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How Retailers Can Avoid Hidden Malware Risks

As retailers prepare for the holiday surge in online sales, hackers are equally poised to take advantage of the spending frenzy.

There's a reason why malware risks increase over the festive period and it doesn't just relate to the volume of purchases taking place. In fact, many retailers adopt new policies to avoid system downtime, and introduce new technologies and platforms to provide a smoother experience for the customer - both of which can leave them vulnerable to major data security attacks.

Hackers from around the globe are continuously developing sophisticated malware to hit retailers of all sizes during the customer transaction process, including point-of-sale systems, e-commerce applications and mobile devices. From credit card fraud to ransomware, which blocks access to computers until a sum of money is paid, underground criminals are becoming increasingly creative with sophisticated attacks.

Many retailers that have suffered intrusions have now invested in security technologies and services to protect their customers and their brand, but many others have yet to take the necessary action required to safeguard their business from today's threats.

Retailers must adopt a multi-layered approach to security and educate their staff on when, where and how these hacking risks can happen.

10 Essential Steps for Protection

Data security relies on prevention measures and fast response if attack does happen. Implement these steps to minimize damage from cyberattack:

1. Keep your systems up to date and apply security patches as a priority.

2. Implement a strong vulnerability management program that includes scanning and penetration testing.

3. Use anti-malware to defend in real time against advanced and blended threats, and zero-day vulnerabilities.

4. Be aware of who is working on your system and when. Track all changes to eliminate system breach.

5. Limit access, ensure passwords are complex, and ensure you have removed all orphan accounts (such as ex-employees/users) and test accounts (from live production areas if permanent deletion isn't possible).

6. Use real-time monitoring on your web applications for quick response in the event of a breach.

7. Use separate servers for your e-commerce and web applications.

8. Don't allow social media access on your point-of-sale systems.

9. Don't store credit card data if you don't have to, and always use end-to-end encryption.

10. Educate all staff on security awareness and prevention measures.

The minimal approach toward security is a dangerous way to go and not only the high-profile brands are hit by hackers. The risks to small businesses can be catastrophic, leaving many unable to recover from a hit. For more information, visit www.trustwave.com

Jane Dotensko is Trustwave marketing manager in EMEA.