How to Secure Your eCommerce Website 


Hacking continues to be an expensive issue for private and public enterprises. According to online data, the yearly average data breach cost in 2022 cost US$4.35 million, a 2.6% rise from 2021’s US$4.24 million.

CISCO’s 2021 Cybersecurity Threat Trends research shows that phishing attacks are responsible for more than 80% of reported security incidents with about 90% of data breaches occurring due to phishing. Such attacks are avoidable and such high rates of attack are somewhat shocking. Most computer users believe they are security conscious; attack rates would suggest otherwise.

The cost of attacks is high and can cripple a business. According to the World Economic Forum, the cost of cyber attacks varies based on the type of attack.

The average cost of cyber attacks due to:

  • Malware: US$1.4 million
  • Denial-of-Service (DOS): US$1.1 million
  • Malicious insiders: US$1.2 million
  • Web-based cyber attacks: US$1.4 million

For businesses, it’s not just the cost of the attack, but the reputational damage, customer exodus and potential fines that can dissolve a business.

However, these attacks are generally launched when a site proves it has ineffective security features that are easily exploited. While some of the biggest stories of hacking are against government agencies or large corporations, smaller eCommerce companies are often targeted by opportunists.

When developing your eCommerce platform, there are three areas of website security to consider;

  • site architecture
  • site security
  • additional security

Within these three categories, there are a number of considerations to be taken into account and this is what we will explore.

Best Practices to Improve Your eCommerce Website

Complete website security relies on the integration of robust features and the following of best practices. From conceptualizing your eCommerce website, you need to plan for the most robust security measures feasible to ensure the security of your online stores.

The first question eCommerce merchants generally ask after deciding to launch is “Which web builder is the best for our eCommerce?”

The development process will present many challenges, but the most crucial point is how to secure your site. Your developer can recommend the best solutions for your choice of architecture, storage and payment gateway. There are some basic eCommerce site protections that need to be implemented to protect your business, protect your customers and comply with security standards. While these standards are not an international requirement, they are norms that online users are accustomed to looking for to determine the security of an eCommerce website.


Ensure PCI DSS Compliance

Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a set of security standards designed to ensure that all businesses that accept, process, store or transmit credit card information do so in a secure environment. Each of the five payment card brands (American Express, Discover, JCB, Mastercard and Visa) has compliance programs, including thresholds for the levels of PCI DSS compliance. Businesses can ensure data security by complying with the PCI DSS standard.

  • Level 1: Merchants that process over 6 million card transactions annually.
  • Level 2: Merchants that process 1 to 6 million transactions annually.
  • Level 3: Merchants that process 20,000 to 1 million transactions annually.
  • Level 4: Merchants that process fewer than 20,000 transactions annually.


To access complete information about the PCI DSS’s standardised, industry-wide requirements and processes, it is best to research government websites for your region of operations. The various security controls ensure that payment card and cardholder data are protected.

  • There are 6 control objectives, which are split into 12 requirements (and these are further divided into hundreds of sub-requirements).

Using a third-party payment processor to keep customers’ data from your website is one of the critical protective measures for ensuring the safety of customers’ financial data from hacking. This removes a customer’s financial details from your site by using a third-party payment gateway.

When you are in the eCommerce website development stage you can choose a suitable payment gateway compatible with your site. You should search for a provider that is compatible with security standards, has a proven record and is a cost-effective solution for your business.

Change Website Default Passwords 

As soon as any new module or plugin is installed on your site, you need to reset the default password(s) created by the developer. Default passwords are usually very easy to guess, such as “admin” and “1234”. The reason developers do this is to make it easy for them to access a site as they are working and before launch. Often developers will use a basic password so they can pass the finished work to you with ease. It is your responsibility as the merchant to change those passwords and keep a secure record of your access codes.

Automated Monitoring Software to Track Changes in Core Files

Regular monitoring of your website’s core files can be a good way to detect cyber threats early. Security monitoring tools are used to analyze network data and discover network threats. Tracking any changes and detecting security issues before they become severe is an automated process. Systems are continuously observing traffic behaviour on the network for data breaches and cyber threats and sending an alert so the threat can be mitigated.

Regular Backups of Website Data 

Backups can protect your business from disaster. Regularly backing up your website data can ensure your site can be fully restored in the event of a glitch, natural disaster or hacking event. Daily backups are recommended for all businesses. As cyberattacks become more sophisticated over time, robust data backup and recovery solutions are even more critical.

