Black Friday is a chaotic time for both consumers and retailers. Customers scramble over one another to get the best deals and collectively spend more and more money each year. Last year, UK consumers spent over £1.2bn on Black Friday alone; over the whole week period it is thought to be more than £6bn. Meanwhile, in the U.S., online Black Friday sales exceeded $3 billion in 2016 for the first time in history. This is an insane amount of money and as the years have gone by we have seen more and more consumers get their deals online instead of in stores. Unfortunately, this has also had the adverse effect of a rise in cyberattacks over the last few years, with criminals stealing personal information. Now more than ever we need to make sure that all of our personal information is protected from attacks.
A recent study found that despite 92 percent of UK citizens and 91 percent of US citizens being aware of the dangers of online, many still fall for phishing scams and fake promotional emails. It seems apparent that the public needs to begin taking stronger actions to protect their devices online. This is more than making sure not to click on dodgy links. People must be sure their passwords are strong and protected, with two-step verification. A good anti-virus is needed and ideally software that can detect internet traffic effectively. As Black Friday gets closer there is no better time to follow this advice.
And it is not just consumers under threat. The threat against retailers is just as likely and can have serious adverse effects on the consumer. Back in September of 2017 the US Company Equifax was hacked and the details of 44 million Brits and 143 million Americans were stolen. Many of the consumers in this instance were not even aware that Equifax had their details, so there was nothing they could have done. When companies and retailers have access to this kind of sensitive customer information it is their duty to make sure that it stays safe.
Cybercrime has cost the UK economy billions per year. Even the government has begun to crack down and take the threat more seriously than they ever have before. Retailers in particular are at significant risk, especially those with a large online presence.
Last year the world was hit with the Mirai botnet, which was used to launch the largest scale DDoS attack in history. Thanks to this, companies have been taking extra steps throughout 2017 to make sure this does not happen again by using effective DDoS mitigation that will separate all incoming traffic to discern the humans from the bots. Making sure to have an emergency response plan while making good use of anti-DDoS technology is important, as attacks will always come out of nowhere and reacting in an efficient manner is key.
Malware is also a significant threat and by always inspecting encrypted traffic as it comes in you should be able to catch that malware before it takes hold. The most dangerous pieces of malware often use encryption to hide themselves from all kinds of security systems, which has left countless companies vulnerable to attack. Many solutions out there are out of date and simply cannot detect the malware. It is important to make sure that you always have the most up-to-date and powerful protection on your network for the best defence.
High quality security is required but it does not need to be perfect. The protection on the network just needs to be difficult enough that hackers will not even bother and attempt to find a different route around, often hitting “soft targets” instead. This will allow the IT security to be notified of the attack before any actual damage is done and then deal with it before it becomes a bigger threat. Many large corporations, such as banks, already do this and retailers need to make sure they are doing the same.
Retailers are expected to receive a large amount of traffic over the Black Friday period and there are many solutions out there to choose from that can help manage it all. It is important for retailers to make sure that their data protection is up to date. It’s equally important that consumers are aware of the data they are handing over and who they are handing that data to. In the end, Black Friday is a time for spending and gift buying, but you need to make sure that you are always aware of what you are spending. Sometimes it ends up being more than just money.
Written by Mike Hemes, Regional Director, A10 Networks