Why Cloud Hosting Security Is Important For E-Commerce Websites

Why Cloud Hosting Security Is Important For E-Commerce Websites

Assuming you run a local store in a shopping mall. What security measures would you have in place? 

For the best results, you’ll have several security guards patrolling the mall and a safe for storing money. You might also install CCTV cameras to keep track of who comes in and out of your store.

Any online merchant will tell you that e-commerce websites face threats from hackers and other unauthorized users every day. 

Unlike physical stores that serve customers face-to-face, online businesses deal with a whole new set of security challenges, including threats from hackers and other unauthorized users.

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A hacker may exploit vulnerabilities in the software that powers your website. The folks who maintain this software (system administrators as they’re best known) are more interested in building sites than stopping hackers.

In other words, you need a separate team of security experts to ensure the safety of your online store. These people will be tasked with monitoring your website for suspicious activity, as well as implementing other security measures.

It’s no surprise that hosting companies provide a range of extra services aimed at increasing the security of websites hosted with them. The problem is that not all cloud hosting services offer the same level of protection. 

It’s always good to ensure the web hosting company you choose matches your security needs and offers the right level of protection.

If an attacker gains access to your web server, they can steal sensitive data such as credit card numbers and customer addresses. They can install malware to infect your customers’ computers. A hacker could also use your website for phishing by redirecting visitors to a fake version of your website

That said, let’s take a look at how cloud hosting can help you keep your e-commerce site safe and secure.

5 Potential Security Risks an Ecommerce Site is Exposed to

The e-commerce industry is the most vulnerable to attacks, attracting 32.4% of cybercrimes. That’s because these sites and apps store and exchange critical and sensitive information, which is catnip to people with malicious intent.

You need to watch out for a few common security threat categories specifically:

  1. Distributed Denial of Service Attacks (DDoS Attacks)

    Hackers make your site or app unavailable to users in a DDoS attack by overloading the servers with malicious traffic.
    What happens is that hackers flood your website’s server with requests from thousands of untraceable and potentially harmful IP addresses. They’re able to do this by manipulating IoT devices.
    That causes your website to go offline, creating room for more vicious attacks, such as phishing and malware infection.How Rampant Are these Attacks?
    The frequency of DDoS attacks has been on the rise in recent years. For example, the last quarter of 2020 saw the attacks increasing by 10%. While some people may see this as a success, considering it’s a reduction from the previous year, we witnessed a massive and long-lasting spike in these attacks when the coronavirus pandemic struck. The number is even expected to double in 2022.

    How this Threat Affects Your Business
    This security threat is known for causing your businesses thousands of dollars in lost revenue and mitigation (not less $40 000 per attack in most cases). However, the costliest damage is reputational – imagining losing your customers’ trust and confidence. That’s according to 78% of website security professionals surveyed by Corero Network Solution (CNS). Not only that. 69% of security professionals report that they experience one DDoS attack, on average, per day.

    Why Cloud Hosting Security Is Important For E-Commerce Websites 1

  2. Credit Card Fraud

    Credit card fraud is when someone uses a stolen or fake credit card to make purchases from your store. Once the thief receives their order, they simply cancel the order, and your business stand to lose a lot of money.
    It’s the most common security threat facing e-commerce sites today, with more than 393,207 cases reported in 2020. The good news is that experts expect this number to reduce in the coming years.
    Credit card fraud cases are difficult to trace. If you’ve lost money to this security threat, the only way you can recuperate your losses is by filing a dispute with your payment provider and hoping that they rule in your favour.

  3. Malware Injections

    A malware injection is an attack that compromises your website’s code by injecting a malicious script into it. The hacker then gains access to the sensitive information on your customers’ computers, their personal data, logins, passwords, and financial details.
    Usually, it starts with a DDoS attack. After the server crashes under too much traffic, the hacker injects their malware into your site’s webpages and downloads necessary information from your users’ browsers.

