How to Secure Your Website: A Business Owner’s Checklist for E-Commerce Security

Cyber security professional troubleshoots issue on a tablet while standing in a room full of data servers.

In July 2019, a cybercriminal accessed the sensitive personal and financial information of over 100 million Capital One customers, according to CNN. This massive breach was stunning, considering that Capital One is one of the largest financial organizations in the world. The hack caused many companies to wonder just how safe and secure their own websites, data and digital assets are.

Building and maintaining an efficient, versatile website is a must for companies. Those that haven’t taken steps to ensure that their websites, as well as the content and information they post online, are safe and secure are at risk. As businesses become increasingly ensconced in the digital age, maintaining effective cyber security is a priority.

Cyber threats will always exist, and no website or company will be entirely hack-free. Companies can take key steps, however, to ensure that they’re prepared for a cyberattack and that their websites are secure.

Prioritize E-Commerce Security from a Business and Customer Perspective

The Capital One example illustrates how a cyberattack or breach hurts not only the business, but also its customers. When considering e-commerce security strategies to adopt, businesses should be cognizant of their security needs as well as those of their customers.

Ensure Back-End E-Commerce Security Is Robust

For many e-commerce organizations, the core of their business relies on selling physical items through digital means, such as a vendor that sells its products or an artist who sells artwork to patrons via a website. These individuals and organizations may be using ineffective back-end security protocols and lack up-to-date authentication and authorization tools.

Without proper back-end e-commerce security in place, a cybercriminal can find ways to infiltrate and corrupt a company’s digital information and data. Writing for Toptal, Gergely Kalman lists common web security mistakes, such as broken authentication and security misconfiguration. E-commerce organizations should rectify these types of risks when securing their websites.

Establish Strong E-Commerce Security Initiatives Among Staff

In the Toptal article, Kalman notes the differences between authentication and authorization. Authentication refers to the digital means (login ID, password) used to ensure that users are who they say they are. Authorization refers to information with limited user access, such as confidential information in a company’s database only available to employees of a certain seniority.

Lack of secure authentication procedures can open the door to potential cyberattacks. Lack of secure authorization services can lead to accidents and mistakes in which secure, valuable data is compromised. E-commerce organizations should work to establish strong authentication and authorization protocols for its staff and systems.

Display E-Commerce Security Initiatives to Customers

Once security measures are in place, businesses should make sure they are evident for customers to see. A hypothetical example: a website for an e-commerce company doesn’t indicate the company’s security protocols. The website’s URL is an unsecured HTTP address rather than a secured (HTTPS) version. The payment page has no indicator of the company’s payment processing tool or whether that tool is certified.

In this example, the website isn’t adequately displaying its e-commerce security initiatives to customers, according to Tripwire. Even though the website or e-commerce company itself might still face a cyberattack or threat in the future, the reminder that these digital safeguards exist can help establish trust with its customer base.

Communicate to Consumers That Data Is Protected

Similar to how e-commerce organizations can take steps to display their security initiatives on their websites, companies can take the additional step to communicate to their customers that their data is protected and secure. This can include adding language indicating that data won’t be sold to third parties or describing the advanced security measures taken to protect consumer data.

While it may be impossible to prevent a cyberattack or data from being compromised, consumers will readily use an e-commerce website from a company that takes their website security needs seriously and lets their customers know how they do so.

Anticipate and Address Different E-Commerce Security Attacks

Cyberattacks and e-commerce security threats aren’t uniform in scope or impact. Some attacks may be purely to vandalize an e-commerce organization’s website, while others may attempt to access and compromise sensitive financial information. It’s uncertain when attacks may happen, but it’s important that e-commerce organizations understand what differentiates attacks, as well as how to be prepared.


Phishing is a cybercriminal attack that sends an email that looks legitimate but is a veiled attempt to steal a user’s personal information, such as credit card and Social Security numbers. For example, a cybercriminal can create an email that has the same design, style and function as an email from a major bank or financial institution.

In that email, there can be a message stating that the user’s account information has been compromised and thus the user must reset the account ID and password. Clicking on a link in the email can lead the user to a phony login screen requesting an account ID and a password, which would go into a cybercriminal’s hands.

Steps to address phishing attacks include warnings to consumers to only trust emails sent from a secure email address and instructing employees to only input their personal information in secure websites. The Federal Trade Commission also recommends that users install proper, up-to-date e-commerce security software; use multifactor authentication; and back up data that can be compromised.