For instance, ransomware attacks block users from their data until a ransom is paid in cryptocurrency. Since 2018, ransomware attacks have increased by over 350%. Industry analysts predict that one business worldwide falls victim to a ransomware attack every 14 seconds.

A data backup strategy allows your eCommerce to develop a saving and restoration plan that suits the needs of your business. A backup plan means you can use the software to retrieve data and return to business as usual with minimized downtime.

The Biggest Threats to eCommerce Websites

The second layer of protection for your eCommerce website is the additional measures you can take to add layers of protection. Many of these considerations are additions to the basic building and development of your website and include layers of code to improve security.

Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)

A cross-site scripting attack involves inserting pieces of malicious code (often JavaScript) into a webpage. Cross-site scripting is directed at your traffic. The malicious code doesn’t affect your website but targets your traffic, who are exposed to malware or phishing attempts.

To safeguard your site from XSS attack:

  • Use a powerful website scanner to detect any security vulnerabilities
  • Ensure that server and site modules are updated

Phishing Attacks

Phishing is a social engineering attack. Attackers use emails, SMS, or phone calls to trick people into providing personal information like passwords, account details, birthdates and more. Cyber attackers launching phishing attacks pretend to be eCommerce shop owners and send messages or emails to customers asking for sensitive details. Hackers generally make a copy of your web page and trick users into believing it is your website, using a false link. The best way to prevent your traffic from being taken advantage of is to integrate a reliable third-party payment processor, using AVS and CVV while making an online purchase, and secure your website with HTTPS.


E-skimming is the addition of skimming code on eCommerce payment processing web pages which is intended to steal your clients’ personal details. The code steals data from HTML fields, including credit card data and other credentials. The attack is also known as web skimming, formjacking or a magecart attack. The skimmed data is submitted to a server under the control of the attacker which is then either sold or used to make fraudulent purchases.

This type of attack is increasing in frequency, and the attacks can go undetected for a long time. This can lead to massive reputational damage for your eCommerce.

To help protect your eCommerce, the following security measures are recommended:

  • Ensuring MFA and strong passwords are used to access the site.
  • Using a malware monitor with web skimming-specific capabilities.
  • Running automated vulnerability audits on the platform including audits of installed third-party components on a regular basis.
  • Implementing Content Security Policy (CSP) and Subresource Integrity (SRI)makes it harder to inject malicious code into your store.
  • Ensuring that only specific IPs can access the control panel of your store.
  • Ensuring updates of security patches and critical software updates are installed.

SQL Injections

Structured Query Language (SQL) Injection creates a web security vulnerability that allows an attacker to view data that they are not normally able to retrieve. Your website security is at stake if you store users’ data in SQL without the correct security precautions.

When you ask users to provide information on your website via forms or any other medium, if that data is not validated accurately, it may cause an SQL Injection attack. This means an attacker can view sensitive user information and can also manipulate your database. When your site is in the back-end development phase, you can choose your back-end technologies and create a database. Selecting the right technologies and implementing robust measures to protect sensitive user data is essential at this stage of development. Regular automated scanning of your website for vulnerabilities can help you fight against SQL Injections.

Brute Force Attack

A brute-force attack is launched by hackers to obtain access to a website, account or network. Once they have breached your website, they may then install malware, shut down web applications or conduct data breaches. A simple brute-force attack commonly uses automated tools to guess passwords. The best practices for preventing brute force attacks include:

  • Provide mandatory cyber awareness training
  • Create strong, inimitable passwords
  • Employ a CAPTCHA
  • Limit login attempts and disable root SSH logins
  • Adopt IP address monitoring
  • Use two-factor authentication
  • Adopt threat detection and network security tools
  • Use web application firewalls (WAFs)
  • Enforce the use of secure, encrypted connections among employees

The best way to prevent brute-force attacks is to limit invalid logins. This means login attempts are restricted to a certain amount before locking the IP address out. By staying vigilant, adopting good password hygiene, and securing your network, you can prevent brute-force attacks.

DoS and DDoS Attack

A denial-of-service (DoS) attack floods a server with traffic, crashing the site or service. A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack is a DoS attack that uses multiple computers or machines to flood a targeted resource. Both types of attacks overload a server or web application with the goal of interrupting services.