  4. How this Threat Affects Your Business
    Malware injections can be costly, both in terms of money and reputation. While everyone knows how serious these attacks are, they’re still not uncommon.
    According to AV-Test Institute, over 1.3 billion malware programs are out there on the prowl, affecting more than 18 million websites. The average malware distribution rate for a website is roughly 120,000+ attacks. The high number of infected sites can be attributed to the lack of proper security solutions and vigilance on web admins.How this Threat Affects Your Business
    The malware is inserted into webpages through SQL injections, allowing hackers to:
    – Fake or spoof their identity
    – Tamper with your database
    – Seize control of your computers and network
    – Send malicious emails to your customers, clients, or partners on your behalf
    – Gain access to your system’s data

    Hackers don’t sleep. They’re constantly updating their malware to avoid detection. The only way to combat them is to have a well-rounded security system in place. It also helps to install a firewall to monitor your site’s activities at all times. Most importantly, try to store as little information as possible to prevent it from getting into the wrong hands.

  5. Bad Bots

    Not all bots are bad. A good example is Google bots, usually sent over by Google to crawl your website and catalogue its contents for SEO rankings. Google also has other bots for checking your site’s health, looking for broken links and other errors, and so on.
    On the other hand, bad bots are designed by hackers specifically to harm your website. These bots are used in DDoS attacks and pass the URL of your website to other web bots, which use it for spamming. They can also steal information from company databases, tamper with files on your servers, or bombard your site with unwanted traffic.How this Threat Affects Your Business
    Bad bots mimic human workflows. They can be a threat to your e-commerce website in the following ways:

    Credit Card Fraud: Some bad bots are designed to target your customers’ credit card details specifically. They’ll repeatedly try to figure out their credit card number, name, expiry date, and CVV. Once they have this information, they can successfully replicate the card and use it to purchase anything they want.
    Data Theft: Hackers can also use bad bots to exploit vulnerabilities in your website. That way, they can access sensitive information about your users, like their logins/passwords, credit card numbers, addresses, phone numbers, and other personal details.
    Account Acquisition: Bad bots can also be used to get your customers to click on malicious links. Once they do, the bad bot will intercept the traffic and fill out their account form with the user information from earlier attacks. That way, they can access sensitive company data without anybody noticing.
    Price Scrapping: Your competitors may also use bad bots to get their hands on your pricing strategy, marketing plans, inventory levels, and more, allowing them to undercut their prices and snag away your customers.

    How to Protect Your Site Against This Threat
    Bad bots are a constant threat, but they can be contained with effective security software. Be keen to spot warning signs like unusual traffic spikes or any suspicious changes to your site’s statistics.
    Ensure the security software you use doesn’t conflict with other plugins and extensions on your website, as this can make it easy for bots to access your system undetected.

  6. E-Skimming
    E-skimming is a sophisticated cyber attack that uses misguided external links and portals to capture vital payment information, such as credit card numbers and PINs.
    In a nutshell, e-skimming is a malicious form of phishing that uses fake but realistic-looking websites to trick users into sharing their private information.How this Threat Can Affect Your Business
    E-skimming compromises your customers’/clients’ financial data, leading to loss of earnings and revenue, as well as a damaged reputation. Hackers can also use e-skimming to bypass your website’s security verification and make unauthorized purchases.How to Protect Your Website Against This Threat
    The best way to protect against this threat is by masking your site with highly-complex passwords, or even better, two-factor authentication codes or biometric data. You can also use complex image files on your website that are difficult for bots to read.
    Hackers use bad bots to steal customer data, sabotage your website’s traffic flow, and access your system without anyone noticing. Therefore, you should always ensure you have strong security measures in place to protect your site visitors against this threat.

What’s Cloud Hosting?

Cloud hosting differs from traditional single-server hosting because it distributes your website content across different servers spread across different locations and connected via the internet. The technology uses virtual machines to access the servers across the cloud and manage your site.

Cloud hosting is a relatively new technology that’s peaking up steam fast, mostly because of its benefits over traditional hosting. 

A Quick Overview of Cloud Hosting as it Relates to E-commerce

The e-commerce market is unbelievably competitive and incredibly lucrative if you’re agile and smart.

One way to go about it is to make sure those who manage your e-commerce stores keep pace with the latest technology.

That’s why, as a business owner or manager, you need to embrace the cloud.

Cloud computing is a service model that provides shared resources and tools to computers and other devices via the internet. It has been made possible by hyper-scale data centres filled with racks of servers. If anything, the bulk of servers powering your email inboxes, online shopping accounts, and much more are hosted in these data centres.

It is now possible to have your own server space with cloud hosting, making it easy for you to manage your e-commerce website without worrying about infrastructure issues.

Why Cloud Hosting?

