Securing retail: unique environments, unique threats

4 October 2017

Cyber security is important in any industry, but the retail sector presents some particular challenges. A large-scale operation can be distributed over tens of sites, have thousands of employees, and handle the data from millions of customers, each making multiple transactions - in person and online.

Securing such a dynamic environment is a challenge, but doing so is all the more important given the potential cost of getting caught out. Hackers are looking for proprietary knowledge and IP, confidential customer data, and inventory, financial or other business information. Breaches can result in data, business and reputational losses, or (under the incoming GDPR legislation) a fine of up to 4% of worldwide turnover.


Discover how we delivered an enhanced customer experience for one of the world's longest-established car dealerships.

Most retailers already understand the need for security, and altogether too many know first-hand the cost of cyber attack. Research among retail security professionals for Cisco's mid-year cyber security report found that around half of organisations had faced public scrutiny after a data breach, and about a third had lost revenue due to attacks in the previous year. Yet securing every shop or branch to the same standard as HQ requires expertise on the ground, and about a quarter of respondents said that a lack of trained personnel was a major obstacle to improving security.

Against this background, retail is changing. Customers increasingly expect - and brands can distinguish themselves with - smart, data-rich, blended retail experiences. That means more devices, and more demands on the network, and the additional challenge of maintaining network and endpoint security without stifling the opportunities of enhanced pre-sale and PoS technology.

Rich retailing

The good news is that the technologies exist not just to open these new frontiers in retailing, but to support and secure them too. For example, cutting edge security vendor Palo Alto Networks (PAN) offers next-generation firewalls to secure network access, and Traps - cloud-connected, preemptive endpoint protection - that help protect PoS and other devices. Cisco's smart, software-defined networks support robust segmentation, helping contain breaches and underpin strong PCI DSS compliance.

At the same time, new products like Cisco's 4000 series routers help simplify the deployment, management and security of branch networks, supporting certified virtual network devices such as the PAN virtual firewall appliance. The 4000 series represents a trend toward increased flexibility and intelligence in network management - now we're seeing frameworks like Cisco's DNA Fabric beginning to make effective, centralised network management a reality.

All of the above technologies can be leveraged to help reduce the need for technical and security expertise on site, but retailers are still short of the resources they need. Cisco's mid-year report found that almost half of retail security professionals were outsourcing to fill security skills gaps within their organisation, citing cost efficiency, unbiased insight and timely incident response as the top reasons for doing so.

And that's where we come in. We're actively consulting on, implementing, and supporting these kinds of secure technologies for our customers, for example helping deliver and secure blended retailing at Caffyns, or designing flexible segregated network access for the RFU's PoS terminals. If you'd like to talk about how we can help support and secure your retail operation - across the head office, branch, WAN, data centre and online - why not get in touch?


Call us on 01273 957500, or get in touch online. Alternatively, click here to read more findings from the Cisco Mid-year Cyber Security Report, or to download a copy for yourself.

Image: Judit Klein/Flickr, Creative Commons