The new year has arrived, and the holiday shopping rush is over. The gift wrap is back in the closet, and the street-side bell ringing is silent for another year. So, it’s safe for e-commerce business owners to heave a sigh of relief and stop worrying so much about cyber attacks…right?
True, during the year-end gift-giving season, distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on e-commerce sites spike above month-to-month averages. But there’s no reason to lighten up on security awareness during the rest of the year. Cybercrooks know that many e-commerce sites are easy pickings all year round.
E-commerce sites provide plenty of exploitable vulnerabilities to many types of attack. Malicious code injection, credit card fraud, data theft, spoofing, and DDoS attacks, the list of assaults on e-commerce systems is long. If cybercriminals can’t get into an e-commerce site by a brute-force DDoS attack, no problem, the bad guys can also take their time, find vulnerabilities, and enter a website by stealth.
Table of Contents
Putting out the E-Commerce Welcome mat
There are several ways to set up e-commerce capabilities on a website. Third-party platforms such as Shopify and Magento are the most popular way for e-commerce businesses to set up shop online. All the tools needed to do business are ready to go when e-shopkeepers sign up. Creating a custom website involves combining e-commerce software and payment-processing applications on a company’s website. Or, online shopkeepers can ask customers to pay for their purchases on a page hosted by a third-party such as PayPal.
No matter which approach is chosen, however, e-commerce sites are especially enticing to malicious actors, who specialize in DDoS attacks.
Three reasons why E-Commerce Sites are so alluring to the Bad Guys
- Modest Attack Resources can do Major Damage
When DDoS attackers look for an opportunity to disrupt and damage online businesses, they know that e-commerce sites provide an ideal environment. High-traffic online shopping days such as year-end holidays or product launches add to the normal stress of a site’s day-to-day operations, such as taking orders and payments or showing the catalog.
Under these conditions, there’s very little extra capacity available to respond when things go wrong. The result: attackers can do maximum damage with surprisingly little DDoS firepower. All it takes is a nudge from a botnet to slow transactions to a crawl or shut down a site altogether.
- Lots of Juicy Information
Attackers know that e-commerce sites are loaded with valuable (as in sellable) customer and business information. The unit price of stolen customer information might have fallen in recent years. Nevertheless, the financial yield must be satisfactory—DDoS attacks on e-commerce sites continue.
- Many E-Commerce Sites are left Unprotected
E-commerce websites are needlessly open to predation. Why? Because cyber crooks know something that many online business owners do not. Website operators are responsible for their website’s defenses. Business owners often assume that online hosting services take care of the security chores. Not so. Unless e-commerce owners engage a specialized service provider, their online stores are vulnerable to attack.
Most Common Threats on E-Commerce Sites
There are many ways that attackers can give online store owners grief. Here are four common exploits that attackers use to take advantage of e-commerce website vulnerabilities
- SQL Injection attacks occur when attackers add malicious code into an SQL statement that controls a web application’s database server. Attacking the database enables criminals to read sensitive data; insert, update, or delete database data; or shut down the database altogether.
Typical targets include product pages that store product price, description, and availability data.
- Price manipulation
You’ll find this type of attack only in online shopping systems. Some e-commerce software has a vulnerability that enables criminals to set a lower price than that established by site operators.
This exploit usually happens when the total price of a purchase is stored in HTML format. After entering the site, an attacker can use web proxies or developer tools to reduce the price that’s shown on the website. Next, the altered price passes on to the payment gateway. The fully automated payment system does not recognize the changed price unless the site includes fraud detection software.
- Unsecured authentication
E-commerce businesses often require online authentication for buyers to enter their site. Malicious users who enter sites through weak gateway defenses can register as a system administrator and obtain a wide variety of privileges.
After that, it’s all gravy for the attacker, who can now log in as the admin or another user. If the website stores the user’s card details, our cyber crook could buy items without the user’s knowledge or consent. It’s easy to imagine the loss of customer trust that this type of attack can create.
- Cross-site scripting
This type of exploits can be especially damaging to e-commerce businesses. The lack of input-output data validation in web applications makes these attacks possible. And, customer trust in an e-commerce company’s brand sets up users for social engineering attacks.
By using cross-site scripting (XSS), attackers can set up phishing exploits to steal sensitive information such as credit card numbers. In these attacks, malicious actors can inject malware directly into vulnerable web applications. Or, an attacker can embed a malware script into a link. A user’s click on the link activates the script, and our cyber attacker is off to the races.
Keeping E-Commerce Website Attackers at Bay
The variety and power of e-commerce DDoS attacks—and the damage they can do—aren’t likely to decrease anytime soon. But the good news is, all e-commerce businesses can minimize the risk and damage of these attacks.
The most comprehensive and effective way to protect an online business is to outsource defense tasks to third-party experts. This makes sense because many online business owners lack the time, budget, or technical expertise to set up and run their own security defenses. DDoS mitigation services fill these resource gaps and provide capabilities especially valuable to e-commerce businesses. Advanced, cloud-based DDoS mitigation services:
- Identify, neutralize, and clean up attacks, without distracting online shoppers or slowing transactions.
- Provide comprehensive, multi-layer defenses (AI, hardware appliances, and data scrubbing) that combat DDoS, application-layer, and other types of attack.
- Stop DDoS exploits in seconds, before damage to the website occurs.
- Provide scalable protection for companies of any size.
- Use automated defense methods that eliminate the need for time-consuming human attention.
- Prevent website downtime that cripples revenue and weakens customer trust.
There’s no need to wait for disaster to strike. All it takes to pull away from the welcome mat from DDoS attackers is to get proactive and modernize website defenses today.