Cloud hosting offers a high level of flexibility and agility to e-commerce websites. We’ve all seen the benefits of cloud hosting in the months following the Covid-19 outbreak. Ecommerce businesses that opted for cloud hosting experienced little to no disruption in their service, unlike their competitors, who opted for traditional server hosting.

Web owners also prefer cloud hosting because it scales based on demand. If a spike in traffic is detected, the cloud immediately responds by dispatching more resources to your e-commerce website. It also dynamically manages server load to ensure all your customers get optimal access speeds and uninterrupted services.

Cloud hosting is also more efficient and can store sensitive data across a distributed network of servers instead of a single server. That means you’ll have an improved level of security and protection against threats, such as bad bots and e-skimming.

Cloud Hosting Offers Advanced Security to Your Ecommerce Site

Ecommerce sites handle and process a lot of sensitive information. Customers entrust them with their credit card details, email addresses, and even biometric data.

For this reason, your security needs to be top-notch.

When you opt for cloud hosting, your e-commerce website is automatically protected against attacks and intrusions. Cloud hosting offers advanced network security controls not available in traditional server hosting. Authentication, access control, intrusion detection systems, round-the-clock monitoring of activity logs — all these features come standard with cloud hosting.

This means your e-commerce website is safe from all kinds of threats. You can prevent data leakage, keep hackers at bay, and make sure there’s complete transparency in all transactions.

What Makes Cloud Storage More Secure?

First, it’s the tools they use to secure their cloud network. The basic principles for storing the data may be the same as any other network environment, but the tools and mechanisms for securing it are cloud-specific.

Second, the cloud employs state-of-the-art technologies. They also follow strict guidelines and policies for IT environments. From the physical security of their data centers to the logical security of your cloud storage, they have strict guidelines for maintaining a highly secure environment.

It’s also worth mentioning that cloud servers are usually audited and certified by independent third-party auditors. These auditors are tasked with checking these data centers’ security, availability, and resiliency. After which, they have to assure customers that these data centers employ high-level security measures and that their storage is secure enough to resist attacks.

The best part is that while you might not have the technical know-how or experience in securing your e-commerce site, all this is taken care of for you with cloud hosting.

Regulatory Compliance and Cloud Hosting

Cloud servers must meet a series of compliance requirements. They have to meet System and Organization Control (SOC) standards at the most basic level. SOC 1 is a compliance requirement that ensures the cloud service provider has limited access to the hosted data and information systems.

SOC 2 compliance, on the other hand, evaluates the system’s processing integrity, privacy, security, confidentiality, and availability based on System Trust and Web Trust principles. 

Many cloud hosting services providers have also received certification to show they’re HIPAA and HITECH compliant.

That is particularly important for e-commerce stores that deal with medical or healthcare-related products and services. HIPAA compliance ensures that healthcare data is safe from unauthorized access, modification, disclosure, and loss.

Complying with PCI DSS  standards is also an important factor for e-commerce websites that process credit card transactions. Any service provider who processes sensitive information such as financial records must be PCI compliant to ensure the safety of this sensitive data.

Best Practices for Choosing a Secure Cloud Hosting Service for an Ecommerce Website

The biggest challenge you’ll have when choosing a cloud hosting service for your e-commerce site is security. It is important to go with a service provider that guarantees strict security measures, especially in the data centres.

Their connectivity to the internet must also be secured using firewalls and intrusion detection systems. Even the physical security of their data centres must be airtight.

Another critical aspect is the service provider’s disaster recovery plan. If your site suddenly goes down because of a network failure or server crash, will they be able to restore your site up within seconds?

How do they handle customer information? And most importantly, do they use multi-factor authentication. Their customer support team must also answer your security questions and concerns.

For e-commerce businesses, it is wiser to choose a service provider that specializes in high-tech web hosting solutions for large enterprises and business websites. Look for a company with highly reliable servers and advanced hardware infrastructure alongside comprehensive security measures and protocols.

For sure, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a service provider that can deliver top-notch security measures. Cloud hosting services are, after all, not immune to data breaches and hacking attempts.

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So, how do you find a cloud hosting provider that’s all that? What are some of the things an e-commerce site should look for in a cloud hosting service?

Look for a Partner, Not Just a Cloud Hosting Service: Think long-term. Instead of looking for a hosting service, look for a trustworthy and reliable partner who can help you grow your business.

