data pertaining to these activities. Essentially, once you encrypt sensitive data, even when an unauthorized entity manages to get their hands on it, they shouldn’t be able to use of it. They can’t read, open, or modify it in any way, thereby eliminating the threat. However, your encryption must be strong enough, especially since hackers often have a few tricks up their sleeves to crack data encryption.
There are several ways to go about this. You can embed cryptographic keys and passwords. But perhaps one of the best and most common ways to encrypt data is by getting an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate.
An SSL certificate is a mandatory credential for eCommerce websites that manage payment transactions–and for several reasons. One, it verifies the site’s ownership, making it easier to identify duplicate websites created by hackers. And two, it encrypts the data within the website, preventing hackers from accessing all sorts of data with just a few clicks.
Remember that this only applies to those with websites. If your remote selling business doesn’t operate solely through a platform, there are still ways to encrypt data, such as getting data encryption software.
Keep Your Software Up-To-Date
Security is similar to a game of chess. Each side works on breaking the other side’s defense, and they do so by devising all sorts of strategies. If one side can’t adapt, there would be a loophole in their defenses, and it’s only a matter of time before they collapse. Similarly, hackers devise all sorts of strategies when trying to invade your remote business. It’s your job to adapt to these strategies to ensure there are no holes in your security. One way to do that is by keeping your software up-to-date.
If you’re using a firewall, you must keep it updated. If you’re storing customer information on a cloud platform, make sure that platform is up-to-date. It doesn’t matter what software you use. As long as it’s in its latest version, it should be able to keep up with any strategy hackers can think of.
Comply With PCI DSS
If you’re trying to secure your transactions, it’s a good idea to have a standard to follow. One of the most commonly-used industry standards that align with your goal is PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard).
PCI DSS is a standard that aims to make sure credit card information collected via the internet is stored securely. While it focuses on credit card transactions, some of its requirements are as effective for securing other types of transactions. Of course, it won’t guarantee secure transactions, but it does do its job of improving security. Furthermore, since it aligns with your goals, it’s more advantageous to comply with this standard. Here are the requirements for PCI DSS compliance:
- Install and maintain a firewall on your platform
- Never use defaults for system passwords and other security factors
- Encrypt public networks
- Use and regularly update your anti-virus programs
- Restrict access to data to a few authorized individuals
- Assign a unique identification factor for each employee
- Monitor and track access to network resources
- Periodically test security measures and systems
Only Use Secure And Reliable Platforms
If you plan to run an online storefront to sell remotely, you most definitely need to use a third-party platform. Since this platform would be where you’ll accept payments and other transactions, you’ll have to choose one that’s secure and reliable. Otherwise, hackers can simply make use of the lack of security of these platforms to get through you.
On that note, take time in choosing your payment gateway provider. It should be highly rated by other users, and doesn’t have any history of security breaches.
Since there are thousands of providers out there, you shouldn’t run out of options even if you get a bit nitpicky. It’s also ideal to choose a platform with built-in security measures, such as a firewall, data encryption, email analysis, threat detection and response, and the like.
Store Only Necessary Customer Data
When you hold your customer’s data, a rule of thumb is to never store more than you actually need to continue business operations. Information like name, age, gender, location, professional, email address, and phone numbers should suffice. Any more than that would just be excessive.
Regardless, by storing only minimal information, even if hackers successfully invade your system, they won’t be able to plunder as much as they would have if you decided to store more data.
If you really require more of your clients’ information, such as their banking details or medical records, it’s best to keep these types of sensitive data in a separate place. One way to achieve this is by segmenting your network into multiple divisions. By doing so, if hackers were able to breach one network, they would only have access to the data contained in that specific segment, thereby minimizing the damage.
Train Your Employees Against Social Engineering
If you’re selling remotely on a large scale, then you probably own an enterprise. Your employees would be yet another security risk. If a hacker successfully tricks one of your employees into sharing their credentials, then that hacker would most likely use that info to break into your system.
This is what they call social engineering—the practice of manipulating an individual into giving away sensitive data. This is perhaps one of the most problematic issues with security since human error is natural. You can’t eliminate it by merely installing software, but you can at least minimize the possibility. You can do so by training your employees to detect social engineering, and here’s how you can do this:
Check if there are grammatical and spelling mistakes in the body or the subject line of an email or message. If there are, there’s a good chance it’s from a malicious sender.
Look closely at the email sender’s domain. Hackers often mimic the domain of a legitimate organization, but they can’t copy it entirely. Hence, it might be off by one letter (e.g., SalesLovesMarketing.co could become SalesLovesMarketing.com).
If the email asks you to do something suspicious, like sending money, it’s a telltale sign of a social engineering attempt.
These eight tips are undoubtedly practical, but some of them can be costly. However, a careful
business owner should know very well that their customers always come first. You might have to pay a decent amount of money to keep transactions secure, but it’s a small price to pay to protect your customers’ information from hackers. Besides, these efforts will eventually get recognized by your customers, and they can go a long way in building brand loyalty.