According to Norton, malware is “software that is specifically designed to gain access to or damage a computer, usually without the knowledge of the owner.” For example, someone who streams a pirated movie online from an untrustworthy website may download a malware program without knowing it. The malware may then collect data about that person’s location, financial information, logins and passwords.

Norton offers practical advice for stopping malware threats, such as being cognizant about opening email attachments and not visiting websites that seem suspicious, as well as other tips for securing a website.

SQL Injection

An SQL injection attack is more advanced than phishing or malware and can obstruct a website or an organization’s data. SQL refers to Structured Query Language and is a computing language used for maintaining and modifying information in a database. SQL Server refers to a type of database management system developed by Microsoft, according to Techopedia.

An SQL injection is “an attack in which malicious code is inserted into strings that are later passed to an instance of SQL Server for parsing and execution,” according to Microsoft Docs. In other words, an SQL injection can lead to a different command being executed than what was initially intended.

Microsoft recommends that individuals validate all input by not making assumptions about content or data and taking extra steps to ensure that the SQL code is sound and secure.

Denial-of-Service Attack

Denial-of-service (DoS) attacks occur when cybercriminals send a large amount of digital “traffic” that overwhelms an organization’s digital services, such as its website or its email functionalities. “DoS attacks can cost an organization both time and money while their resources and services are inaccessible,” according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

To combat DoS attacks, companies should have strong protection services that detect abnormal traffic patterns, and should implement a robust recovery plan in the aftermath of an attack.

Additional Threats

Individuals and organizations can become victims of man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks. In these types of attacks, a cybercriminal “positions himself in a conversation between a user and an application—either to eavesdrop or to impersonate one of the parties, making it appear as if a normal exchange of information is underway,” according to Imperva.

A type of MITM attack can involve a user who’s trying to access a public Wi-Fi network, such as at a coffee shop. A cybercriminal can create another Wi-Fi network with similar features as that of the network at the coffee shop, causing the user to unwittingly connect to the fake network.

Eavesdropping attacks are types of digital threats in which a cybercriminal can monitor traffic being sent between a client and a server, according to Investopedia. With the aforementioned MITM attack, the criminal was creating a phony Wi-Fi network to dupe users. For an eavesdropping attack, that criminal may actually monitor the traffic of a real server that coffee shop customers connect to and collect their data and information that way.

Both attacks can be prevented by having advanced cyber security measures in place, as well as taking precautions when accessing certain networks and sharing information online.

Tips and Resources for Ensuring Future E-Commerce Security

E-commerce organizations, as well as their customers, can take additional steps to help keep their data and information protected online.

Frequently Monitor and Update Technology and Equipment

Cyber security attacks and threats are constantly evolving, sometimes faster than the security tools and procedures to address them. This means that an e-commerce company can have state-of-the-art cyber security procedures one day and then find their defense protocols outdated the next.

Updating technology and equipment as frequently as possible can help organizations to stay protected from new, emerging cyber threats. “With cyber security threats changing at a rapid pace, always pay attention to update notifications and run them as soon as they become available,” writes Alniz Popat for Entrepreneur. “These updates are made in response to the latest cyber threats and are therefore a key tool in the fight against cyber attacks.”

Establish and Improve E-Commerce Security Protocols

An e-commerce company may develop a strong initial set of guidelines to address cyber threats, but as that company grows and evolves, it must reevaluate its cyber security needs to ensure that it’s taking the proper steps to keep information and data safe and secure. This may include updating password protocols, conducting security training seminars and reevaluating corporate data-sharing policies.

React Swiftly and Efficiently When Attacks Do Occur

A DoS attack will likely cause damage, even for secure websites. How much damage, though, depends upon how much an e-commerce organization is prepared for the attack, as well as how efficiently it responds to it. Knowing what steps to take if such an attack occurs, what tasks need to be performed by which individuals, and how to access and safeguard data that may be compromised can help organizations recover from the attack and minimize damage.

Learn About Current and Future E-Commerce Security Threats

Today, there are more types of digital devices, programs and platforms than ever before. This means that there are also more types of cyberattacks and e-commerce threats that can impair their functionality. Individuals and organizations who are well versed in e-commerce security and aware of potential threats will be in the best position to keep their personal and pertinent information safe and secure.