Communication is a critical ingredient in this relationship. A good service provider will answer your questions, especially regarding security concerns.

A good partnership also means the two of you are in this for the long haul, through thick and thin. When your site gets hit by a DDoS attack, for example, the service provider must be willing to work with you to get your site back up and running in no time.

They Must Have a Dedicated Security Team: A dedicated team of security analysts who are responsible for protecting your site from DDoS attacks, spamming issues, malware infestations, and data breaches must be part of the service you’re looking for.

They should also have a comprehensive security policy in place that lets you know what to do when incidents such as these occur.

The company must be willing to share its network and security infrastructure with you so that they can understand your business better and provide the right security solutions.

The Right Security Tools: If possible, take a look at their security tools in action. What is their anti-virus and malware detection software like?

Can they detect zero-day attacks, or do they need manual flagging? What about DDoS protections? Can you also block access to your site based on the user’s IP address geo-location?

Do They Have a Security Policy That Covers Their Partners: Look for a provider that has comprehensive security measures in place and understands the importance of partner cooperation when it comes to security.

They must have a dedicated security policy covering their clients and partners – especially with access to their data center or network infrastructure.

If one of their business partners’ security protocols gets breached, for instance, how could you be sure that the same thing won’t happen to you? It pays off to know these things before signing up.

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24/7 Customer Support: A reliable hosting provider must be available 24/7 to address your concerns and give you the assistance you need, especially during emergencies.

Their customer support team must be willing to go the extra mile by providing you with proactive and preventive solutions that minimize security risks.

Let’s say you wake up in the middle of the night, and you find out that your website is online. You head over to Facebook, where you find angry messages from customers. They’re complaining about how they can’t access your store.

You call your hosting company, only to find out that their customer support is offline or not responding. Imagine the frustration. 

Their Security Audits Are Up-To-Date: Be sure to look into their security audits. Make sure the cloud hosting service you choose follows industry-standard security protocols and best practices, so you can feel safe knowing that they have a good grasp of the need to fine-tune their protection measures now and then.

They should also inform you when they upgrade their tools and processes – like updating the latest versions of anti-virus software. Aside from upgrading their security measures, they should also have a plan in place for quickly reacting to natural disasters and other threats that your business is exposed to.

Integration with Ecommerce Solutions: Find out if the service can integrate with your e-commerce solution. Note that the sheer number of applications and platforms out there is a lot to keep up with.

So, if the solution can integrate with any solution, it shows that they’re keeping up with the latest developments in the e-commerce industry.

Key Pillars of Robust Cloud Security

What do the top three cloud providers — Amazon Web Service, Google Cloud Platform, and Microsoft Azure — have in common?

They all offer native security features and third-party security solutions essential to achieving enterprise-grade cloud workload protection against data leaks, breaches, and other cyber attacks.

To add to that, Amazon also announced Amazon Macie, a machine learning tool that discovers and protects sensitive data in AWS.

Only an integrated security solution can provide seamless protection across cloud, on-premise, and hybrid cloud infrastructure. 

That said, here are the seven pillars of robust cloud security:

  1. Web Application Firewall (WAF) — This is an application firewall that controls what traffic is allowed to enter the network or be passed to other systems within the network. WAFs can prevent common web-based attacks such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), and other code injection attacks.

  2. Granular, Policy-based IAM — This security measure enables or restricts access to web resources. Using this feature, you can set granular per-user permissions and define the resources that the user can access. 
  3. Granular, Policy-based Identity and Access Management — This security measure enables or restricts access to web resources at the granular level. Using this feature, you can set per-user permissions and define which resources they can access. It provides fine-grained access control to resources and secures the system from any unauthorized access. It’s designed to only minimal access privileges to resources and APIs to authorized users. When integrated with other security solutions, it can also enforce multi-factor authentication ( MFA ) to secure sensitive data and transactions.
  4. Zero-trust Cloud Network Security Controls: This feature lets you deploy business-critical apps and resources in logically isolated sections of the cloud network, such as Google’s (and AWS’s) Virtual Private Cloud and Azure’s vNET. You can use subnets to microsegment workloads, placing granular controls on each microsegment.

