How to prepare for one the busiest Black Fridays on record

As we approach the festive period, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become synonymous with frantically trying to get the best shopping deals before the holidays. This has only accelerated this year with the cost of living crisis.

Despite the grim financial outlook, Alexander Goncharuk, VP of Retail at Intellias notes that “online shopping has surged recently, and 'Cyber Week 2022' might reach over $158 billion in sales”.

However, with more shoppers turning to online shopping year after year, the extra online traffic provides cyber criminals more opportunities to gain access to important personal data. With this in mind, how can customers and businesses ensure that their data is protected as much as possible? We’ve asked tech experts for their insights as we prepare for the holidays.

Criminals are ready and waiting - businesses must be prepared

"Cyber Monday is well known for being one of the last chances for retailers to hit profits before the end of the year”, notes Chris Rogers, Technology Evangelist at Zerto, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company. “Given the importance of this event, some retailers may have already been exploited, with ransomware lying dormant until it can do maximum damage - for example, early morning on Cyber Monday. By holding off, the impact of the hacker’s attack doubles: a retailer’s entire operation has been shut down on the most profitable day of the year, all while being held to ransom”.

Instead, Chris suggests that by businesses “implementing tools that deliver disaster recovery and continuous data protection (CDP), retailers will be able to get things up and running quickly when something goes wrong, limiting downtime and restoring operations in a matter of seconds or minutes, rather than days or weeks - something that is especially vital on the biggest E-commerce day of the year!".

Equally important is to protect against phishing threats, and it becomes vital to ensure that organisations are remaining compliant with any regulations they’re bound by to reduce the likelihood of such damaging attacks. Daniel Marashlian, Co-Founder and CTO of Drata, comments, “with compliance frameworks like GDPR issuing heavy fines for data mismanagement, online retailers must ensure they are operating under legislation when handling confidential data like payment methods, location, and contact details”. Instead, by “having an automated compliance and risk management platform can help alleviate some of these pressures and reduce the risk of incurring repercussions”.

Supply Chain Pains

It’s worth remembering that global supply chains have still not fully recovered from the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic, and businesses will need to ensure that existing systems can keep up. Hugh Scantlebury, Founder and CEO of Aqilla, suggests that “online shops and vendors need to ensure anticipated demand over the festive season is well served with a flexible and scalable IT infrastructure — and the supporting supply chain, order fulfilment, and accounting systems capable of meeting demand”. In doing so, “automating key processes at each stage” becomes “especially critical if businesses want to supply efficiently and effectively while reducing the incidence of human error and providing efficiencies and productivity improvements”. This notion is also shared by Alexander Goncharuk at Intellias, saying that “retailers who designed and developed their systems with scalability and the customer experience in mind

will be looking to capitalise on this year's coming holiday season. The winning formula is a scalable and cost-effective digital platform scaling on demand and permitting the product teams to respond to changing customer behaviour in real-time”.

However, businesses also “know that consumers are looking much earlier for deals this year as they have learnt to expect longer wait times for goods to be delivered”, observes Jamie Cairns, Chief Strategy Officer at Fluent Commerce. “One of the biggest challenges in retail is ‘overselling’ (taking an order that ultimately can’t be fulfilled) caused by inaccurate inventory availability data at the point of purchase. I’d expect to see this problem accentuated by higher sales volumes this year”.

Instead, he suggests that “a good quality order management system (OMS)” can provide “real-time inventory availability and can assist retailers with managing the chaos in a more profitable and efficient way.” This would then “be the difference between ongoing brand loyalty and shoppers finding another vendor to satisfy their holiday needs”.

Trust your instincts

Also, with businesses trying to tempt customers to buy their best bargains, bad actors will also try to do the same to get unsuspecting customers to click on fraudulent links. Nick Hogg, Director of Technical Training at Fortra (formerly HelpSystems), reminds us that “if an offer looks too good to be true, then it probably is. If you are questioning the legitimacy of a deal, always check the retailer’s website yourself instead of simply following social media links. It is important to be vigilant, as you could end up paying for knockoffs, never receiving any of your purchases at all, or providing personal information and card details to scammers”.

Digital Hygiene is all year-round, not just for Christmas

It’s important to remember that refreshing your cyber security skills needs to be a continuous process. This is echoed by Terry Storrar, Managing Director at Leaseweb UK, noting that “although retailers should always be vigilant with security, the busy shopping season is an incentive to spend time evaluating a network for vulnerabilities where a hacker could gain access to customer data. Retailers can put in place many levels of security to protect data and financial transactions and this could mean making changes to offer additional reassurance to customers. In fact, in a recent survey on IT trends, improving security (28%) was the most popular reason for why the UK’s IT pros made infrastructure changes to their organisation. This is a reminder that, no matter how challenging the economic climate is, security is absolutely essential”.

Finally, Robert Sugrue, Product Director of Cyber Security at Six Degrees summarises the holiday nicely, reminding us;

● “Do not click through links on emails – go to the website directly from your browser;

● Check URLs carefully, and make sure you are indeed on the website that you know and love;

● Genuine emails will provide voucher or discount codes – you will not need to use special links that take you to places that are not familiar with;

● Be aware of ‘thank you for your order’ emails that are not genuine;

● Do not hand over credit card details to people you do not know; and

● Most importantly, always ask yourself “Is this really a good deal? Do I really need it?”

“Follow this advice, and you’ll be that bit safer each time you venture online to make a purchase”.

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