  • A DoS attack is a denial of service attack where a server is flooded by a computer with Transmission Control Protocol/User Datagram Protocol (TCP/UDP) packets.
  • A DDoS attack uses multiple systems to target a single system with a DoS attack. The targeted network is then bombarded with packets from multiple locations.

In such attacks, the server is flooded with more TCP/UDP packets the server can crash, data can be corrupted, and resources are misdirected or exhausted, halting the functionality of the system.

There are differences between these two attack types involving their nature and detection, including:

Ease of detection/mitigation: A DoS attack comes from a single location, making it easier to detect its origin and sever the connection. A proficient firewall can manage the task.

A DDoS attack comes from multiple remote locations, hiding its origin, and making a server connection harder to achieve.

Speed of attack: A DDoS attack can be deployed much faster than a DoS attack. This increased speed of attack makes detecting it more difficult, which can also lead to a catastrophic outcome.

Traffic volume: A DDoS attack employs zombies or bots, which are multiple remote machines, so it can send large amounts of traffic from various locations simultaneously, quickly overloading a server while eluding detection.

Manner of execution: A DDoS attack coordinates bots infected with malware, creating a botnet managed by a command-and-control (C&C) server.

A DoS attack typically relies on a script or a tool to launch an attack from a single machine.

Tracing of source(s): Botnets means that tracing the actual origin of a DDoS attack is much more complicated than tracing the origin of a DoS attack.

Types of DoS Attacks and DDoS Attacks

DoS and DDoS attacks take many forms and are launched for different ends;

  • to force loss of business
  • to distract from other attacks
  • to hurt a competitor
  • to assert a point of view or make a statement.

These attacks take the following common forms.

Flooding Attack

A flooding attack is a DoS attack. It sends multiple connection requests to a server and then does not respond to complete the handshake. The attacker sends various requests for connection as a client, but when the server attempts to verify the connection, the attacker refuses to respond. On persistent repetition, the server becomes so inundated with pending requests that other clients cannot connect, and the server becomes “busy” or even crashes.

Teardrop Attack

A teardrop attack is a DoS attack. It sends billions of Internet Protocol (IP) data fragments to a network. When the network tries to recompile the fragments into their original packets, it cannot complete the task. The attacker changes the packet disassembly to confuse the targeted system, which cannot reassemble the fragments into the original packets.

Volumetric Attack

A volumetric attack is a type of DDoS attack. It is used to target bandwidth resources. The attacker uses a botnet to send a high volume of request packets to a network, overwhelming its bandwidth with Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) echo requests. This slows or even freezes the site entirely.

IP Fragmentation Attack

An IP fragmentation attack is a type of DoS attack. It sends altered network packets that the receiving network cannot reassemble. The network is slowed with bulky unassembled packets using its resources.

Application-based Attack

An application-based attack is a type of DDoS attack. It targets Layer 7 of the OSI model. An example is a Slowloris attack. The attacker sends partial and incomplete Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) requests. HTTP headers are periodically sent for each request, consuming the network resources. The attack continues until no new connections can be made by the server. A Slowloris attack is very difficult to detect because rather than sending corrupted packets, it sends partial packets, and it uses little to no bandwidth.

Protocol Attack

A protocol attack is a type of DDoS attack. It exploits weaknesses in Layers 3 and 4 of the OSI model. The attacker exploits the TCP connection sequence, sending requests, but either not answering as expected or responding with another request using a fake source IP address. Unanswered requests use the resources of the network until it fails.

How to Prevent Attacks

Protecting your eCommerce platform from attack means investing in the protocols and measures that can detect and deter attacks.

  • Monitor your network: Identifying normal traffic patterns is critical to the early detection and mitigation of attacks.
  • Run tests to simulate DoS attacks: Assess risks, expose vulnerabilities, and train teams in cybersecurity and correct protocols.
  • Develop a protection strategy: Do backups, create checklists, and have an urgent response team in place. Define response parameters, and deploy protections that form a solid foundation for your site security.
  • Add bandwidth: More bandwidth when needed can help your network deal with spikes in traffic and can lessen the impact of any attack.

All DDoS are DoS attacks, but not all DoS are DDoS attacks.

To develop your brand, you need to provide a secure and reliable shopping experience to your customers. Aside from preventive measures, eCommerce security management must also adhere to data safety. Hiring the right web development team and expert IT consultants help to ensure your eCommerce is safe and secure, and your business can grow with confidence.


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