Cyber Criminals – Retail Networks
It’s Complicated: Cyber Criminals Thrive Within Complex Retail Networks
By CP Morey, Director of Product Marketing, Cisco Security Group
Given that a major breach seems to come up at least once a month, it’s safe to say the adversary is especially interested in targeting the retail industry. The intentions are pretty simple: steal as much credit card information and personal data as possible, and then exploit it for financial gain.
The incidents are taking a toll and impacting consumer confidence. Organizations in just about every sector, not just retail, face a 66 percent compound annual growth rate of detected incidents, with the average cost of each breach in 2014 estimated at $5.4 million. Beyond that, more than 10 percent of consumers have indicated they would stop shopping at a retailer hit by a breach. Over the last few years hacking has become industrialized with dedicated groups adding structure and resources to reap the greatest financial gain, targeting retailers and credit card data in droves. As more and more incidents are reported, concerns have grown to the point where nearly one of five consumers now strictly pay with cash at stores.
And while the underlying motivation of attackers is easy to understand, they’re taking advantage of greater opportunities due to growing complexities – specifically the increasingly intricate nature of network systems.
In-store advancements are creating new vulnerabilities. In the past, the networks essentially existed to connect POS systems to back-end servers and the corporate wide-area network (WAN). But this set-up no longer suffices. To gain a competitive edge, many retail organizations are turning to developing technologies and business strategies that require new platforms that support marketing campaigns, such as in-store Wi-Fi access as a key customer loyalty tool. Meanwhile, employees need to use the Intranet and Internet to do their jobs, while facility managers rely on a distributed network of sensors to monitor alarms, video cameras, and heating and cooling systems.
In other words, there’s a lot going on, and companies require the Internet and third-party networks to make it happen. In addition, POS systems – which are relatively susceptible to compromise – are now commonly linked to the public Internet to enable both remote operations and support.
Adversaries, of course, are well aware of these factors, and are increasingly exploiting security gaps in these networks. This means retailers have to increase protection against attacks coming through external connections. Given the formidable challenges, here are three, critical ‘must dos’:
- Streamline store oversight. The network has gotten more complicated. But you can simplify your approach to safeguarding it, as cloud-based deployments establish better security with less managerial oversight. They’ll scale to offer protection down to the store level without requiring any additional hardware, while allowing managers to maintain and monitor the in-store network without on-site tech support. Another benefit: Cloud solutions can forward only ‘high-risk’ traffic to the central office for assessment, while letting low-risk traffic pass. This saves considerable bandwidth in comparison to solutions that send all traffic to a central company area for review.
- Extend the security capability portfolio. There are endless ways for hackers to launch an attack, and they’re always fine-tuning their methods. Your solutions must deploy a range of tactics to detect malware, including traditional malware signatures, file and site reputation and outbreak filters. The tools should readily integrate with complementary defense layers, community-based threat intelligence and sophisticated behavioral analysis and anomaly detection. With building awareness of emerging threat trends, tools need to automatically update so retail security leaders can adjust in real-time. Again, cloud-based solutions are leading the charge here.
- Gain greater insights through smarter reporting. Manual reporting is out. Web-based, template-driven reporting is in. It’s easy to customize, and reveals both traditional security metrics as well as detailed analysis of bandwidth usage. This boosts network efficiency, paving the way for brand-benefiting technologies such as Wi-Fi for guests. At the same time, the solutions monitor for unacceptable content browsing on the part of employees or customers, and then block it. (Beyond security, they’ll lend valuable insights for departments such as marketing, by analyzing comparison shopping habits of customers using the Wi-Fi.)
Clearly, we live in a complex world. The rapid pace of tech advancements in combination with market pressures is pushing retailers into the next frontier of innovation – and potential security risks. Keep in mind, however, that the basic premise of cyber attacks is rooted in a fundamental dynamic which is as old as crime itself: Crooks want to take things that don’t belong to them. Thanks to cloud-based solutions, you can adapt simpler, more efficient techniques to protect what’s rightfully yours.