  5. Real-time Visibility and Control: This feature makes it possible to assess, track, and understand your cloud infrastructure’s constantly changing security state. It allows administrators to go back in time and look at how a particular change or deployment has affected their network’s security posture.  
  6. Enforcement of Security Policies: This feature ensures that security policies are applied across your network. These include multi-factor authentication, encryption of data in transit and at rest, rate-limiting of API calls, and others. It empowers cloud admins to define and enforce granular rules on network traffic based on user identity, application type, geo-location data, time of the day, or other factors.  
  7. Policy-Based Encryption: This feature encrypts all your data in transit across public clouds leveraging robust encryption protocols such as SSL/TLS, SSH, HTTPS, and others. By enforcing encryption across the network, this solution makes it difficult for extruders and hackers to eavesdrop and sniff packets in transit.  
  8. Threat Intelligence: Third-party security analytics and threat intelligence can be integrated with a cloud security solution to identify emerging threats in the network, such as botnets, mobile malware, network vulnerabilities, and other malicious attacks. It also provides enhanced visibility into the traffic flow across the automated SDDC [ Software-defined Data Center ] infrastructure to prevent data exfiltration.

Cloud-related Security Challenges Faced by Ecommerce Users

Cloud security services can’t prevent all threats, but they can provide extensive protection against common web-based attacks. As more and more businesses embrace cloud adoption, the more they’re introduced to a new set of security challenges never experienced in the past.

Here are the top seven security challenges faced by cloud users:

Broader Threat Landscape: 

As more businesses embrace cloud adoption, the more the cloud environment grows, becoming a prime target for data breaches and a whole new playground for hackers.

As the attack surface in the cloud is expanded, with more VMs [Virtual Machines], endpoints, and network segments added to your infrastructure, this makes it harder to maintain visibility into what’s happening in the network. Moreover, compared to traditional IT networks, web-facing assets are exposed 24/7, and, the worst part, they’re often overlooked.

Therefore, it’s critical to adopt a multi-layer cloud security solution to provide continuous network monitoring and threat visibility across the virtualized data center.

Lack of Control:  

Most cloud providers don’t offer complete visibility into the underlying infrastructure, posing a challenge to cloud users. They can’t tell if security policies are being enforced across all VMs and endpoints or if certain VMs are infected by malware.

That’s because the service provider handles everything – from maintenance to upgrades and security. 

As a cloud user, you have little to no knowledge about what’s happening behind the scene. You can’t supervise the process or exercise control in how the company is handling and orchestrating security. 

Automation in DevOps:

Cloud adoption is more common among businesses that embrace DevOps—a set of practices designed to speed up applications’ development, testing, and deployment. This includes infrastructure-as-code (IAC), where admins use cloud APIs to automate infrastructure provisioning and management.

These business applications require both a higher level of availability and security. However, due to the dynamic nature of cloud infrastructure, end-to-end visibility into security policies isn’t possible.

This leads to an increased risk of attacks that can rapidly accelerate due to the automation in DevOps. We suggest integrating your cloud security solution with popular automation tools such as Puppet, Chef, and Ansible to curb the risk.

Weak Access management: 

While access to your cloud environment must be restricted, one of the main challenges in leveraging multi-tenancy is how you manage user access across multiple clouds.

When an employee leaves the organization, it’s critical to remove their access immediately to prevent them from sharing data or network credentials with third parties.

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The point is none of your staff members should have access to more information than what’s needed to do their job. These same security rules should also apply to cloud administrators and virtual machine admins. While it’s possible to revoke manual access, this can cause disruptions in the workflow and storage problems if not handled properly.

Inconsistent Security: 

Large organizations often use multi-cloud or hybrid cloud environments to cut costs. But when adopting multi-cloud, it’s crucial to maintain consistent security policies and controls across all cloud providers. 

Since organizations often employ different teams for managing cloud environments with each provider, this can weaken governance and increase the risk of data leaks across multiple networks.

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About the Author

Tom Koh

Tom is the CEO and Principal Consultant of MediaOne, a leading digital marketing agency. He has consulted for MNCs like Canon, Maybank, Capitaland, SingTel, ST Engineering, WWF, Cambridge University, as well as Government organisations like Enterprise Singapore, Ministry of Law, National Galleries, NTUC, e2i, SingHealth. His articles are published and referenced in CNA, Straits Times, MoneyFM, Financial Times, Yahoo! Finance, Hubspot, Zendesk, CIO Advisor.


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